Non-Metal Bands at Metallica's Orion Music + More Festival: A Headbanger's Guide
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A special fan club tent will offer appearances by band sound engineer "Big" Mick Hughes, Murder in the Front Row co-author Brian Lew, and famous father Torben Ulrich. But the band has also arranged an epic cultural clash, as they prepare to share the spotlight with elite indie rock outfits including Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, Fucked Up, The Gaslight Anthem, and many more. For headbangers headed to this alien land of strange musical tastes, haircuts, and concertgoing behavior, here's a menu of what to expect from the less deathly stars in the Orion constellation. After all, forewarned is forearmed.
Lars Ulrich calls the Arctic Monkeys "heavy metal in disguise," but don't waste the rest of the week unwrapping the band's uncouth persona in search of spiked leather armbands. This is major league indie to the core, with all the right influences from the Kinks to the Smiths to Pavement. They do hail from Sheffield, the same Yorkshire outpost that spawned boozy young Def Leppard, but Pete Willis and his crunchy Gibson Explorer won't be dragged out of the NWOBHM dustbin.
Although they wrote a song about Charles Bukowski, favorite lowlife writer of many a literate metal monger, Modest Mouse's loose and brainy approach to life is the antithesis of Metallica's tight and impulsive appeal. They're a good and original band, but none of their strengths count as reasons why metalheads listen to music. If they cross over, it will be a day to remember.
These ambassadors from the blissful branch of modern-day hardcore will get some toes tapping. No matter how artful, fluid, emotional, and melodic the music, singer Damian Abraham, aka Pink Eyes, will scream a hole through the heart of any Metallica fans not still lingering the parking lot. Plus the band is called Fucked Up, instant points for that.
Now we're talking! In the 1960s, visionary Texas performer Roky Erickson found his third eye and influenced Janis Joplin with his hard psych band the 13th Floor Elevators. During the next few decades, Roky passed through psychiatric hospitals and lived a struggle recorded in harrowing songs like "Bloody Hammer," "Night of the Vampire," and "I Walked With a Vampire." He is a legend, and his rare appearance is not to be missed.
This swampy offshoot of Drive Like Jehu and Rocket from the Crypt should register a little with the mullet militia. Mentally erase the high-pitched warbly vocals, and parts of some songs could even pass for early Motörhead, back in their Stiff Records era. Not heavy, not metal, but rocking like a vicious vicar.
Cage the Elephant
You wouldn't expect White Stripes worship and Beck-style white slacker rapping to serve as a Metallica appetizer, but on some bro-dude level there just might be some ignition here. Especially if the band shows off the music video where their singer digs up the fresh corpse of his girlfriend and tries to put the moves on her before accidentally cooking her.
If anything, Liturgy will sound too extreme for many mainstream heavy metal ears. The Brooklyn ensemble are black metal aficionados whose clinical and relentless approach serves not evil but happiness. The outcome is intense, but somehow not really rebellious or metal. Since the purists who disdain Liturgy gave up on Metallica after Master of Puppets, anyway, their many scene naysayers will surely not be on hand to block the view. Their blackened shred will pass or fail on its own merits for once.
Well, Best Coast guitarist Bobb Bruno is into Godflesh, but his band sounds much more like the Beach Boys and the golden age of bittersweet 1960s sunshine pop music. It's very, very hard to imagine that the crowd waiting to hear Metallica perform the Black Album will be into this candy-coated sound. Hopefully the Best Coast fans of South Jersey will form a human shield against any hurled insults. Of course, Best Coast could always steal the show by playing the Black Album start to finish several hours before Metallica takes the stage.
In any case, the first indie band to cover Metallica's "Whiplash" at Orion should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ian Christe is the author of Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, and the publisher of Bazillion Points Books, home to Swedish Death Metal, Only Death Is Real, Hellbent for Cooking, and other heavy reading.