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Atlantic City Becomes Metallica's Playground

Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Legends Host Orion Music + More Festival at Bader Field June 23-24

After 30 years and more than 100 million album sales worldwide, Metallica continues to break new and unexpected ground.

The band’s inaugural Orion Music + More festival at Bader Field in Atlantic City this coming Saturday and Sunday features more than 40 eclectic bands hand-picked by Metallica performing on four stages and a host of exhibits and interactive activities.

“The luxury of the success we’ve had has allowed us the freedom to try different things,” drummer Lars Ulrich said by phone while on tour in Serbia. “It’s fun to do stuff off the beaten path. It keeps us psyched about being Metallica.”

Metallica chose Atlantic City for Orion Music + More due to its proximity to the band’s fervent fan bases throughout the northeast, Ulrich said.

“There are tons of fans in New Jersey, New York, Philly, the [DC] area, and a lot of rabid fans in the eastern part of Canada,” he said. “Atlantic City is centrally located.”

While Orion Music + More features a stage devoted to metal bands, Metallica for the most part chose acts to perform with which it seemingly has little in common.  The bill features a slew of indie and alternative bands including New Brunswick’s Gaslight Anthem and Glen Rock’s Titus Andronicus as well as country singer Eric Church and psychedelic rock pioneer Rory Erickson.

Ulrich said multi-genre festivals were commonplace when the band toured Europe in the mid-80s. He recalled Metallica sharing the stage with acts as diverse as Big Country and Eric Clapton.

“There are so many great festivals around the world and a few in America that have that European flavor,” Ulrich said. “The main thing we want to do is offer variety and the chance of discovery. If people don’t understand it I hope they respect it.”

Orion Music + More is named after former bassist Cliff Burton’s signature song; Burton died in a tour bus accident in 1986. The idea for the event took root in 2008 after Metallica played the multi-genre Bonnarroo Music and Arts festival in Tennessee.

Metallica will headline Orion Music + More each night. On Saturday, the band will perform its 1984 sophomore release, “Ride the Lightning,” in its entirety. The next night Metallica will play its massive 1991 self-titled record in reverse order. Commonly known as the “Black Album,” the collection is the best-selling release of the past 20 years and has moved more than 53 million units in the U.S. alone, according to Soundscan.

The festival also includes exhibits and activities centered on Metallica’s passions. Ulrich’s love of cinema is the focus of the “Hit the Lights” tent, where the drummer will introduce film screenings. Singer-guitarist James Hetfield’s affinity for hotrods inspired a classic car show.

“Kirk’s Crypt” features guitarist Kirk Hammett’s prized collection of classic comics and monster and horror movie memorabilia, while bassist Robert Trujillo’s interest in outdoor and water sports is reflected in a surf and skate expedition.

Metallica’s next frontier: A 3D movie planned for release in 2013 that mixes concert footage with a narrative. “The future for Metallica,” Ulrich said, “is nothing but possibilities.”

IF YOU GO: Metallica Orion Music + More festival, 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24. Featuring Metallica, Gaslight Anthem, Modest Mouse, Sepultura, Titus Andronicus, Charred Walls of the Damned and more. Bader Field, Atlantic City. $90 Saturday, $90 Sunday, two-day pass $150 (advanced purchase only). For more information, including a FAQ section, visit www.orionmusicandmore.com.

This is the first in a series of articles previewing the Metallica Orion Music + More Festival coming June 23-24 to Bader Field in Atlantic City. Look for more stories throughout the week on Northern New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus, drummer/Howard Stern radio personality Richard Christy’s band, Charred Walls of the Damned, and Brazilian thrashers Sepultura.

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