Ever look at a festival lineup and think, I could do a better job at picking bands than these people. How do I get that job? Well for the Orion Music + More Festival, the answer is: be a successful metal band for 30 years and then do it yourself.
For its second year in a row, Metallica brought the fire, the heat, and the sounds to a festival setting — shifting the action away from Atlantic City, NY to the rustic confines of Detroit, MI, specifically Belle Isle. Once again, they presided over an eclectic mix of metal, rock, punk, and even EDM (it’s everywhere and you’ll never escape it).
Produced by C3 Presents…, the two-day festival shares many similarities to Lollapalloza, but it’s far smaller and more manageable. In fact, the festival grounds are maybe half the size of Lollapalooza, which makes it easier for everyone to get from stage to stage, but still big enough where only a little bit of noise bled from other stages.
Even if they’re all pushing 50, Metallica knows what sort of music their fans dig. And like a smart, savvy friend, they’re insisting they branch out to younger talent like Datsik or The Orwells. It’s like this weird symbiotic relationship, where James Hetfield & Co. endorse something and then the fans oblige. It’s exposure for everyone, both artists and fans.
Here are 12 things we brought back with us from the Motor City.
Chicago’s own The Orwells had the dubious pleasure of being one of the opening bands for the entire weekend (other being The Bronx); playing the 2pm slot on the Damage stage. After Metallica’s Rob Trujillo introduced them as one of the youngest bands at the festival, the fresh faced five-some strolled on the stage confident and shy. Once their brand of poppy rock started, however, they were completely comfortable in front of the small opening day crowd. Lead singer Mario Cuomo jerked and zombied across the stage in a kind of half-seizure like stupor, while the band bounced and bopped behind him. The crowd quickly grew to see these kids blast out a fast paced set, and the kids did the best thing opening bands can do: gain a lot of new fans. Great way to start the weekend.
How loud? Louder than love.
Rocket From the Crypt
Near the end of a sweaty, raucous, and muscular hour – during a bass breakdown in set closer “Come See Come Saw” — Rocket From the Crypt honcho John Reis led into a discussion about the anatomical peculiarities of male pitbull dogs that served as a chance to get the crowd to chant “Front ball! Back ball!” with him as he and his five reunited bandmates turned up the R&B hustle before a noisy freakout to end the song and their ninth show back in action. That Reis can still get a crowd to follow him down any path he wants is proof enough that RFTC’s reunion is way overdue and one of the best ideas anyone’s had this decade.
Going heavy on material from 1995’s Scream, Dracula, Scream!, including an in-order run of its opening triad “Middle”, “Born In ’69”, and “On A Rope”, the San Diegoans had it all going for a crowd of just a couple hundred fans who hadn’t migrated to the other side of the park to snag a spot for Orion Fest headliners/curators Metallica. They made the right call, and even though the band was buffeted by noise bleeding from Death and Gogol Bordello on nearby stages, in up close under that tent, Reis and company made their set feel like a dive bar club show, i.e. RFTC’s most ideal setting.
How loud? GET! OUT!
Rise Against have been a festival mainstay for nearly 15 years, and their anthemic punk rock was a perfect fit for the bill. The band ran out on stage to the legendary “Mad as hell” speech from Network accompanied by videos of street riots. The tone was set, and the mosh-ready crowd exploded at the first hard drum hit. Guitarist Zach Blair flailed and bounced off every surface he could find, while lead singer Tim McIIrath held court stage center with fists held high. After years of Warped Tour and other festivals, they knew how to work a crowd, and they were as tight as ever.
How loud? Turn it up, bro.