Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
As you probably know by now, the Metal Insider crew had a blast last weekend at Metallica’s inaugural Orion Music & More. And in case you didn’t know that, then you have some major catching up to do by reading our recaps for day one and two. However, just because we think the festival was a success doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a sure thing that it’ll return for another year. So with that in mind, Bram, Kodi, and Zach debate whether or not Orion will become a regular part of our Summer in this week’s Headbanger’s Brawl.
Zach: I definitely hope it comes back, but again there’s a huge difference between “hope” and “will.” With that said, I’d say Orion has a strong chance of taking place again next Summer. Sure, it didn’t exactly draw an enormous audience (at most there were around 25,000 present on Saturday, though Sunday had a bigger crowd). BUT for the most part, Orion has generated only good buzz with most people in attendance raving about the weekend (well, maybe with one exception). So for a festival in its inaugural year, I’d say it was a success and has great potential to grow.
However, I’m still not a 100% sold on Orion returning to Bader Field in Atlantic City, NJ. Again, I “hope” it does since I myself hail from NJ. But the truth is that it’s not the most convenient location. Metallica’s reasoning was that they wanted a location that was accessible to fans from the Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York areas. However, anyone who lives in those areas (or even NJ for that matter) can tell you that unless you’re going directly to the boardwalk, Atlantic City is not that easy to get to. But what about all of the “hotel” options in Atlantic City? Well if you can spend a ton of money on a hotel on the Boardwalk after shelling out tons of money on a weekend festival (tickets and travel expenses included), then good for you.
So where if not Atlantic City could Orion take place? I don’t know, and I’m also saying that I don’t want it to be in Atlantic City. But if I was running Orion next year, I don’t necessarily think Atlantic City would be my ideal location after one year.
Kodi: After seeing what people were paying each night for hotel rooms, I was definitely glad to have somewhere to crash. That expense on top of the festival is a major issue, and if Orion is going to happen in Atlantic City again, they’ve got to work on some kind of partnership with the hotels. One other thing worth noting: there were some majorly sketchy locals out near the Boardwalk after both nights ended who seemed annoyed with the crowds of concertgoers walking back to their cars and rooms, even though everyone was too exhausted by that point to have done anything to directly upset them. I’m nowhere near well-versed enough in the politics of the town to comment at length on that beyond pointing out that this wasn’t exactly a welcoming environment.
But if you leave Atlantic City itself out of the discussion, Orion was a blast! It was exceptionally well-organized, especially for the inaugural edition of an outdoor festival. It was spacious without feeling too big for its own good, like Bonnaroo in miniature with more metal bands and minus the extensive camping. The vendors were well-chosen, concession prices were predictably high but not unreasonably so, and the sets were freakishly on time throughout both days (with the key exception of Jim Breuer cutting into Charred Walls of the Damned). It’s also worth noting that the VIP and media sections had some phenomenal perks without feeling stuffy the way that sort of thing can. If it’s at Bader Field again next year, they’ll have to figure out the wind’s effects on the PA at each stage; otherwise, I can’t think of too many things I would’ve tried to improve.
I’m almost certain we’ll see something like this again next year. And if you told me this wasn’t going to happen next year in some capacity, I’d not only be shocked but wonder what they were thinking canning it.
Bram: I’d be surprised if the fest didn’t happen again next year. Metallica did an amazing job of curating the festival, and C3 (the concert promotion company that also does Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits) ran the whole event smoothly, and should be commended. And while the band has said that they would address whether there will be another festival in the next several weeks, James Hetfield repeatedly called it the “first annual Orion fest,” suggesting that at least from the outset they’re plannign on another. I’m not sure what the break even point was for the festival, but when even the cheap tickets were $75/day (which isn’t that unreasonable) it’s hard to imagine that Orion lost that much money.
I personally didn’t have any problem with Atlantic City. It was a great setting for the fest, with the ocean and boardwalk not that far away, and plenty of casinos to separate you from your money afterwards. Sure, much of Atlantic City is sketchy, as Kodi mentioned, but Atlantic City in general has been sketchy for years. And like the band noted when announcing the fest, it really is central to the highly-concentrated Northeast. That being said, I’d be a bit surprised if it took place in Atlantic City again. First of all, there’s nothing in particular tying the band to Atlantic City. It was proven that the Metallica diehards will travel literally anywhere in the world to see the band/festival. I’m thinking the only reason that they didn’t have the festival in San Francisco was that they’d already given West Coast fans a special treat with the 30th anniversary shows last year. There’s no reason this can’t be a mobile festival. From a personal standpoint, I hope it comes back to Atlantic City next year, though.