DETROIT -- Fans didn't have to wait for the gates to open Saturday, June 8, at Metallica's Orion Music + More Festival on Belle Isle to get their first official look at the band.
All four members showed up Friday night, June 7, at Saint Andrews Hall to introduce fellow headbangers Baroness, which was playing one of two festival pre-parties and who also shares a management company, Q Prime, with Metallica and Orion's other headliners, the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Drummer Lars Ulrich told he sparse but excited crowd that the group is "f****** psyched to be here," while frontman James Hetfield said, "You know why you're here, right? For some heavy music!"
Hetfield also introduced Baroness -- whose members had been injured in a bus crash last year in England -- as "boys who have been through hell and are back stronger than ever -- sounds familiar, doesn't it?" Metallica bassist Cliff Burton was killed in a 1986 bus crash in Sweden.
Metallica -- which soundchecked on Friday afternoon for its Sunday, June 9, performance at the festival -- hasn't exactly been scarce in the lead-up to Orion. Hetfield and bassist Robert Trujillo attended the Detroit Tigers' game on Wednesday night, June 5, at Comerica Park, while band members have been tooling around town hiding free Orion tickets for fans to find via an Instagram promotion.
"At the end of the day, it's all about the experience of having a good time and connecting with fans," said Trujillo, who also attended a screening of the documentary "A Band Called Death" on Thursday night in Birmingham. "It's like one big party or one big barbecue."
The party was certainly on at Saint Andrew's, where Baroness and opening act Coliseum blasted through their own brands of metal -- the former with the artful, dynamic fare from its 2012 album "Yellow & Green," the latter roaring through full-throttle renditions of "Set It Straight," "Black Magic Punks and "Fuzzbang." The Metallica members watched some of the set from the Saint Andrew's balcony, along with members of Detroit's Black Dahlia Murder and Orion crew members who also attended a reception at the club earlier in the evening.
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins hosted a different kind of party over at the Majestic Theatre, roaring through a 95-minute concert with his "wedding band from hell," Chevy Metal. Though the turnout was dismally small, Hawkins and company followed sets by the Bronx and the Orwells (both playing Orion on Saturday) with a collection of covers, focusing on Black Sabbath ("N.I.B.," "The Wizard") and Van Halen ("Mean Streets," "Panama," "Everybody Wants Some") as well as the Rolling Stones ("Bitch," "Miss You"), Motley Crue ("Looks That Kill"), Thin Lizzy ("Jailbreak"), Ratt ("Lay It Down") and AC/DC ("Let There Be Rock").
The trio also acknowledged the late Doug Fieger's Detroit roots when it played the Knack's "My Sharona" and played Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley's solo song "Snowblind." None of the hoped-for guest appearances transpired during the 17-song set, but as Chevy Metal wrapped up with the Faces' "Stay With Me," the few who remained certainly felt like they had a one-up on their Orion brethren.
Orion's gates open at noon Saturday, with shuttles starting to run at 11 a.m. from Cobo Center. Tickets are still available; $90 for one day, $150 for both. Visit www.orionmusicandmore.com.
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