"We didn't know what was going to happen, but it was a blast – so we said 'Let's see if we can do that again.'" So says Lars Ulrich, the always-excitable drummer and co-founder of Metallica, explaining why he and bandmates Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo are returning for round two of the Orion Music + More Festival – the annual gathering they've created and curated in collaboration with C3 Presents, producers of Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits – which made a successful debut last year in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Today, Metallica is revealing Orion's even more varied, adventurous lineup for 2013 – one that ranges from superstar co-headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, EDM rave king Bassnectar, indie-rock heroes Japandroids and all points in between, when Orion arrives at its new venue, Detroit's Belle Isle, on June 8th and 9th.
Of course, the event wouldn't be complete without a titanic performance from Metallica: As such, Orion pulses with the pioneering metal band's DNA, right down its name, taken from the title of the epic instrumental at the center of Metallica's 1986 classic album Master of Puppets. For Ulrich, the Metallica ethos is embodied most in Orion's surprising juxtapositions, a tradition that commenced in the festival's 2012 incarnation, which featured the likes of Modest Mouse, Best Coast and Eric Church alongside more expectedly heavy acts like Avenged Sevenfold, Sepultura and Suicidal Tendencies. "Our idea was to bring North America the kind of festival experience you get in Europe, which is all about diversity and new experiences," Ulrich says. "When we first proposed this, people were like, 'Why isn't Metallica doing a metal fest?' That surprised me; we weren't interested in doing that. Admittedly, a lot of things we put together could've been weird, but we were stunned how people really vibed on it."
Indeed, the new Orion bill goes even farther in its genre sprawl. Punk of various generations and dimensions proves more deeply represented than ever, slamming together hardcore forefathers FLAG (a conglomeration of original members from the groundbreaking Black Flag), Warped Tour faves Rise Against, Dropkick Murphys’ Celtic fury, Gypsy punks Gogol Bordello, and Midwestern garage rebels the Orwells and the Dirtbombs alongside SoCal mosh-pit anachronists the Bronx and FIDLAR. Those sounds are paired unexpectedly, meanwhile, with bold alternative acts like the Joy Formidable, Foals and Silversun Pickups and hip-hop iconoclasts Death Grips. Heavy music, meanwhile, is represented by a surprisingly challenging selection of artists, from Deftones' atmospheric grooves to experimental supergroup Tomahawk, Dillinger Escape Plan's complex mathcore, the contemporary thrash of Battlecross and the vintage stoner rock of Fu Manchu. "My girl [model Jessica Miller] turned me on to Fu Manchu – we've been blasting them in the car," Ulrich says. "And my son's been playing Foals' new record for months. It's just so cool to get people like the Chili Peppers and Bassnectar and Foals together. We just made endless lists of our favorite bands; we even reached out to Iggy [and The Stooges] – which would've especially highlighted the Detroit element – but he's got a gig in L.A. that day. If you saw our iPods, you'd see we live that kind of diversity in our day-to-day lives. We love heavy music, but we're music fans above all." Ulrich notes how Orion continues a grand tradition started when Metallica's late original bassist Cliff Burton would broaden the band's musical horizons early on in the band's career, exposing them to the decidedly non-metal likes of R.E.M. and Tom Waits. "We'd be listening to Simon and Garfunkel on the tour bus, and then go play 'Fight Fire with Fire'!"
The biggest change in Orion's focus is the addition of an electronic dance tent headlined by Bassnectar's speaker-shredding low-end, along with moombahton maven Dillon Francis, French club-kid combo Dirtyphonics and a massive dubstep contingent comprising Borgore, Datsik, 12th Planet, Adventure Club and Destroid. "For that, we have to blame our kids," Ulrich says. "Hetfield and I went with our kids to watch Skrillex at a festival we were both playing, and we were blown away by his presentation – he had 25,000 kids going insane. We thought, 'We've got to get that!'" Ulrich sees EDM as a natural addition to Orion, pointing out the links between the hard intensity of today's dance music and Metallica's genre roots. "A lot of those guys come from a background in heavy music, and you can hear it – Bassnectar is a huge metal fan," he says. "A lot of the rock fans might be skeptical, but when they see it’s about energy and unison, they'll relate to it."
And even if they don't, they'll still have Metallica – who, in another change, will only play one night, alternating the headlining spots with the Chili Peppers. As well, while Metallica graced Orion's debut with special sets that featured the band's signature records Ride the Lightning and the Black Album played in full, Ulrich isn’t sure that approach will be repeated in 2013. "It's the 30th anniversary of Kill 'Em All, so that would be an option, and it's also the 25th anniversary of . . . And Justice For All – but if you're in a band for three decades, you can find an anniversary for anything," Ulrich said, laughing. "We haven't made a decision, but if I was a betting man, I'd guess that us getting stuck playing an album in its entirety isn't going to happen." He also says not to expect any new material from upcoming releases: "We've been writing the better part of the last couple months, but we're taking it very easy. There are a lot of cool ideas and riffs – it's pretty rocking stuff – but we're still shaping it into songs." And a substantial preview of Through the Never – Metallica's upcoming 3D film blending concert footage and narrative concepts, due out August 9th – isn't likely either. "We just saw the first full cut two weeks ago," Ulrich says. "It's very unique and cool, but we're still honing the fine details. To be honest, paying for it ourselves, working by committee – it's a little overwhelming; it makes me appreciate making records more! But it's a motherfucker of a movie, and [lead actor] Dane DeHaan [who also starred in Lincoln, Chronicle and episodes of True Blood] is riveting onscreen. There's something about the looks of real movie stars – he makes us musicians onstage look dorky by comparison."
What Ulrich says to definitely expect for Orion 2013, however, is the same kind of "fan-friendly" intimacy that the first version held. There, Metallica's members would be frequently seen wandering around onsite, watching bands and personally introducing the artists they had an investment in bringing to the festival: Hammett gave Gary Clark Jr. a warm welcome well before he'd had his mainstream breakthrough, while Ulrich ambled onstage to give the Arctic Monkeys his blessing. "Introducing bands was the most fun part," Ulrich says. "Getting to introduce the Arctic Monkeys made me the cool dad of the year!" The second Orion will also be bringing back the memorabilia-stuffed Metallica Museum and exhibitions that highlight the individual members' interests, like Hetfield's Custom Car & Motorcycle Show, Hammett's cult-horror themed Crypt, Trujillo's skater-friendly Vans Vert Ramp, and Ulrich's Hit the Lights Film Tent. For his film tent, Ulrich hopes to have a special session "highlighting my favorite movie of last year, which just happens to be about a Detroit musician. Yeah, I'd love to do something with Searching for Sugar Man – doing it in Rodriguez's backyard would be especially poignant, and emphasize Detroit’s rich musical heritage. But I usually figure that shit out in the last week. Winging it is part of the fun!"
That casual attitude, Ulrich adds, is what gives Orion its distinctive edge amidst typical mega-festival fare. "We want an intimate atmosphere," he says. "When I did the film tent, it was like we were all hanging out in my living room. Instead of being one of these festivals that charges 50 bucks for a bottle of water, ours felt more like a giant backyard barbecue. That's the kind of feeling we want people to come away with."
Orion Music + More Festival 2013 Lineup
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Destroid (Excision + KJ Sawka + Downlink)
The Joy Formidable
The Dillinger Escape Plan
All Shall Perish