Orion Music + More – Day One Recap Orion Music + More – Day One Recap

Words and Photos by Charles

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I scribble a note.

“This is the part where Charles goes crazy.”

I tear it up and throw it away.

I don’t know what time it is but I am currently the worst kind of naked, lying on the bed of Room 8 at The Passport Inn (three weeks ago, when I booked the room it was named El Rancho Motel) with a plate of soggy cheese fries while static blares from a broken TV the bitter man behind the reception desk promised he would have fixed by this evening.

Dick.

I think it’s Saturday.

I am on the phone with my girlfriend. I don’t really know what I’m saying. I’m tired. I’m sunburned. I’m slurring. I’m not really sure how I’m still awake. It’s probably all the Bronkaid. I’ve been sick the last few days. Shaking. Shitting. Coughing. Fever. But I’m in Atlantic City, godddamnit, so I should fucking make the most of the night, right?

But I want to get talked out of it. I just want to take a nap. So I try to get the last bastion of reason in my life to tell me it’s sometimes best not to pick up the phone and call my new transient friend (redacted) to see if we can’t get into some trouble at a BYOB strip club because that’s what new friends do when they’re drunk in a town where it’s easier to pay thirty bucks for a rimjob than it is to find a decent cup of coffee come morning and only one of them has a bed.

She does.

I take a shower. I brush my teeth. I buy an Orange Crush from the dusty vending machine and light up the day’s last cigarette in the interest of articulating all that’s happened today before I obliterate into desperate, desperate sleep and the whole righteous mess starts all over again.

I take pictures of my sexy ankle socks instead. I videotape the static in the hopes that some tragic ghosts of El Rancho will take this opportunity to communicate with me.

The results are surprising.

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Ed. Note: No, they’re not. It’s just static.

I’ve been up since 5am. No sleep. Too sick, too psyched, too lost in what was in store to concentrate on just closing my eyes and keeping them closed. Giving my brain and body a rest. I was tossing and turning all night. Biting my fingernails, curling my toes. I was a kid after a candy store. A good, good boy who knows that all the bastards making fun of him for another perfect attendance award are just jealous that he’s the one who’ll be going to Disneyland.

I guess that makes Metallica my Mickey Mouse.

I probably shouldn’t say that out loud.

I get to Port Authority early – 8am for the 9 o’clock Academy Bus to Trump Plaza. I roamed around. I rubbed my eyes (I have no insurance and, in places as unapologetically filthy as the toilets of Port Authority, I tend to remind myself what it’s like to have pink eye), grabbed a two-egg sandwich for a buck on the corner on the advice of an old man in weathered pork pie hat.

“It’s a dollar? What the hell are you waiting for? A dollar is delicious.”

He waived me off with an “Ech!”

With enough ketchup, the sandwich is fine thought it leaves me nervous for my colon on the two-hour ride alongside pensioners, metalheads and children all heading to Atlantic City with some fractured dreams of possibility.

Ed. Note: Charles’ colon was fine.

I just want to hear “Damage, Inc.”

The ride up is swift and uneventful. I listen to Red Fang, Black Tusk and A Place to Bury Strangers. I’m interviewing them this weekend and I’m nervous as hell about it. I hate doing interviews. I’m actually reasonably terrible at them so I want to know the bands I’m talking to, familiarize myself with their music and devise some line of questioning that’s well-versed in their aesthetic. I scribble notes about beer (Red Fang), the blinding line between punk and metal (Black Tusk) and the duality of man argued as violence versus laconicism (A Place to Bury Strangers).

I fall in and out of twitchy travel half sleep.

I make a friend. Nice guy. Clean jib. I give him my card and talk at length about ticks, prostitutes and near-death experiences.

He’s going to the festival too.

The bus lands in AC sometime in the morning. I’ve never seen an Atlantic City morning before. It’s weird. Grim. Vacant. I assume everyone must be on meth. Nuts to that. My new friend and I part ways and I take a moment to wander, squint and gamble the complimentary Trump One card bequeathed me by Academy into twenty-five, cold hard on dollar slots much to the silent, aged rage of the leather chain-smoker next to me.

I am awesome.

I take my spoils and start walking. Some lady stops me on the street to tell me I remind her of her son when I was his age. He lived on the Adirondack trail for six months after college. I share in his spirit.

I am smoking a cigarette, wearing a hoodie of a French tomb and a skull. It’s 80 degrees out and I’m sniffling.

She follows me a few blocks, doesn’t mug me.

We hug.

I cross a bridge.

I find a field.

All right. ALL RIGHT!

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ORION!

I make my way across a field of dead grass, through a sea of faded t-shirts to get to the Damage, Inc. Stage where Black Tusk are well into their set.

Damnit.

They are some maximum rock and roll, man. Yes they have a crusty past. Yes they shriek and growl and thrash like nobody’s fucking business and if you took the objective pause to soak up their beards and tats and drunken sweat you might walk away being every inch as afraid of them as I was when I first heard Set the Dial’s Satanic flights of fancy but any intimidation culled from the “terror” issued forth from their “swamp metal” aesthetic is swiftly kicked to death when you see just how much these boys enjoy the fuck out of playing live.

I’m talking smiles for miles and miles, man. Guitars and fists held high. It’s a little disconcerting actually. I expected some evil shit. I expected humorless violence and, perhaps, some shitty corpse paint. What I got, instead, was a party band for cheap day drunks and lazy punks.

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I stroll away to see what Wooden Shjips are up to because I hate their name so much and want to feel justified in my casual dismissal of everything the do.

It takes two songs for me to realize that I am, instead, watching Baroness.

Funny that.

I never did get this band. I know loads of people really fucking dig them. The good Kap’n is dedicating an entire episode (why not?) of Tape Wyrm to their color-coded oeuvre but for fuck’s sake but I don’t know. Perhaps they’re a metal band’s metal band comparable to all those comedians’ comedians who aren’t actually all that funny to those of us left with a shred of a soul but will remain venerated in dark circles of codeine addicts and sociopaths long after their timely deaths.

Maybe I just need to get stoned.

Or drunk.

When I do finally see Wooden Shjips (every time I type that name a butterfly causes a tsunami) who are playing on the infinitely more intimate and mercifully tented Frantic Stage (Baroness were on Orion which is the fucking METALLICA! stage which should have been some sort of indication that I wasn’t seeing some shitty, expansive drone psych doom band but I’m not drunk yet so my reason is a little shaky) I can’t give them more than a minute before my teeth start to quake in rage.

I honestly can’t even tell you why.

I just…don’t…fucking…like…them.

I head over to the media tent. Everyone is friendly as shit. There’s shade. There’s water and sunscreen and Red Bull and lavender hand sanitizer (which I use liberally because I like to smell nice on vacation, goddamnit) and snacks. There’s Bob from Relapse. There’s Mike Muir.

HOLY SHIT THAT’S MIKE MUIR!

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I play it cool for no one in particular and pretend he’s no different than the one leathered middle-aged radio guy who will spend the bulk of the weekend shirtless (which I discuss, at length, with the lovely ladies who posted at the entrance, ultimately opining “I guess there just comes a time in a man’s life when you just fully fuck it. I’m not there yet, though. I’m way too pale.”) or any one of the many people wearing Ride the Lighting/Metal Up Your Ass! shirts in various stages of fading (many, shamefully crisp) and general disrepair.

It’s hard though because he’s not.

He’s fucking Cyco Miko. Every inch an LA vato and every bit as unflinching as he was in my teenage imagination when I used to listen to Lights, Camera, Revolution! with my stuffed animals and a candle in my closet while my turtle snapped at my cat through his aquarium glass and my mother went through her Christian censorship phase. Only older, larger.

I am totally starstruck so I slink away without so much as a “Sup?”

This is awesome.

Beers happen next. More beers, I guess. I walk to see The Sword but don’t, really. They’re another band I just don’t get or maybe I do. They’re like a half goofball imitation of 70s riffery and cockballing excess but they play it off sincere which I appreciate but seeing as my introduction to metal was Slayer and I first appreciated Led Zeppelin vis a vis Coalesce listening to some band try and reinhabit the fetid wastelands of cowhide stoneage just really isn’t my thing.

So not goofball at all, really and I’m a judgmental prick.

I want to see Roky Erickson.

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To be honest, I don’t really listen to his music. I only recently got a hold of some 13th Floor Elevators LPs which are all sorts of manic jub-psych proto fucking awesome and I had that record with Okkervil River but that was far too devastating to keep in my conscious for too long so my motivation is pretty much based solely on having watched You’re Gonna Miss Me one lonely, unemployed evening and deciding that – as someone who was once institutionalized and grossly overmedicated – it was something of a duty to support an artist in recovery.

Granted, I was a teenager and Roky is a schizophrenic so our bond is a tenuous one, at best.

I am able to make it through “Goodbye, Sweet Dreams” before I start to feel dirty and voyeuristic. I mean, the band sounds great but Roky is clearly a man in pain. A man divorced from the world you and I inhabit so blithely and many of us in attendance are just here to watch his aged frame gurgle it’s way through sixty some years of unspeakable suffering. I’m not a sympathizer, I’m a parasite.

But am I ashamed?

Are my intentions relevant to the man on stage?

Does he know I exist? Does he care?

I remember discussing schizophrenia, once with a mental health professional who explained that one of the greatest horrors of the disease is the sufferer’s inability to understand groups which is to say that schizophrenics interpret the world as a series of singulars. Thus, the audience, to Roky is not a mass of humanity but rather a array of distinction that his mind is forced to process individual by individual.

So…yes?

I take these considerations with me back to the media tent where I interview Black Tusk and Red Fang and, promptly, forget them in favor of beer talk and brief, stilted, GG Allin chatter which I had hoped would have elicited some sort of emphatic “FUCK YEAH!” response seeing as today is the nineteen year anniversary of his death but it didn’t.

No sir, it did not.

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Ed. Note: Charles is currently in the process of learning how to edit which, at the time of this posting, is driving him nothing short of bat shit. We anticipate featuring whatever the hell he devises as the week progresses.

Suddenly, there’s jalapeno and pepperoni pizza. I gobble it up and march over to Fucked Up, the first band that’s playing today that really excites me because I know the words to some of their songs.

It sucks being at a festival when you can’t sing along.

I’m early.

I can hear Lucero playing. I make a note that they sound like Counting Crows only smelly. I’m not sure how insulting that’s supposed to be.

Three brosephs are chanting “FUCKED UP! FUCKED UP! FUCKED UP!” Two of them are shirtless. One’s wearing an A-shirt that says “SHOW ME YOUR TITTIES!” I should really take a picture but I don’t feel like making friends or getting the only nice thing I own smashed for attempting to commodify some broseph’s statement of purpose.

The audience is pretty amped and surprisingly diverse. Plenty of dudes are without shirts. There’s a crust in front of me. Someone’s grandma, I think.

“Duuuude, what are they doing? I want to get HIIIIGGHHH!!!”

“Yeah, man.”

“HEY, YOU GETTING HIGH BACK THERE?!?!?”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure he’s sober.”

“Who?”

“The singer.”

“What the fuck? They were on the cover of high times, man.”

“They were?”

“Yeah, man. Are you saying High Times is lying?”

“No. No.”

“COME ON, MAN! LET’S GET HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH!”

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The band takes the stage with all the congenial banter we’ve come to expect from Canada’s finest conceptual lost art hardcore band, thanking us and Metallica before launching into “Queen of Hearts.”

Pink Eyes (are we still calling him that?) is in the crowd and shirtless pretty much immediately and everyone around me is going completely apeshit. This is the most energized pit I’ve seen all day. In years, maybe.

Fists. Kicks. Flips.

Of course energy quickly ascends to violence and there’s a fight between two skinny tan kids without shirts and two skinny pales kids IN shirts that plays out like rough sex between coat hangers.

Security intervenes and remains in the crowd for the rest of the set which, not five years ago, I would have thought was some totally fascistic bullshit but now I thoroughly appreciate because I am weak and youth are stupid.

Pink Eyes tells us he’s expecting a baby tomorrow. The crowd let’s out an “Aaaaaaaaaawww.”

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I set forth for another beer.

The kids at the beer stand recognize me and have a Bud Tall Boy (seven bucks…pretty great pricing for a festival) ready and cracked by the time I am ten feet away.

“Are you okay?”

“Huh?”

“You’re really sweating.”

I am. In fact, I have totally soaked through my No Fun Not Ever t-shirt (now sleeveless to free me of the shame of rising pit stains) and now that I am not surrounded by a swirling mass of boys my crotch is beginning to feel a bit like a petri dish.

“Oh, that. No. I just always sweat like crazy.”

“Hold on.”

One of the girls hands me a large chunk of ice.

“On the house.”

“Thanks.”

“Rub it on your head.”

I do. It feels so fucking good.

“Better, right?”

“Yeah, that’s fucking awesome.”

“Well, come on back any time. You’re ice is on us all night.”

“Thanks, sister.”

I decide to take a rest in the media tent. Have I mentioned this place is awesome, yet? Because – if I did – it bears repeating. The staff is awesome and the amenities are simple and seemingly endless.

There are plugs everywhere.

Shade.

You can even hear the Frantic Stage pretty decently. It’s comedy time over there. Jim Florentine, I believe. I manage to hear him make a joke whose punch line has something to do with “lots of gay anal sex” and decide I could give two fucks who this dude is.

Ed. Note: Jim Florentine is the host of That Metal Show on VH1.

Not all metalheads are idiots.

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Legitimately grossed out by the first homophobic joke I’ve heard since high school, I decided to go dig on Red Fang. The guitar player seemed cool enough and their videos are just about the most delightful thing on the internet that isn’t pornography.

They’re stone cold party dudes and their audience is WASTED which is great because drunk dudes in the sun are just the fucking best.

It’s all kids in the pit, though, which is cool.

All the grown ups are banging their heads to some seriously wicked 70s monster grooves and belching lyrics in between shotgunning Bud Lights. I need to see these guys late at night in some dive down south.

I bet that shit’d be ridiculous.

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I go to see what The Gaslight Anthem are up to, decide against it and opt, instead to get right up front for Hot Snakes because I fucking love that band and am currently in a race to see them as many times during their reformation as I did when they were a real band.

I’m not sure who I’m racing.

Me, I guess.

My past?

So long as I lose either way.

Lars Ulrich introduces them. Yep. Lars Ulrich is a fan of Hot Snakes. He explains that a friend introduced him to their music two years ago and they’ve been in heavy rotation ever since.

I think every one of us is surprised to be here.

Doesn’t matter. These boys are professionals. They kill it no matter where they play and have since they were just wee men with one chin and wrote songs about outhouses and whatever Gar used to do.

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The set is heavy on Suicide Invoice, though there’s some Auto Midnight and Audit as well. No Mario, though which is fine. That man’s a maniac behind the kit but J Sinclair hits so fucking hard it makes my teeth rattle.

A dude in the photo pit is losing his shit and decides it would be a good idea to jump backwards over the barricade and crowd surf like in the old days.

It doesn’t work and he comes back fast and hard on the necks and fancy cameras of two girls updating their social status as opposed to…I don’t know…TAKING PICTURES!

Fuck them.

I’m slightly bitter, half drunk and so this amuses me to no end.

I also have to say that I would very much like to see Hot Snakes play something different. I know they only have three records but I feel like I’ve been seeing the same set from them for years. The only difference between now and then is that, towards the end of their initial tenure as a band, they started incorporating some Jehu songs into their set.

Their first last show in NYC ended with “Luau.”

It was goddamn transcendent.

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SHIT!

I missed Cage the Elephant.

Oh, well. I’m sure I didn’t miss much.

Ed. Note: Charles did.

I head over to Suicidal Tendencies, a band born and bred in the horror of an LA in which I was raised and who I never had the opportunity to see in my young and impressionable lifetime because my parents were afraid I’d be killed and they were banned from just about every venue in the city.

I, like just about every one of the thousands of people crowded in to see them, really want to hear “Institutionalized.”

I don’t know if they play it or not.

Ed. Note: “Institutionalized” was the second song Suicidal Tendencies played. They opened with “You Can’t Bring Me Down.” Charles would know this if he hadn’t milled around the Hot Snakes stage for so long waiting to show John Reis his rocket tattoo for the tenth time (at least) which, of course, he didn’t. Nice one, Charly. You missed the only ST songs that matter.

I get to their set just in time to hear some “Possessed to Skate” and something else about being or going “Cyco.” Then Robert Trujillo comes out…and they play a fucking Infectious Grooves set.

Jesus fuck me.

I had almost all but forgot about the time in our culture when artists thought it was clever to replace the work “fuck” with “funk.” Extreme did it with “Get the Funk Out.” Infectious Grooves used it to fuel an entire career. And, when I was a tween it seemed totally innovative but so did masturbation soooooo fuck this.

Medics arrive and carry some guy in a neck brace off in a stretcher. He’s in a neckbrace and gives us all devil horns much to the chagrin of the men trying to save his ass and to the tremendous amusement of those who would rather hear “Violent & Funky” than…um…pretty much anything else, really.

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I wander away to check out Arctic Monkeys. They’re boring as shit. Infinitely more boring than even my hardest of hearts had concluded since my nemesis made us watch them on SNL years ago and I inadvertently caught some of their set at another festival somewhere and decided they weren’t the worst thing the UK’s ever done to me.

“Float On,” however, is not an Arctic Monkeys song.

Goddamnit, this is Modest Mouse.

Feeling duped, I head back to the media tent where they’re handing out drink tickets. Free beer makes everything better.

I grab a Heineken and take a seat.

An old, lobster man in Cape Cod shorts and an Oakley tan line is sitting across from me. He’s on the phone with his wife.

“Hello. HELLO! It’s your husband. Me. YOUR HUSBAND! Listen. LISTEN! The dishwasher is broken. THE DISHWASHER IS BROKEN! And I…I…your HUSBAND just want to know what you’re going to do about it….Uh-huh. Yeah.”

He throws his phone to the grass and gets up to take a shit.

I start talking to some radio nerds which is kind of great and a little embarrassing.

Radio dudes are nerds.

Way, way, WAY nerdier than me or the Kap’n or McHank’s cumulative encyclopedia of rock and roll ephemera. I mean, seriously. There’s a debate about lesser known Sugar Ray songs and a cataloging of 90s power ballads and in what cultural context they first appeared.

Turns out Tonic is doing some free show tonight.

“I mean, fuck Metallica, right?”

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I take my leave.

I actually do catch some Arctic Monkeys. They’re loud and fast with strobes. Not bad at all and the crowd is pretty hefty so maybe one day I’ll actually bother to listen to some of their music and not dismiss them like a chump.

I make a friend.

Ed. Note: Due to certain intimacies revealed in the following paragraphs, we have elected to redact this section of Charles’ “review” of Orion. Though we are, by no means, advocates of censorship, we try to respect the rights of any individual with whom we interact in a professional setting. Believe us when we tell you that you aren’t missing anything.

“It’s a Long Way to the Top if Ya Wanna Rock and Roll” is blasting. We move up to the throng. There are a lot of people here now. Fuckloads, in fact. Jesus. Metallica really is one of the biggest bands in the world, aren’t they?

Tuco appears on screen, running around a graveyard in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s near final scene.

Beat.

“Hit the Lights.”

Holy shit.

All right, it’s important that I’m honest with you here. When I first engendered to tackle the Orion Music + More festival I did it with a tremendous air of cynicism. I mean, even this morning I would have agreed with that radio dude’s sentiment.

Fuck Metallica.

Fuck them for Load and Reload and St. Anger and Death Magnetic. Fuck them for suing Napster. Fuck them for Some Kind of Monster and Kirk’s ranch and Lars’ riches and James Hetfield’s fucking feelings which led him on a twelve-shit road to taking voice lessons thereby forever fucking the band over in the hearts of so many of us once young bucks whose lives where indelibly marked by the damaged rasp of Master of Puppets.

Why the fuck aren’t they playing that album anyway? The goddamn festival’s named after the instrumental track.

Fuck this Ride the Lightning shit.

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But now that I’m here in front of a giant stage full of lights and screens and amplifiers, standing welcome among thousands upon thousands of people who traveled from all over the world just to see one band play in an abandoned air field in New Jersey, who would, in complete and abject sincerity refer to each other as “family” and who know every fucking word to every fucking song Metallica is going to play and have been waiting God knows how long (years for some) just for the chance to sing along all of my judgments, my criticism are rendered moot.

This isn’t about me.

I don’t exist.

All that’s real now is Metallica.

I think I’m drunk.

The band tears ass through “Master of Puppets,” “The Four Horseman,” “Sad But True.” (which I think is cheating a bit since most of us will be present for the Black Album tomorrow) before exiting the stage. A film plays on Metallica back in the day. They come back with “Call of Ktulu” and play the entirety of Ride the Lightning in reverse order.

“Escape” is performed for the first time. James Hetfield tells us it’s a historical moment. He hates this fucking song. I’ve loved it since the 7th Grade. A grown man next to me starts crying. One skinny little broseph hops onto another broseph’s shoulders and raises his devil horns to the sky. This act of bromance would have me a little misty too if they weren’t blocking my fucking view and hadn’t, moments earlier, in a fit of sloppy two-man moshing knocked my “last” beer to the ground.

I should go get another but have grown infatuated with the ASL interpreter rocking out to an unseen audience on the sidelines.

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Maybe I have sun stroke.

How long have I been outside?

Metallica play more from the Black Album. “Nothing Else Matters,” “Enter Sandman.” Both songs I (like every boy at the time) learned to play on guitar but have long, long, LONG since forgotten in favor of getting laid, I think. Perhaps I erased them in my cutty, cutty vampire dog caller goth phase.

Who can say?

I get that damn beer and more ice for my face. I learn about new casinos where I’ll find college students playing craps and I should totally come.

“How old ARE you?”

“Thirty-three.”

“I’m twenty-two. It’s like, totally, the same thing.”

No dear. No it isn’t.

The first encore is “Battery.” The second is “One.” The third is “Seek and Destroy.”

I get a cold, shitty burger from some place. They’re out of fries. I get cheese fries elsewhere because fuck it and am lightly chided for getting a burger from those “motherfuckers.” The fry place tells me I smell nice. I promise I will return tomorrow if I make it through the night.

It takes all my will not to bury my face into the plate.

Metallica take the stage one more time but I can’t. I just can’t.

Rock has been achieved. It’s time to leave.

My phone rings.



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