James Hetfield, right, and Kirk Hammett Stuart of Metallica performs during the Rock in Rio music festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
DETROIT — The guitars will get plugged in, the amps will crackle to life, the turntables will start spinning.
And at 2 p.m. Saturday, if all goes as Metallica hopes, an enduring Detroit tradition will have begun.
On a Michigan concert calendar loaded with prominent festivals and A-list shows, Metallica’s Orion Music + More already sits in the top tier. The metal kingpins will lead a diverse roster of 39 handpicked acts that includes the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against, Deftones, and Bassnectar.
Festival officials last week said they expect total attendance of 40,000 over the two days.
Detroit’s Belle Isle was unveiled in December as the new three-year site for Orion, which debuted last summer in Atlantic City, N.J. The band and its partner, C3 Presents, say they want Detroit to become the event’s permanent home as they harness the eclectic musical energy embraced decades ago by European festivals.
ORION MUSIC + MORE
Who: Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against, Deftones, Bassnectar, and more.
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: Belle Isle, Detroit
Cost: $150 (two-day passes), $90 (single-day tickets), $750 (VIP packages, which include drinks, front-of-stage viewing, private lounge and restrooms)
“So much has happened in the festival scene in North America with Coachella and Bonnaroo,” Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich says. “We’re trying to do our own thing. Obviously they’re the front-runners, but I can’t think of any better place than Detroit to carry on the success we had in New Jersey.”
For Belle Isle, Orion harks back to the days when music wasn’t such a rarity at the 1,000-acre city park: Bands such as Kiss and Aerosmith played there in the 1970s, while rap and rock concerts were regularly staged a decade later.
C3, producer of fests such as Lollapalooza, will pay at least $350,000 to the City of Detroit through 2015. C3 also has agreed to restore the area to like-new conditions each summer.
Alongside the rock and electronic music at four stages and a DJ tent, each Metallica member will present a lifestyle sideshow: classic cars (James Hetfield), a film tent (Ulrich), skateboard demos (Robert Trujillo) and a house of horrors (Kirk Hammett).
The Chili Peppers will headline Saturday’s action, with Metallica closing the festival in a two-hour set the next night. Having performed the albums “Ride the Lightning” and the Black Album in their entirety for last year’s fest, Metallica likely has another something special in store, says bassist Robert Trujillo — even if he can’t divulge exactly what.
“Right now it’s probably sitting in Lars’ brain somewhere,” Trujillo says with a laugh. “He’s sitting there concocting something special and we don’t know what it is. But there’s been talk about trying a couple of different things.”
Metallica’s fans can be a demanding bunch, and Trujillo knows that grumbling commenced when the band revealed it wouldn’t be performing both nights, as it did in Atlantic City.
But fans will still be seeing plenty of Metallica, he insists — including likely drop-ins during other bands’ sets. Trujillo himself is already locked in to two other gigs: a Saturday evening reunion with his old funk-rock band Infectious Grooves and a Sunday afternoon slot with the Trujillo Trio, featuring pro skateboarder Tony Trujillo (no relation).
“We’re not going to leave our fans hanging. That’s not what this is about. We’ve proven that with anything we do,” he says of Metallica. “I always call it an edge-of-the-seat existence for this band, sometimes just getting by. But we succeed.”
Fans will also get their share of Metallica offstage.
“That was one of the high points of last year — meeting and connecting with the fans, cruising around in a golf cart, high-fiving people, introducing bands,” says Trujillo. “There was a lot of running around and a lot of work, but it was rewarding, because we don’t usually get to do that sort of thing.”
“Metallica’s been around so long,” says Ulrich. “At the end of the day, man, you realize your good fortune and try to have a good attitude, make them feel embraced. It’s about sharing something together, rather than an us-and-them kind of thing.”
In the 1990s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were regulars at the era’s handful of American festivals, including both Woodstocks.
“Some just weren’t very well organized, and people didn’t know how to act,” recalls Chad Smith, the band’s drummer.
“It seemed more segregated in musical terms,” he recalls. “It’s less and less that now. Coachella is a great example — it’s become successful with a wide range of music and art, and people are able to enjoy that. It’s not just, ‘Meh, I’m not going to that because there are DJs playing.’”