As Darkness Falls Over Virginia, Blackberry Smoke Delivers One Night of Light

A view of the show from the end zone at Bon Secours Training Center. 11/13/2020. Photo Credit: Dave Pearson

Richmond, VA – It only took an iPhone to record the video and YouTube to deliver it’s message for Virginia’s governor to deliver a salvo of poison arrows that may cast darkness over the Virginia’s music venues and artists for years to come. Ironically, the announcement came on Friday the 13th, a date associated with bad luck. The stigma associated with the unlucky nature of the number 13 dates back to Norse mythology, when the uninvited 13th guest at a party of the gods, the evil Loki, commissioned the murder of Baldr with poison arrows. Baldr’s death resulted in darkness engulfing the earth. 

Thankfully, the governor’s announcement did not have an immediate impact and, as planned, a great show took place on an unused football practice facility in Richmond, VA. The performance at Bon Secours Training Center brought a shimmer of light on a night when darkness fell over Virginia artists and music venues. 

Local Richmond band, Skydog, consisting of Brian Fones (guitar and lead vocals), Brian Williams (Willie) (guitar), Jeremy Simmons (bass and vocals), Dusty Ray Simmons (drums), Joey Ciucci (keys), and Keith Cable (drums) provided the perfect setup for the main event. Playing 90 minutes worth of Allman Brothers tunes, the crowd was often seen dancing to the riffs and rhythms while confined to their socially-distanced pods. Skydog had originally been scheduled to perform the following night at a smaller venue, however, the decision was made to combine the shows. As it turned out, the decision was very wise, as Skydog’s performance was the perfect setup for the upcoming performance by Blackberry Smoke.

A view from the pods at Bon Secours Training Center on November 13, 2020. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Between the two acts, I had the opportunity to take in the COVID precautions put in place by the innovative Broadberry Entertainment Group. Patrons purchased tickets for outdoor pods evenly spaced between the goal posts at the Washington Football Team’s Richmond practice facility. Once admitted to the facility, patrons were required to remain in their pods. If they did leave their pods, mask use was mandated. What was refreshing was how the Broadberry’s staff was able to convert a football practice facility into a music venue for a city and population desperate for the return of live music. 

The boundary of the pod area for Blackberry Smoke’s performance at Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond, VA on November 13, 2020. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Blackberry Smoke took to the stage and delighted the crowd. Opening with “Lord Strike Me Dead” from their 2018 Find a Light album, they kicked off with a bang. Looking around the field it was so much fun to watch people stomping their feet within their 4-6 person pods. 

As the night progressed, Charlie Starr (vocals, guitar), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums) and Brandon Still (keyboards) played a mix of music from their 20 year discography along with a few covers. One song that hit close to home in these hard times was “Best Seat in the House” which talks of the revolution – some have, some do not, one of these days I’ll get the best seat in the house. While the song was released on 2018, it has much meaning in 2020. 

Following the best seat was “Sleeping Dogs” from their Whippoorwill album. While the lyrics speak of telling others to know when to let a sleeping dog lie, it was obvious that they considered themselves the sleeping dog. When do you let sleeping dogs lie, you may ask? I would venture any time you disagree with Blackberry Smoke… it is easy to assume their music is not the only thing that can kick some ass. 

Blackberry Smoke performing at Bon Secours Training Center on November 13, 2020. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

As the night wound down, the audience wound up. Never crossing the line established by the governor and enforced by the venue, the audience was loving every minute of the show. Receiving a distanced standing O, Blackberry Smoke treated us to a two-song encore, a Tom Petty cover as well as “Ain’t Much Left of Me“. 

And just like that, it was over. The exit was as orderly as the entrance and all were in compliance. Some knew of the governor’s announcement, while it is likely many did not. What will the remainder of 2020 hold for artists and venues in Virginia due to the new rules? The venues and artists have worked diligently, with extremely innovative ideas, to keep live music alive. Yet, it seems like those efforts are not properly noticed at larger decision-making levels. This was a great night of music, southern rock style, with COVID precautions in place. Let’s pray that unlike Norse mythology where the actions of a single god resulted in darkness befalling the earth, the actions of a governor do not result in darkness falling over the venues and musical artists throughout Virginia in 2020 and beyond. 

Skydog Gallery

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Blackberry Smoke Gallery

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Blackberry Smoke Setlist

Lord Strike Me Dead
Sanctified Woman
Six Ways to Sunday
Good One Comin’ On
Rock and Roll Again
Crimson Moon
Waiting for the Thunder
Let It Burn
Believe You Me
Best Seat in the House
Sleeping Dogs
Run Away From It All
Running Through Time
Everybody Knows She’s Mine
Ain’t Got the Blues
One Horse Town
Shake Your Magnolia


Listen to Her Heart
Ain’t Much Left of Me

Show Date: November 13, 2020

Want to see more? Check out this “Waiting for the Thunder” live video!


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Dave Pearson
Dave Pearson is based out of Richmond, VA by way of Hayward, WI. He has long had a passion for music. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, he rocked out to the likes of Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, and The Lettermen. Then, one Saturday night, being the rebel he was born to be, he caught an Alice Cooper interview (it may have been on The Midnight Special) and saw him perform, “Welcome to My Nightmare”. Dave was hooked on Rock and Roll (and many other genres as well). Dave has enjoyed (amateur) photography to some degree most of his adult life. Recently Dave started to apply his event photography skills in various music settings with success. He finds that photographing a performance gives him a much greater appreciation for the artist.