by Jeff Niesel
Orion Music + More, the two-day Metallica-curated music festival that took place this past weekend on Detroit’s Belle Isle, certainly presented its share of logistical problems. In order to the get to the festival grounds, fans had to take a 20-minute shuttle ride from the COBO Center in downtown as access to the island by foot and by car was prohibited. On Saturday, lines for the shuttles stretched a few blocks and moved slowly; it took at least an hour of waiting just to get onto a shuttle. Then, it was still a good walk from the shuttle drop-off to the concert and festival grounds. Despite the long lines and long waits, the festival had plenty to offer and nicely mixed hard rock music and “more.”
On Saturday, headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered their typically high octane mix of funk, punk and rock. Singer Anthony Kiedis referred to Detroit as “a Phoenix” that was about to “rise up” after years of struggle and said he was excited to see so many young fans in the audience. The band kicked off its set with “Monarchy of Roses,” which benefited from the addition of extra percussion, and then delivered hits such as “Dani California” and “Scar Tissue” during a two-hour set.
The real surprise of the day was an unannounced performance by Metallica, which played on a side stage. Singer James Hetfield came out to introduce a “cult band from Baltimore” but then grabbed a guitar as the other members of Metallica came out and the band proceeded to play its first album, Kill Em All, in its entirety. Fans from across the festival grounds ran toward the stage as soon as they heard the opening notes of “Hit the Lights.” “We hope you were surprised,” Hetfield said. “But we didn’t if people would show up.” While the set could have used more volume, it was thrilling to see the group play on such a small stage. The day also included terrific sets from Silversun Pickups, Foals, Tomahawk, Flag and Dead Sara (main stage act Rise Against delivered a rousing set but suffered from a bad sound mix). We've posted a gallery of photos from day one here.
On Sunday, headliners Metallica returned but this time performed on the main stage. Unlike Saturday’s impromptu set that found the band revisiting its first album, this was a greatest hit set that commenced with “Blackened.” Hetfield said that after watching some of his favorite bands play on Saturday, it was good to finally perform and he and his band mates clearly enjoyed playing on the big stage.
On the whole, the day’s line-up was a little heavier than Saturday’s as acts such as Dillinger Escape Plan and the Deftones cranked up the volume during their respective sets. The real highlights, however, were the garage-y Rocket from the Crypt, who brought their signature horn section along for the ride, and the outlandish gypsy punk act Gogol Bordello, which was lead by wildcard singer Eugene Hutz. We've posted a gallery of photos from day two here.
The “more” part of the festival was a good selling point. A Metallica museum showcased the band’s 30-year history and included flyers and instruments along with posters and other paraphernalia. “Kirk’s Crypt” featured movie posters from Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett’s personal collection. There was even a car show and small movie theater on site. The guys made for gracious hosts, too. They often introduced the bands (Hetfield was on hand to welcome both Silversun Pickups and Rocket from the Crypt to the Stage and Hammett did the honors for the Deftones) and on Saturday participated in a panel discussion about horror movies. While the festival clearly catered to the diehard Metallica fan, it had enough going on both musically and otherwise to keep the casual fan interested, too.