Alton, VA – Bring the music and people will come. With over 160 acts set to perform over four days (five days if you include the camper performance), there is no wonder that well over 50,000 music lovers would make the trek to Alton Virginia to catch Blue Ridge Rock Fest 2022. In Part 1 of this story, I looked at two weddings that took place during the festival and tried to put a fan experience spin on the festivities. In Part 2, will take a look at the festival itself, from the bands to the grounds and overall organization.
Technically, the festival started on Wednesday September 7th, with campers arriving in the early hours to set up. There were reports of delays getting through security but overall I did not hear a lot of complaints. I will note that the couples in Part 1 of this story were campers and had said they were enjoying the camping experience… albeit they got a little (lot) damp on Saturday night.
Thursday – I was not able to attend Thursday night. I had been quite interested in covering a couple of the bands, however, work schedules, hotels, and drive times made it next to impossible to cover. Overall, the response I received about Thursday had been quite positive with the exception of return trips to the remote parking lots. Late night returns were resulting in 3-4 hour + wait times. This was a huge issue and set a negative tone for several attendees. As I looked at the shuttle arrangements on later nights, the vast number of offsite parkers, combined with less than ordered shuttles and limited ingress and egress for the buses added to the challenge. More shuttles were added and wait times decreased as the weekend progressed, but this was a high profile issue. The good news is that the BRRF team did work quite hard to improve the service throughout the weekend. I have to wonder if a second exit point would be possible to allow for loading at two sites and doubling the capacity, which may have sped up the process.
Friday – The day kicked off bright and early with the intent of making this a full day event. We arrived about 11AM, where I picked up my media credentials and prepared to be rocked into oblivion. When I entered the gates and gazed upon the venue, I knew there was going to be a lot of walking (steps are good). The main stages (Monster and Zyn) were close to the main entrance and would never be occupied at the same time. The Heart Support stage was also somewhat visible, up a hill, and smaller. Due to topography and distance, the URW and Fan Driven stages were far across the grounds and could not be seen. In the end, the total walk, with gear around neck, for Friday was about 11 miles. I was loving every minute of it!
I was able to take in at least part of 15 acts on Friday with the first being Frame 42 on the URW stage on the far end of the venue. Fronted by Ava Morris, this Michigan based band rocked the racetrack bright and early on a Friday afternoon.
Returning to the main stage area, I learned of what would be appropriately named, “The Hill”. It was a steep incline that separated the main stage area with the URW and Fan Driven stages. While a challenge, it was not too overbearing to this old man. I did, however, witness many people laboring as they climbed. A word of advice to next year’s festival-goers…if you are able to work on your hill climbing skills, it will most certainly improve your overall experience!!
Probably the most memorable band on Friday were Russian rockers, Slaughter to Prevail. Donning masks and screaming lyrics, they definitely got the attention of the viewing audience. Up until this point I had caught very little crowd surfing. That all changed as security at the gates were kept busy catching the tidal wave of surfers crashing over the pit barriers.
The Friday award (of the bands I saw) for best stage lighting for photos goes, hands down, to Halestorm. Having experienced Lzzy and the band before, I knew they would put on one hell of a show and they did not let their fans down. Over the years Lzzy has changed her stage persona from time to time. In this reporters opinion, she was at her best at Blue Ridge.
Some scheduling changes resulted in set times shifting, which, if actually implemented, would have worked out wonderfully. Initially I was sad I would not be able to catch both Alice Cooper and Insane Clown Posse, as they took their respective stages at the same time. The schedule change made it appear possible, however, as it turned out, ICP were delayed to a point I could not catch both. BRRF folklore says ICP put on a wonderful show drenched in Fanta, that I am sorry I missed. In hindsight, Alice Cooper’s performance was delayed even more, so I could have caught both. If there is any way to continuously update set times (as opposed to one and done), it would be a benefit to those attending.
As I departed that night, the lines for the buses were still long, stretching from the loading area to the main entrance. Based on what I had heard from attendees, the Friday wait times were still long, but were considerably better than Thursday’s wait times. It was good to hear that the venue was working to improve the experience.
BRRF Friday GalleryFrame 42, Dying Oath, Point North, Zero 936, Hollow Intent, Dead Fervor, Silvertung, Slaughter to Prevail, Candlebox, Badflower, Dayseeker, Theory of a Deadman, Halestorm, Gojira, Alice Cooper
Saturday – Of my three days of attendance, Saturday was by far the most challenging. The first issue had to do with a band many had been looking forward to seeing, Lacuna Coil. As several thousand fans awaited on the hill of the Monster stage, we noticed nothing Lacuna Coil related was being put on stage. A few minutes prior to set time, BRRF announced on social media that Lacuna Coil, one of the highly anticipated acts, was a no show. This was quite surprising (and a huge letdown) considering the band was selling merch at the merch tent. As of the time of this story, Lacuna Coil has not released a statement as to the last minute cancelation. The only band disappointment of the weekend for me was also a huge disappointment for many others as well.
My mood quickly turned to joy as I realized I would now be able to catch Butcher Babies. Making the run across the track (up and down the hill), I made it to the URW stage to catch them and was so happy I did. The energy and show, as well as the powerful music, made the Lacuna Coil no show a distant memory within seconds.
Some issues did crop up on Saturday. The rain, which had originally been forecast to be an all day event held off until mid afternoon. Spotty at first, it did eventually evolve into a continuous rain, making movement (and keeping equipment dry) a challenge. I love challenges (as long as I do not hurt the equipment!).
Gracing one of the main stages was a band from Richmond, VA called Municipal Waste. They did Richmond proud and put on one heck of a metal show. The crowd surfing was also picking up again.
The highlight of my weekend was a band called Apocalyptica. Known for their heavy metal cello (more so than two Cellos), they kicked ass and took names on the Zyn stage. During the performance they drew so much energy the venue could not handle it resulting in multiple power (sound) outages. They band did appear to take it well, joking that they thought they left power outages behind when they left Europe. In my very biased opinion, their fusion of classical instrumentals and metal music was the best of the weekend!
One thing that was quite obvious was the band and venues commitment to safety. With the crowd surfing taking place (and there was no way to stop it), injuries were inevitable. I was very impressed by how the bands, audience, and staff responded to injuries. Within seconds of an injury the crowd would motion to the stage (crossing arms above head). The bands and security would respond quickly, stop playing, and not resume until the all clear was given. Ice Nine Kills was an exception to that rule, not seeing (or responding) to the audience and security communications initially. They did, however, stop playing once informed, resuming only after being given the all clear.
What I believe was the weekend’s worst injury occurred during Motionless In White‘s set. While not confirmed, the rumors at the stage were a young girl injured her spine and was rushed to the hospital. When notified, MIW immediately ceased playing and allowed the crews to do their work.
Due to the worsening weather, I called Saturday quits after MIW and was unable to catch Tenacious D and a few other bands on my bucket list. I heard the Tenacious D stage was packed and that they put on a wonderful show (and Jack Black can still sing!).
Because we left early, perhaps we missed the longer bus lines. They did not seem near as brutal as they did on Friday. Outside mother nature, the biggest issue I saw on Saturday was trash, with many of the receptacles overflowing and no one appearing to pick them up. On a positive note, though, the fans, for the most part, respected the receptables and most of the trash problems were kept to the areas with the trash cans. Sure, there was litter all about the venue (mostly dropped or discarded food and containers), but, for the most part, it was centered around the containers. I want to commend the majority of attendees for keeping the trash in the designated areas.
BRRF Saturday GalleryButcher Babies, Varials, Municipal Waste, Adelitas Way, Apocalyptica, Black Veil Brides, Ice Nine Kills, Motionless in White
Sunday – After the heavy rain on Saturday and knowing how rain and clay mix (or do not mix), I was concerned about the venue. The good news was, with the exception of the photo pit areas of some of the stages, the grounds were pretty good. Hay had been laid on the hill to limit slips and slides, and the staff did a reasonable job keeping it safe. At the end of day, my shoes and I were a little muddy, but I can live with that.
The last day fell on a somber anniversary, the 21st anniversary of 9/11. Several bands commemorated the loss we suffered on that date and it was quite moving. While I did not catch their performance, I was taken aback as I approached the stage area and saw the Otherwise stage filled with security and others, as the band paid tribute to military and first responders. It was quite moving and I want to tip my hat to their gesture and recognition.
I was exposed to some great new acts on Sunday as well. Lacey Sturm put on quite a show and had the audience moving to her spiritual music. A quick Sunday shower did put a damper on one up and coming act, The Other LA, which kicked butt along with Dying Wish on the Heart Support stage.
I did not know what exactly to expect with Grandson, but was pleasantly surprised. Appearances can be deceiving, as at first look, he appears to be the quiet, well behaved grandson. Once taking the stage, however, the persona changed and he put one a very fun and engaging show. I love surprises and he delivered.
Sunday was a flaming day, with pyrotechnics ablaze during the Wage War and Lamb of God performances. Both were awesome and I must admit, I felt the need to paint on some fake brows before returning to my day job on Tuesday.
One band that seemed to be a festival natural was Baroness. I previously caught them when they appeared in Richmond and loved every bit of their performance. That said, their energy level appeared 10X greater on the festival stage. They put on one of the best performances of the day!!
BRRF Sunday GalleryNo Resolve, Lacey Sturm, Otherwise, The Other LA, Dying Wish, Grandson, Wage War, New Found Glory, Baroness, Saliva, Seether, Lamb of God, Hollywood Undead
That quickly, my three days at Blue Ridge were over. As we left the venue for the night, the lines for the buses were much shorter (almost non-existent). Either the team had solved the issues or everyone was still inside (one more show to go and as we left, there were many still inside the festival). Regardless, it looked much better.
Overall, my impressions of the festival were very positive. Yes, there were issues, but I felt the staff was working to resolve them (you can never make everyone happy, especially with that many people). Can there be improvements? Of course there can. Bottom line, the bands were awesome, the venue was very good, and there were no major security type issues (I thought the crowd was, for the most part respectful and made the event a great one). In the end, a shout out needs to go out to the staff for continuously trying to improve, to the bands for making this a weekend to remember, and most importantly, to the attendees who just made this a great experience for all!! Looking forward to next year already.
Festival Dates: 9/7 – 9/11, 2022