On the weekend of June 8 & 9, 2013, Metallica commandeered a thousand acre island positioned in a river dividing two countries and curated one of the grandest rock n’ roll backyard BBQ throw-downs ever conceived. In one week, the masters of metal make their triumphant return to The Motor City, making good on their four-years-gone-past “We’ll be back!” farewell.
As we look forward to giving “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct” a proper Motown baptism at Comerica Park (Wednesday, July 12), let’s commemorate ORION music + more, the historic—and groundbreaking—festival that truly shifted the paradigm of artist-curated festivals.
Artists evolve by charting new territory, constantly taking risks, cultivating their own passions, and trusting their guts—rather than pandering to cultural norms and expectations. Success lies in the eye of the beholder. Metallica? All they’ve done is create a sub-genre of rock, modernize heavy metal, and reign over the thrash kingdom they’ve ushered from the DIY-underground to the highest levels of musical arts in the world. Global domination, indeed, achieved not through divide and conquer tactics, but a relentless, boots-on-the-ground unification of the front. The cross-generational, worldwide Metallica family embodies the characteristics of the catalyst who’s brought them all together; beyond a business model or brand, Metallica represents freedom, strength, perseverance, and pride.
With their barrage of audio & visual innovation and performance, Metallica have forever altered the landscape of not only music—but culture—and forged an endearing relationship with their devoted legion of fans: the metal militia. Constantly redefining boundaries between band and fans, Metallica could have easily rested on the laurels of their Fifth Member initiative; however, it’s clear they conspire to connect with their fans beyond exclusive bonus media content. Metallica aims for hands-on, participatory sensory stimulation and experience. From this motivation, one of the greatest, experimental music festivals was born, built, and baptized on Belle Isle, the largest park in the country to cover a complete island.
ORION music + more was 100% Metallica’s baby. Seeking adventure and a mechanism to (in the words of James Hetfield) “bring people closer to music,” Metallica chose the music festival path less traveled…and that made all the difference. No knocking Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, or Coachella (and the scores of high quality music festivals that dominate the summer to-do lists of music enthusiasts seeking a maximized return on their investment). One can also include the most iconic international festivals on a list of musical events that has never rivaled what Metallica accomplished. While Download, Glastonbury, and Reading & Leeds all provide a rich tapestry of live music performance encompassing diverse genres, entertainment promoters and media corporations book the artists and plan and organize the festival itineraries. Not to mention: these buffet offerings are designed to appeal to a broad demographic; in providing something for everybody, there’s no opportunity to delve deeper into experiencing the essence of the band you came to see, aside from what they reveal in their performance. Never before (or since) ORION music + more has there been such an eclectic offering of immersive experiences to fully participate in the behind-the-scenes hobbies and passions of the headlining artist. In building this beast, Metallica wasn’t content to let the curious behind the curtain and sneak a peek at the wizard; ORION opened the gates to Oz and provided the faithful an opportunity to savor the marrow of what makes the band tick—not only on a collective basis, but according to individual preference, taste, and style.
Aside from the music, Metallica’s festival was a unique opportunity to get to know the band better, on an intimate level. It wasn’t outside the norm to mingle with James at the ORION Custom Car + Motorcycle Show next to a hotrod or custom bike, and chat about the paint or welding. To share his love of cinema, Lars personally selected and introduced films in a temporary movie theater for his “Hit The Lights” film festival. Robert’s love of skating culture was expressed at the Van’s DAMAGE INC. Stage + Vert Ramp. Seriously! Where else can you catch a high octane Dead Sara set with pro skaters grabbing mad air over the mosh pit below? Throughout the weekend, Metallica was naturally down to earth, approachable, and thrilled to interact with fans…and share who they are beyond music, explosions, and commanding metal. Make no mistake, Metallica’s outside interests are more than hobbies. All one needs to do is listen to their music, watch their videos, or best yet, attend a live show. These passions not only fuel the band’s music, their lifestyles are manifest in the Metallica way—all aspects. Kirk’s Crypt—the 10,000 sq. feet haunted attraction, full of priceless horror memorabilia—revealed more than a man fascinated by scary movies. Kirk was like a kid in a candy store, rolling up in his golf cart to participate in a sit-down forum with horror filmmakers, legendary actors, and horror/gore special effects artists. It was a thrill to see members of the band not only personally introduce bands they selected for the festival but participate alongside fans in engaging activities that highlight their unique personalities and pursuits.
In building one of the greatest musical mixers every assembled, Metallica left no stone uncovered. The Metallica Museum provided an insightful journey of the band’s progression—from the very first hand-drawn gig fliers to original Pushead artwork to Cliff’s famous bass rig to Doris, the Lady Justice prop made famous on the And Justice for All tour. The collection was curated with a Smithsonian-like attention to detail and rivaled the grandest band-centric exhibits assembled by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and artisans (such as Pearl Jam) who painstakingly archive their development through packrat collect ‘em all attention to detail. A trip through the Metallica Museum afforded card-carrying members of the metal militia (and casual fans, alike) to chart not only their favorite band’s evolution but also provided supporting visuals to correspond with the critical soundtrack of their thrash-loving existence.
In addition to the museum and band-curated lifestyle elements, there were special live action spectacles scattered throughout the grounds that attracted adventurists. Most memorable—we could literally watch, transfixed, for hours—was the Globe of Death, a gigantic steel sphere that enclosed high-octane 360° motor-cross madness inside. Vertically, horizontally, the bikes raced full throttle, navigating steep inclines and declines with daredevil efficiency. In addition to the death-defying stunts, the uniquely regional food trucks, under the direction of Detroit chef, Phil Cooley, got peoples’ attention. These may seem like two random topics thrown together, but have you ever savored Slow’s BBQ smoky Mac & Cheese while watching a motorcyclist speed through a steel loop, upside down, right side up, upside down…There’s something magical about the experience I’ve never felt since.
Following the buzz from a rumor led us to perhaps the defining moment of the festival . It was early afternoon and we stood waiting in line in Detroit for a shuttle to transport us onto Belle Isle. The friend we made that day in line changed our entire festival experience before we even walked through the turnstiles. Isn’t that the way it often works? Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had in life took place waiting in line, either to buy concert tickets or to get into one. We stood scouring the event literature, planning our preliminary itinerary, according to the day’s scheduled performances and set times. Our new friend asked if we heard of dehaan. I certainly never had. He suggested that we might want to make our way to the DAMAGE stage at 4:00 PM; rumor had it that no band existed with that name, the official festival website lacked a proper bio, and Metallica was planning something special for those “in the know.” The line around the block was buzzing. Kill ‘Em All was celebrating it’s 30th year anniversary. Perhaps the band would commemorate it’s legacy building major-label debut by performing the landmark album in it’s entirety. After all, during the inaugural ORION: music + more, held the previous summer in Atlantic City, Metallica famously headlined both nights, playing their entire Black album one night and Ride the Lightening in it’s entirety the other. Before we boarded the bus, my son and I assured our new friend that we’d see him later that afternoon at the small stage next to the skate ramp.
After a cursory tour of the festival grounds, an introductory walk through some of the exhibits, and some fantastic live performances, we made our way over to the DAMAGE stage, arriving well before 4:00. The series of events that followed are forever etched in my mind. These are rock n’ roll moments that have to be directly experienced to be fully understood. The mayhem is never as vivid, captured on film or vinyl (or certainly camera phone). Looking back, the situation could have become dangerous—quickly. Of course, that unpredictability is part of the thrill.
Dead Sara was finishing up their aggressive set, while skaters drifted high above the stage scaffolding, launching off the attached Van’s ramp. What a rush! Audio frequencies and gravity being manipulated simultaneously. Both carving air, but with different instruments and objectives. Nonetheless, an exercise in creative synergy rarely witnessed on this level. So pure, raw, and real; Robert, you are a mad scientist! Perhaps this is what Iggy means by Raw Power? One of four bands playing at the exact moment, a crowd 500 strong gathered for Dead Sara and subsequently had their minds blown by the scene; clearly this was something new few had ever seen (and heard). When Dead Sara finished their set, the skaters continued their ariel assault, wowing the gathering crowd. While the rumor wasn’t yesterday’s news, clearly enough people felt the possibility warranted immediate attention—enough to stand in front of an empty stage while Dropkick Murphy’s kicked into high gear on the main ORION stage.
The atmosphere in the growing crowd was festive. International flags waved, favorite Metallica stories were exchanged, rumors of an intimate Kill ‘Em All afternoon side-stage performance were compared and fact checked. The family was together and the air was electric. All these people couldn’t be wrong! With all the gear being loaded onto stage, these dehaan cats (who nobody knows) must have some serious financial backers. Personally for me, it was when I noticed Ray Burton positioned on the side of the stage. Either Cliff’s Dad was a huge supporter of this little-known upstart, dehaan, or the whispers were true: the crowd of 2000 was getting ready to be blown away by Metallica, playing one of their smallest stages in recent memory. As soon as the Metal Up Your Ass backdrop unfurled, the crowd went nuts. The heat, the humidity, the alcohol, the weed, the acid, the rumors, the anticipation, the realization of fantasy becoming reality: whatever it was (all rolled into one), the metal militia turned savage during the introductory instrumental ramp-up of “Hit the Lights." The faithful chanted the thrash battlecry, word-for-word, starting with the famous opening declaration, "No life till leather!" and intensified throughout Metallica's 55 minute blistering assault of Kill ‘Em All in it’s entirety—all the way through “Metal Militia.”
I distinctly remember several crowd-related residuals, which forever preserve this afternoon as legendary and iconic. Foremost, when Metallica started their set, what started as a trickle quickly grew to a mad rush. Festival-goers from all across the grounds began to sprint toward the small stage, realizing that history was taking place. Within minutes the DAMAGE crowd swelled to over 10,000…and that’s when things got real. I tried explaining later to my son that this was business—nothing personal; these people we chatted with as the stage was being prepped were still civil…still part of the loving music collective. This was the day my son learned the true meaning of mosh. These weren’t violent psychopaths, bent on destruction and pain. Aggressive? Yes. Hostile? No. Multiple pits opened up front where we stood, holding our ground amongst the crush and sway of compressed bodies. My son stood on the fringe of a pit, wide-eyed, aware of the danger. Most often fear is heightened at night, but here on the grassy open park of Belle Isle in the peak of the afternoon the uncertainly was as real as Leatherface encounter. No one expects to be trampled by a mosh pit or gored by a chainsaw—especially in daylight. This wasn’t the cushy, upholstered confines of The Joe Louis Arena, where we saw Metallica on their last trip through The D, four years prior. Welcome to ORION: music + more, where you must prepare for the unpredictable.
The founding fathers of American thrash weren’t satisfied to rest on the laurels. While Kill ‘Em All and the following night’s festival-closing headlining full production extravaganza, with all the bells & whistles, were the main servings everyone came for, Metallica had it’s sights set on throwing one of the most elaborate mixers ever concocted. It wouldn’t be enough to invite all the great metal bands or curate a thrash-centric fest; Metallica’s objective was to introduce people to diverse bands they typically wouldn’t be exposed to. They wanted to bring people together and have them organically discover something new…and fall in love…or at least walk away with newfound appreciation. Consider some of the musical performance highlights from the first ORION: music + more festival: Artic Monkeys, Eric Church, Gary Clark, Jr., Cage The Elephant, and Suicidal Tendencies. Wow!
Besides Metallica (and of course the Day 1 headlining performance of The Red Hot Chili Peppers) several performances continue to resonate in me. And I’m forever grateful; if not for ORION: music + more these bands may not have come across my radar and I would have never been part of their amazing live performances. I couldn’t catch all the bands—there were typically four playing at the same time, on the four stages, spread across the festival grounds. Dead Sara, Japandroids, Death, Gorgol Bordello, and Death Grips each inspired me enough to explore them further after witnessing their art live. Late in evening of Day 2, by happenstance, as I waited to meet my son—I discovered the beauty of the amalgam: the sweet spot in the middle of the field—where the sound waves generated by each of the four respective bands merged together and fused into an eclectic sonic stew. That’s when it hit me. People standing alongside me in the stew, immediately knew. They could feel it pulsating—alive—through their bodies, occupying their hearts and minds. They breathed, bounced, and bobbed to the rhythm of the sonic stew. EDM, Rap, Gypsy Funk: turns out Metallica aren’t just curators, they’re chefs, continuing to influence taste, develop new flavors, and impact the way we experience and celebrate the musical palate. Talk about cultural influence and currency!
While it’s not the return of their ORION music + more festival, any Metallica stadium show is a carnival of sorts…and cause for celebration. Prepare, Detroit! The family is getting back together, it’s gonna get loud and heavy, and this gig isn’t merely commemorating the next album cycle. Hardwired…to Self-Destruct is a sign of the times and thematically Metallica’s grandest socio-political exercise since And Justice for All.
ORION Rolling Stone review
ORION loudwire review
ORION mlive review
ORION spin review
ORION blabbermouth review
ORION billboard review
ORION Hit The Lights Film Tent (Ultimate Classic Rock)
ORION "Mission to Lars" trailer (Ultimate Classic Rock)
With the release of their first studio album in eight years, the mighty Metallica focus their sights on our polluted landscape and sound a sober reminder of the importance of creating art that challenges conventions and explores themes of heavy social significance. This heady collection isn't destined to whip up a frenzy limited to Metal Militia circles, but it's influence will be felt across a broad spectrum of eclectic demographics and ideologies; in the post-truth era, "Hardwired...to Self-Destruct" arrives just in the nick of time, picking up right where "And Justice For All" left off.
In innovative, binge-batch fashion, Metallica released 13 fresh-off-the presses videos--one for each new song off "Hardwired...to Self-Destruct"--the day preceding the album's highly anticipated release (Friday, November 18). Through their diverse collection of genre-spanning-mini-films, Metallica curates cultural fragments which address the complexities inherent in balancing the dualities of radically conflicting lives. To call these music videos actually does them an injustice.
"Confusion" offers a modern-day Jekyll & Hyde juxtaposition of a veteran returning home, transitioning from serving in a combat zone overseas back into corporate America, where it's business as usual. She--yes, she--faces a constant barrage of triggers (both of the gun and environmental-stimulus variety) which profoundly effect her psyche. Rarely on film is the teetering between anxiety and routine so profound. "Confusion" offers a concise primer on PTSD and the hidden challenges of nurturing conflicting ideologies--each desensitized in their own fashion.
Be sure to visit metallica.com to check out the entire collection of "Hardwired...to Self-Destruct" videos. Hit your favorite record shop right now to score the album. Coming soon: "Metallica x Motown", our Flashback Review of the Metallica-curated 2-day Orion Festival, a DetroitDrumDreams.com exclusive.
"Am I Savage"-inspired spoken word/micro-review:
& disconnected chaos...
silhouettes & shadows
of our former selves--
of collective culture
void of physical
struggling to maintain
in the face
of the establishment.
the cast of players
in our lives
to supporting roles
& window dressing.
Clever alter-ego role playing and anonymity create a throw-back Black Sabbath aura crossed with a Carrie-inspired homage to old-school shock/horror.
"Spit Out The Bone" micro-review:
Fusion of past atrocities and advances in modern technologies conspire to offer a beat-down on free thought, resistance, and dissidence. This frantic dystopian mash-up of mixed media, animation, live action, and assembled archival historical footage is the ultimate juxtaposition: intertwining mediums which present a challenging, thematic jigsaw puzzle. So much to decipher and contemplate. Intimacy & fantasy: weapons of mass over-stimulation.
"Here Comes Revenge" micro-review:
Animated psychological fable thriller oozing with suspense and a unique end-twist sure to resonate. Ruinous outcomes: residuals of past lamentations and forecasts of hate-filled agendas, fixated on violence, domination, and control.
"Dream No More" micro-review:
A Twilight Zone trip where humans are reduced to blank-slate silhouettes, which serve as cultural feeds, projecting disruptive, disorienting stressors & static that bog down cognitive functioning and overwhelm our ability to focus. Excellent footage of the band, creatively interact with(in) the silhouette/blank-slate/vessels.
Gary Clark, Jr. last played Detroit two years ago. For the fortunate few, who were able to score tickets to his sold-out gig at Saint Andrews Hall, chances are their lives haven't been the same since. The southern-style, blues-infused sermon left the congregation weak in their knees and staring into the eyes of an ordained prophet.
A darling of the international music festival circuit and receiver of high praise from the likes of rock luminaries Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Dave Grohl, Gary Clark, Jr. isn't a rising star. The baton's already been passed: he's this generation's Great One.
That hot breeze you’re feeling today is a wake up. It’s a call to arms. It’s an opportunity not to be passed up. Tomorrow is Friday and the weekend starts tonight (Thursday, July 21, 2016) at Detroit’s Fillmore. Get there early enough and you just might score a pair of treasured tickets to the Gary Clark, Jr. gig before they sell out.
The best experiences in life are typically derived from spontaneity. Don’t overthink this one—just act. For those needing facts, let me break down what transpired two years ago:
Touring in support of his exceptional album, Blak and Blu, Clark and his band immediately established two things, from the opening chords of "Ain't Messing 'Round": 1) all the growing hype would quickly be confirmed and 2) these guys clearly ain't messing 'round. "Travis County" evolved into an all-out, back woods stomper: decadent, celebratory, and full of the-man-will-never-crush-my-buzz spirit. "When My Train Comes In" and "Numb" were explosive, showcasing the dueling guitar slinging of Clark and out-of-this world rhythm guitarist, Eric Zapata. While many reference the heavy Jimi Hendrix influence on Gary Clark, Jr.'s style and sound, it makes sense to explore a common denominator rarely mentioned: The Band of Gypsies. Together with Zapata, bassist Johnny Bradley, and drummer Johnny Radelat, Gary Clark, Jr. occupies a mystic, shamanistic space on stage and truly transports audiences to different dimensions through bent notes, distortion, and a balance of timing and structure. The band rolls in with the fog and nightfall; mesmerizes you with age-old stories, steeped in tradition, yet rendered fresh and relevant for these times; and then packs up their gear and proceeds onto the next city to preach their faith, indoctrinate the newbies, and build their congregation—one brick at a time.
When it comes to exploring what makes blues-based musicians tick, one needs to look no further than source-related inspiration. Gary Clark, Jr. is a proven historian, at once reinterpreting, and thru transformation, paying respects to iconic standards "Catfish Blues" (Robert Petway), "If Trouble Was Money" (Albert Collins), and "3 O'Clock Blues" (B.B. King). One doesn’t merely play the blues, they convey the blues, transmitting waves as an offering of experience. Few play the blues as convincing as Gary Clark, Jr.; for him and his band, this is not some trendy roots-based novelty—it’s the genuine real deal.
A staple in the set list is “Bright Lights,” a blazing, original composition that offers a glimpse into how our lives can be quickly impacted by rapid succession of events. Ever prolific with his phrasing, Clark declares a truth no one seeing him live can dispute: “You gonna know my name by the end of the night.”
What exactly is Detroit in for this time around? A master-craft demonstration encompassing exploration, contemplation, and proclamation. Clark's latest release, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, is exceptional. Do yourself a favor: pull the trigger and punch your ticket to The Fillmore for this special Thursday serving of church. Minds are gonna melt and souls are gonna soar. Like a wicked storm that tears through town and leaves wreckage in it's wake, Gary Clark, Jr. and his top-flight band sear an indelible mark into the hearts, minds, and souls of all who bear witness.
So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful
of Record Executives & Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life
As the drummer of Semisonic (most famous for "Closing Time"), Slichter has traveled music's yellow brick road, journeyed to the Land of Oz, peaked behind the curtain to catch a glimpse of the Wizard, and written perhaps the most candid behind-the-scenes tell-all, which chronicles industry intricacies seldom explored by recording & touring artists. Beyond your typical rock bio, So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star blows the doors off record label practices, how music really makes it onto radio, the huge sums of money involved in promoting and marketing music to ensure a hit single, and the financial realities and pressures of a band experiencing newfound success.
Slichter doesn't have typical rock star pedigree; his Harvard degree serves as a hallmark, but Slichter's major accomplishment with this book: he writes in a style that's accessible to all readers. While so many professional musicians work hard to preserve the mystic of how their fans perceive them, Slichter writes a witty, brutally honest book that never shies away from disclosure and self-depreciation. Simply: the story is engaging, chocked full of conflict, and hard to put down.
So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star is a prerequisite for all musicians with stars in their eyes, dreaming of making it big and getting signed. You'll never think of touring, music videos, Letterman and Fallon performances, and artist recordings and music packaging the same again. Prepare for a roller coaster ride.
(click pic to link to vid)
The Story of Anvil
Hands down, one of the most inspirational--and vividly candid--stories of brotherhood, passion, and resilence captured on film. Priorities, realities, hardships, and dreams converge in The Story of Anvil, a documentary that does for heavy metal what Hoop Dreams did for the brutally honest exploration into the pressures and expectations inherient in youth sports.
Chocked full of drama and heart-breaking loss, The Story of Anvil conveys the spirit of "holding fast to your dreams" and refusing to compromise your ideals in spite of the countless obstacles and adversity that challenge your resolve. Excellent direction, top notch editing, and a cast of "characters" you won't soon forget: The Story of Anvil is a must-see documentary. Even non-rockers will appreciate the compelling storytelling and universal themes that resonate long after the titles roll.
Three words sum up this film: definition of dedication.
Whether it's a Rock Doc, a Rock Bio, a live performance, or a notable album release,