As the hard rains subsided, the pounding drums, thumping bass and distorted guitars of "Creeping Death" echoed across Bader Field, replacing the earlier sound of thunder.
Yep, Metallica is in town.
The most popular and perhaps greatest metal band of all time kicked off its visit to Atlantic City with a sound check and press conference Friday at Bader Field, the site of the two-day Orion Music + More Festival on Saturday and Sunday that features 35 acts plus Metallica headlining each night, offering live versions of "Ride the Lightning" on Saturday and the "Black" album Sunday in their entirety.
With an Orion logo at their backs, the California based-quartet sounded enthusiastic about hosting their own festival for the first time after more than 30 years of playing at other festivals around the world.
"We have seen what others have tried to do and wanted to do it better," said lead singer/
guitarist James Hetfield. "(Fest-ivals) always seem to be doing either one style of music or all kinds of crazy different styles. We wanted to be in the middle."
Tens of thousands of people are expected to flood Bader Field over the two-day festival, which features a diverse group of headliners that include Arctic Monkeys, country star Eric Church, comedian Jim Breuer, Modest Mouse, Suicidal Tendencies, The Gaslight Anthem and Cage the Elephant. It's the second straight weekend of action at Bader Field, following three performances of Phish.
Drummer Lars Ulrich said he thought Bader Field was an interesting and appealing venue.
"The weather, nice people, the beach … it's an easy place for all of our fans in the world to travel to. A lot of Europeans can come over and so can those on the West Coast. It's easily accessible. Usually a festival is 10 miles down a dirt road with two lanes on a farm. We wanted a place with a bit of infrastructure, running water … electricity."
The band seemed a little hesitant when discussing future prospects, and maybe a little overwhelmed by their first festival.
"It sounds like a good idea but a lot of the other stuff - the business side, the safety side - was not something we signed up for when we started playing in the garage," Hetfield said.
"Let's talk about next year, next week," Ulrich added.
Although music is certainly the highlight of Orion, all four band members are offering other attractions such as a custom car show by Hetfield, a massive car collector; Kirk's Crypt, guitarist Kirk Hammett's collection of all things horror; Motorbreath Mini Ramp, a skater's dream with halfpipes and more envisioned by Hetfield and bassist Robert Trujillo; and Hit the Lights Films, which will feature an array of films chosen by Ulrich - some Metallica related, most not - in an air-conditioned tent for a "chilled atmosphere," according to Ulrich.
"Cars, engines, noise, bikes … people think my hearing is gone because of music, but it's probably because of cars," Hetfield joked.
One of the coolest events won't even happen at Bader Field. Trujillo and Hammett will join pro surfers such as Cody Thompson, Sam Hammer, Raven Lundy and others at the beach north of The Pier Shops at Caesars on South Michigan Avenue for a surfing demo Sunday.
"Not too many festivals like this are by the beach and a body of water," Trujillo said. "We thought it would be really interesting."
And if you see a bunch of zombies walking the streets of Atlantic City late at night over the weekend, don't fret.
"We are going to have a makeup artist doing people as zombies," Hammett said.
But Hetfield stressed Orion is about the bands.
"At the end of the day, the cars, the scary house, the other stuff … they are accessory items," he said. "At the end of the day, it's about the music - the best of different kinds of music. There are quite a few bands on the bill that I am not a big fan of. But I respect what they do. And opening the door for some of them is part of it as well. We are blessed. We have built an amazing fan base, and we would like to share some of our family with some of these other bands. Opening the door for some of them is part of it."
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