The four members of Metallica - singer James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, bass player Rob Trujillo, and drummer Lars Ulrich - were scheduled to headline both Saturday and Sunday night, playing their 1984 Ride the Lightning and 1991 Metallica albums in their entireties.
But along with the headliners, Orion's four stages are hosting a wide range of more than three dozen acts, from bluesman Gary Clark Jr. to country tough guy Eric Church to Jim Breuer's Heavy Metal Comedy Tour.
"The whole thing is great," said Tom Meredith, who flew in from Richmond, Ind., for the show at the 142-acre decommissioned airport site.
"I'm a huge Metallica fan, but there are all these other cool bands here, like Modest Mouse, the Arctic Monkeys. Or this guy," he said, pointing to Texas psychedelic rock innovator Roky Erickson, who had just finished up his set with a torrid rip through "You're Gonna Miss Me."
"He's a legend. Plus, you can walk across the street," he said, gesturing toward Atlantic City's casino skyline, which served as the fest's visual backdrop, "and lose your life savings."
Meredith, 29, was at Orion with his friend Leonardo Rolin, 20, a Drexel University engineering student from Porta Alegre, Brazil. "I've never seen Metallica before, and Lightning is my favorite album," Rolin said.
In a crowded summer, Orion will be followed by the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., July 20-22, and the Jay-Z-curated Made in America festival in Philadelphia on Labor Day weekend.
Tickets for Orion were $90 a day or $150 for a two-day pass, with crowds in excess of 20,000 expected both days. Last month, Charlie Walker of C3 Presents in Texas, which is producing Orion and which also puts on the Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits festivals, said Orion was at Bader Field because of Dave Matthews, whose Caravan fest played there last year.
"Dave paved the way," Walker said. "Atlantic City is central for a lot of people, and it has a lot of hotel rooms. It has a lot of things going for it."
Michael Stehle, 38, of Pittsburgh, said he got to Orion with his wife, Shannon, 30, on a motorcycle. "We rode here in the lightning to see Roky," said Stehle, who wore a Hank Williams III shirt that read "I'm spittin' in your face 'cause I'm dominatin' you."
"I'm a satisfied customer," Stehle said. "They promised they wouldn't have $9 water and they don't. They have $3 water, with free refills." (Festival-goers were also allowed to bring their own water bottles.)
The "More" in Orion Music + More included several nonmusical "lifestyle" areas. Hetfield helmed the custom car tent, and Hammett showed his collection of horror movie memorabilia, Kirk's Crypt, where the lines were long and the guitarist appeared with Exorcist star Linda Blair. A Hit the Lights Films tent showed movies selected by Ulrich. Trujillo was in charge of both a skateboarding vert ramp and, along with Hammett, a surfing competition held on South Michigan Avenue beach.
Outside the custom car tent, Dale Sims 49, was showing his 1963 Ford Fairlane, which he had driven up from Martinsburg, W.Va., with his son, Dale Sims II. The 19-year-old won an online contest to have the car shown. "I'm here to make a memory with my son," the father said.
Waiting in line for the Metallica Museum, Nicole Farthing, 19, of Delaware County, said the Guitar Hero video game got her interested in the band. "I'm just obsessed with them," she said. She and Victoria Jenkins, 19, noted that they were in the gender and age minority. Jenkins said she was there in defiance of her father. "He doesn't know I'm here," she said. After spotting one band with an obscenity in its name, "he said, 'I don't know who's going to be there.' "
Orion's "Seek and Destroy Atlantic City Air Assault" power ski "Tow At" surfing contest involved local surfers Saturday and pros on Sunday.
Rob Kelly, 22, of Ocean City, N.J., said he took Trujillo and Hammett out in the lagoon behind Bader field on Friday for a little test run. It was supposed to be a half-hour, but "they were there almost two hours," he said.
"After doing this, your forearms get really sore, and they're both guitar players. We kept asking them, do you want to end it? But they wanted to keep going. Their entourage was worried. They were going for it full blast."
For more Dan Deluca coverage of the Orion festival, visit www.philly.com/
Contact Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628, email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @delucadan.