During a conference call with reporters to promote Outside Lands, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich didn't even try to hide his boyish enthusiasm over the fact that his band will get to headline this year's event. Other performers at the annual festival, which will take place August 10th-12th in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, include Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Stevie Wonder, Jack White, Foo Fighters and Skrillex.
"Last year, I took my kids to see Muse and Arctic Monkeys and the rest of the bands that were playing," Ulrich told Rolling Stone about the festival. "The year before that was Kings of Leon; the year before that I think it was Black Eyed Peas." Outside Lands launched in 2008 – the only year that he missed.
"As a Bay Area resident and as a music fan, going to see Outside Lands every year is a huge thing," said Ulrich. "Not only for me but also my family. Getting a chance to play it and to headline is obviously a huge thing for us. If I'm not going to play it, I'm going to go and I'm going to take my kids. It's sort of the concert highlight of their year . . . So it works on all fronts." This year, in addition to playing with Metallica, Ulrich hopes to catch sets by the Foo Fighters, the Kills and whatever else his kids drag him to throughout the weekend.
Having championed their hometown of San Francisco throughout their career, Metallica celebrated the start of their 30th anniversary this past December with four nights at the intimate and storied Fillmore. "In some ways, this feels like the encore of that," said Ulrich. "We rearranged our whole schedule just for this . . . We were going to shoot our film in July and then we were going to take August off and hang out with our kids . . . We worked our summer around the fact that we were offered the festival."
Metallica's first appearance at Outside Lands will also represent another first for them: After performing at nearly every venue in the Bay Area, from clubs to arenas, for three decades, this will be their first time playing in Golden Gate Park. "There's a long, long, long history of experiences and culture and music [there]," said Ulrich. It's a history that dates back to the Sixties, when bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane would perform free shows in the park. "And around the corner is Haight-Ashbury and so on," said Ulrich.
But despite Metallica's unabashed love affair with their city by the bay, Ulrich said he doesn't foresee the band moving their own Orion festival anywhere near California anytime soon. It's a decision made in part out of deference to their many fans who travel from Europe for the event. The band launched the inaugural incarnation of Orion in Atlantic City earlier this summer.
"We had a great experience in New Jersey, and as we look to 2013, we're definitely looking to keep it in New Jersey or to keep it on the East Coast," Ulrich said.
While the band has yet to put together their Outside Lands setlist, they will not be performing the Black Album in its entirety, as they did at Orion (and at festivals throughout Europe). "We'll put some so-called hits in, with some obscure stuff and some deep cuts and whatever else," said Ulrich. For the past decade, the band has prided itself on coming up with a different setlist every night. "There's lots of songs to choose from, and I’m sure we'll roll some wacky stuff out of our sleeves. There will be shit that blows up, and shit that moves, and all that kind of stuff. So it will be fun for the whole family, as we like to hear ourselves say."
After taking their bows at Outside Lands, Metallica will spend the rest of their summer working on a 3D movie project and then will start work on a new album in early September.
As for conquering new ground once they finally take the main stage at Outside Lands, Ulrich joked that there's "always outer space" – and the polar caps. "There aren't really a lot of places left that we haven't played," said Ulrich. "There is this festival in England called Glastonbury . . . I guess U2 just played it for the first time last year. I'd love to play that for the first time also, at some point." But, unlike Outside Lands, that's a long, long way from home.