"Dealing out the agony within. Charging hard and no one's gonna give in. Living on your knees ... conformity -- or dying on your feet ... honesty." -- "Damage, Inc."
With some 27,000 pointer and pinkie fingers pointed toward the summer sky, hard rock stalwarts Metallica unleashed a metal barrage last Saturday and Sunday night that still has ears ringing and heads banging in New Jersey, where they headlined both nights of the Orion Music and More Festival in Atlantic City. Any metalhead can testify to their place in banging history, but the "and More" aspect proved just how dynamic this band really is.
The members of Metallica chose the 38 bands that played on four stages, from young indie rockers to blistering speed metal to country. Lars Ulrich handpicked the films for the Hit the Lights Tent. James Hetfield was hands-on with the custom car show. Kirk Hammett displayed his personal collection of horror memorabilia, and Robert Trujillo made appearances at the Vans Motorbreath Mini Ramp. Trujillo and Hammett also came down to surf with the boys from Billabong.
To be truly accurate, there wasn't actually a wave to surf, although New Jersey had been the recipient of a decent run of June swell just prior to the Orion Festival. But East Coasters have figured out a way to make the most of any ripple, and Billabong had set up Seek and Destroy, an "all out air assault," towing at the tiny lines with personal watercraft. Virginia's Lucas Rogers and Bryce Humphrey, Florida's Cody Thompson and Sterling Spencer, and New Jersey's Sam Hammer (who grew up listening to "Master of Puppets" before every heat) were all competing for the best air of the day. In the midst of it all on Sunday, bassist Trujillo and ax man Hammett came down to the beach to get whipped at a few waves themselves.
"I grew up surfing in Southern California, caught my first wave at Venice Beach, at the Breakwater," Trujillo, 47, said on Sunday in the shade of the Billabong tent, on the beach just north of AC's Pier at Caesars. "I fell out of it around age 23. Over the years, through playing in Suicidal Tendencies, I reconnected with it. It was Mike Clark, who was the guitar player at the time, that started to get me back into it. We'd be in Australia, and he'd say 'Wanna go for a surf?' And I'd be like, 'OK.' And then we'd be in Brazil, and he'd say, 'Wanna go for a surf?' And I'd be like, 'OK.' And then finally, I realized it was an important part of my life and I needed to do it as much as possible."
The connection stems from Billabong's four different Metallica boardshorts released in 2009 and 2010 -- part of a series of collaborations the brand did with musicians including Green Day, Bob Marley, Wolf Mother and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The relationship has been about more than artwork, as Trujillo and Hammett are passionate wave riders and wear the trunks when they play live.
"I understood that you could tour around the world and hit interesting places and meet wonderful people that surf -- pro surfer and non -- so I started connecting with my surfing roots in other parts of the world. We were in Portugal a month ago, surfed like twice a day for five days and played shows, which is not the best thing for my back," laughed Trujillo, who joined the band in 2003. "We surfed Estoril and Playa Grande and also France. We love Biarritz. Kirk and I used to go to the Algarve and we've gotten some great waves."
But these were not lines peeling around a European headland. This was ankle-high trace swell with an onshore wind. Undaunted, Trujillo and Hammett hopped into the chop and proceeded to be whipped at micro-waves by Billabong team riders Raven Lundy of Virginia Beach, Va., and Rob Kelly of Ocean City, Md. Simply getting to your feet and planing behind a ski on a surfboard is no easy task, but the metalheads picked it up. It was a testament to how involved they really were with this festival, and a dream come true for longtime fans who got to hang on the beach with the famed rockers.
"We grew up listening to Metallica," said Lundy. "They could have come out and tried to cruise little waves on longboards, but they wanted to do it Metallica-style, with speed and aggression. It was metal."
"I can surf, but I'm not very good at water skiing," Hammett, 49, joked shortly before high-fiving his fans on the way to the water.
Trujillo played sets on Saturday with not only Metallica, but the Trujillo Trio and Suicidal Tendencies, then went on to talk about how committed Hammett, who lives in Hawaii, is to surfing.
"We had a day off in England, and Kirk flew to Biarritz, France. A friend of ours, who is a big-wave surfer, got him into an 18-foot wave. They got the photo, and he flew back to England, straight to the gig. He is probably the only person on the planet that has actually caught an 18-foot wave and then played a show for 60,000 people in the same day."
Horns all around. Very metal.