Metallica are doing some expensive house-hunting in Detroit this weekend. After Atlantic City proved a suboptimal host for last year's Orion Music + More Fest, the bandmembers are still on the search for a location to permanently hold the annual festival, this year in its second incarnation.
"I thought Atlantic City was going to be a lot better than it was," frontman James Hetfield told Rolling Stone at the festival grounds on Belle Isle on Thursday. "There was some gouging going on in hotels, ripping people off, crap like that. But it's a gambling town, and it's got a reputation for that. We're trying to make this affordable for people, so that wasn't a great thing. Getting in and out of Detroit, I think, is a lot easier."
The band have admitted to not breaking even with last year's fest and are viewing these nascent years as the initial investment in a long-term enterprise. Last year's event sold 24,000 tickets over two days, and this year organizers say they are expecting closer to 40,000.
"At the end of the day, it's not about us making money," Hetfield said later at a press conference. "It's really about creating some kind of mark in history, and after, eight, 10 years, if this thing starts breaking even, then that will put a little more of a smile on our faces and it won't be as much of a personal investment."
But the band's financial concerns are not those of the fans, who are coming for the music and various attractions – a Metallica memorabilia museum, a vintage car show, Kirk Hammett's horror movie collection – all of which are curated by the band. While some revisions to last year's formula were easy to make, such as expanding the physical space of the non-musical activities to speed up the lines, the process of selecting the bands was again fraught.
"We feel very vulnerable as a band," Hetfield said. "You're putting your stamp on these bands. It's like you're sponsoring these bands, and you hope that they live up to your expectations. We have no idea if people even like these bands, or if these bands like our fans. We're trying to pick bands that are edgy and that are good, and at the end of the day we're trying to get some good music up there. It's this giant puzzle you're trying to put together. It's not as easy as most people think."
As with last year's fest, the members of Metallica will spend their weekend introducing the other bands (Hetfield is especially excited to introduce San Diego's recently reunited Rocket From the Crypt), making appearances at the aforementioned exhibits, headlining Sunday night, and giving fans the thrill of an up-close sighting. Last year it wasn't unusual to see grown men breaking into the frenzied sprint of a tween boy-band fan at the sight of Lars Ulrich cruising by on a golf cart, which was a special delight all its own. The grass is a little thicker this year, so those interested in giving chase should select their footwear accordingly.