Gary Clark Jr. Added to Orion Fest Slate

By David J. Spatz

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 14, 2012

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Gary Clark Jr., who recently performed at the White House with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck and Keb Mo.

If you were thinking about avoiding Bader Field in Atlantic City the weekend of June 23-24 because you’re just not a fan of heavy metal music, you may want to reconsider your decision.

Last week, Metallica, the enduing metal band, announced more additions to the lineup for its first-ever, years-in-the-making Orion Music + More festival. And not all of the 29 acts scheduled are metal bands. Far from it.

While the media may be branding Orion a heavy metal marathon, Metallica is looking — and booking — with a broader audience in mind. Musical styles that will be represented include everything from brassy New Orleans jazz to soul, punk, country, psychedelic and even comedy with a heavy metal twist.

“We’ve had the idea of doing our own lifestyle festival with lots of diverse music and fun and games for years,” Metallica drummer and founding member Lars Ulrich said on the band’s Web site (Click here to read AC Weekly's interview with Ulrich). “Finally this year all the practical ducks lined up in a row, and we are beyond psyched to bring Orion to our fans, friends and the curious.”

The curious and musically open minded who buy passes to the two-day event shouldn’t be disappointed. In addition to bands from a variety of genres such as Arctic Monkeys, Avenged Sevenfold, Modest Mouse, The Gaslight Anthem and F**ked Up, Orion Music + More will include bands and solo artists who hardly fit the metal mold.

The different musical genres represented at the festival reflect the diverse musical interests of the members of Metallica, the band said. Metallica got serious about planning the festival in December after its weeklong 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s debut at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

Metallica and the promoter of the festival, Starr Hill Presents, have also made Orion Music + More fairly affordable to the masses, too. A two-day “early bird” pass purchased now is $150. Do the math; with 29 acts already scheduled (and the possibility of more), that works out to around $5 per band).

For those who consider money no object, VIP passes are available for $750. For that price, perks include unlimited access to a private lounge, space on a viewing platform with premium sight lines of the main stage, beer, wine and other beverages and catered food all day.

Here’s a preview of a few of the festival’s recently-added acts:

Eric Church - About 10 years ago, this country music singer-songwriter, who makes his Atlantic City headliner debut Saturday (March 17) at Trump Taj Mahal, was on the verge of quitting music, getting married and joining the corporate world. But music was more powerful than love, so he broke off his engagement and — bankrolled by his father for six months — moved to Nashville to chase his dream. His debut LP Sinners Like Me spun off four Top 20 singles, and his third studio LP Chief, released last year, not only hit the top of the country chart but also produced his first No. 1 single, “Drink In My Hand.”

Gary Clark Jr. - Inspired by traditional blues artists like John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Lightnin’ Hopkins, but with a singularly distinctive sound, Clark’s guitar style has often been compared to that of Jimi Hendrix. He’s considered one of the leaders of the rock scene in Austin, Texas, and while he blends a variety of musical genres like rock, soul, blues, he has a broad and independent music streak that puts him in a category all by himself and makes him impossible to label as one particular kind of musician.

Soul Rebels - This eight-man New Orleans-based band of brass musicians was once referred to by the Village Voice as the “missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong.” Their music celebrates the sounds synonymous with the Crescent City, but don’t mistake them for a cover band. They’ve taken both modern and classic New Orleans jazz and infused it with R&B, funk, hip-hop and rap and even added vocals. “Most of our original [songs] have vocals,” group co-founder Lumar LeBlanc said. “You wouldn’t have done that in a traditional brass band.” 

Jim Breuer’s Heavy Metal Comedy Tour - It’s no joke. Then again, it is. The Saturday Night Live alum, who’s still trying to live down the “Goat Boy” character he created on the show, is serious about his music and is a big fan of heavy metal. His heavy metal show combines stand-up comedy with impressions of heavy metal singers and bands singing children’s songs (like Ozzy Osborne doing “London Bridge is Falling Down”). 

Roky Erickson - At 65, he might be the patriarch of Orion Music + More. For sure he’s the most tortured soul in the lineup. He gained cult-hero status because throughout his troubled life, he’s made more headliners for his behavior and his mental problems than he has for his psychedelic music. A founding member of the band 13th Floor Elevators, he was busted in 1969 for possession of a single joint, copped an insanity plea and spent more than three years in a mental hospital. Ten years after he was released, he signed an affidavit stating that a Martian had taken residence in his body, and he gradually disappeared from the music scene. By the end of the 1980s, he was little more than an obscure answer to a trivia question. But with the help of his brother, he began turning his life around and returned to music and in 2010 released his first album of all-original material in 14 years.

Casual conversations with the stars. Watch the Emmy-winning Curtain Call with David Spatz, Saturdays at 6pm on WMGM-TV NBC40.

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