Q’s With Lars Ulrich: Master Of Festivals

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 12: (L-R) James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica perform on Day 2 of Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 12, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage)

Metallica never likes keeping with the same old, same old. Sometimes, they’ll headline an arena. Other times, they’ll take the stage at a music festival. Lars Ulrich believes this is the best way for both the bands, and the fans, to make the most of their performances. Speaking with Pollstar, Ulrich called in from San Francisco to share what he loves most about festivals.

Pollstar: As a fan, and performer, at Outside Lands, what moments stand out to you the most?
Lars Ulrich: There are three types of moments. Obviously, playing and being up on the main stage and looking out over the park. When you have all the lights and bring some effects in, seeing how they interact with the fog, that’s truly awesome. Then, as a fan, going with my family. The family-friendly atmosphere in your backyard. Then, just the conversations and groups of people you end up in.

What do you feel makes a great festival?
The best festivals in the world are an extension of the local flavors. No matter what part of the world you’re in, you want them to have an identity and a connection to the roots of that particular city or country. The best festivals are the ones that are shaped in the spirit of that culture and that particular destination.

How can festivals entice Metallica to return?
If we had the time or the bandwidth, we’d play every festival in the world every year. It’s not for a lack of wanting to come play. We have so many incredible fans all over the world. We’re always trying to mix it up, but we’re always up for playing festivals. And we have been playing festivals for north of 30 years. It’s definitely something that’s a part of us and it’s in our DNA.

Are there advantages of performing at a festival compared to one of your own headline shows?
I’d say the advantages are there’s a really diverse lineup. You see a lot of artists at festivals that you don’t get a chance to see at your own shows. So, catching up with different people you may know from 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. Somebody that you’re a big fan of and getting to experience them. The best festivals are the ones with a really diverse lineup. I feel when we get to play Outside Lands, or festivals in general, there’s always a chance to see different musical genres or catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while.

What about the crowd?
It’s different when you’re playing festivals. You’re always playing to a portion of people that may not be overly familiar with who you are. It’s always great to be out there and representing hard rock. Feeling there are some folks out there who may not know who you are. To still be able to do that 40 years into our run is something we love to do.

What’s your perspective on playing a multi-genre festival compared to a hard rock one?
We try to mix up what we do. If we’re headlining in a particular area, playing the local arena, then maybe next time we go to that city and play one festival, then the next time we come back, if there’s a different festival. The key thing for us is to try to mix it up all the time. We’re not going in and playing the same set over and over again to the same people in the same venue. We try to mix it up as much as possible all the time.