Eric Church hit the stage at Metallica‘s first-ever Orion Music + More festival yesterday (June 24), held at Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J. Metallica singer James Hetfield introduced Church before his set, saying that the Orion is a place for rebels, and “representing the country side is Mr. Eric Church.” It was beyond cool for the singer of the biggest rock band in the world to welcome Church to the fest personally. The crowd heeded Hetfield’s advice and poured into the open airfield for Church’s set.

Church performed on the Orion stage, which was one of four total stages. While two acts performed after him on the other stages, Church was the last musician to go on the actual Orion stage prior to Metallica, so it’s safe to say that the country singer opened for ‘em.

On paper, Church was definitely a black sheep as the sole country act on Sunday’s mostly rock bill. While Memphis-based punk country band Lucero performed on Saturday afternoon, the fest was a mixed bag of hard rock, metal and some indie bands, with Church being the most notable country rep. With his ever-present aviator shades and baseball cap, Church was the outlaw who ended up fitting right in with headbangers.

Church performed an hour-long set that included ‘Before She Does,’ ‘Guys Like Me,’ ‘Jack Daniels,’ ‘I’m Gettin’ Stoned,’ ‘Jack Daniels,’ ‘Creepin’,’ ‘Drink in My Hand,’ ‘Homeboy,’ ‘Springsteen’ and ‘Smoke a Little Smoke.’ His tunes — which celebrate vices like drinking and smoking, as well as those with gnarly, edgy riffs — certainly got a reaction from the metal fans.

Before ‘Jack Daniels,’ Church prefaced the song, saying the whiskey is both his “savior and executioner, depends on how deep into the bottle I get.” That statement was met with cheers. He also told the crowd, “Gimme everything you got and I’ll give you everything I got.” And that’s just what happened. Church and the crowd fed off one another during the set, and we’re sure that plenty of Orion attendees walked away as new fans of the singer.

The country hitmaker also gave props to Metallica for including him on a fest that “pays no attention to genres or dividers. We were not sure what to expect but you guys kicked a–.”

Leave it to Eric Church to win ‘em over in at a hard rock fest.

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