On the Road: Virginia's Blue Ridge Rock Festival

On the Road: Virginia's Blue Ridge Rock Festival

We left at 11:30 am on Thursday to go attend the the Blue Ridge Rock Festival in Danville, VA, about 2 hours away and started at 12:30 pm. This was a rookie mistake.

I know that in order to arrive at a large music festival at a reasonable time, you have to (much like catching an airplane) leave at least 2-3 hours of cushion time to make sure you can navigate all of the logistical problems that will be thrown in your path, regardless of how well you think you have planned for every contingency.

So by the time John and I were a mile and a half from the Blue Ridge Amphitheater, traffic had effectively come to a standstill. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would move at a sedated snails pace due to the fact there were only a handful of two-lane country roads that led to the entrance of the festival, and it would be 7 pm before we would even be on the festival grounds. And when I say on the festival grounds, I mean feet-on-earth-standing-near-a-stage-hearing-a-band-perform. We were at the actual festival grounds a little before 6 pm, but found ourselves beset by multiple security personnel who didn’t know where fan parking, camp sites, or shuttle service was, let alone the ultra niche real estate we sought which was known as “Press Parking”. We were given multiple incorrect directions which ultimately led to us to security guard after security guard pointing us in yet another wrong direction. We ended up adjacent to a campground about a half mile from the back stage loading area and I am positive that was not where we were supposed to be. By this time, however, we gave zero fucks. However, given what I learned after we came home from the festival, we were lucky that we found anywhere to park at all.

Multiple reports have alleged that many of the security and shuttle driving staff quit en masse on this first day of the BRRF, leaving the remaining work force scrambling and the festival having to recruit local law enforcement to direct traffic without truly knowing where they were directing traffic to. There have also been several reports that many people who paid for parking and camping sites were turned away because the areas were reportedly full, leaving many to speculate that either the festival was oversold or that many unpaid attendees had snuck in and taken up spaces that they had not paid for. Upon hearing this, I felt like we were lucky to have procured a space at all for the duration of the festival. 

So because of my novice miscalculation, we missed Testament, Soulfly and POD on the first day. We also discovered that the press pass tent was already closed, preventing us from covering any of the remaining bands of the day, such as Skillet and Breaking Benjamin. The silver lining to the day after battling all of this confusion and frustration, was that we were able to actually watch the remaining performances, as opposed to covering it, which is something you can neglect to do when you have covered these shows for so long. 

The next morning, we made our way to the press pass tent (which happened to double as the band credential tent), where we chatted briefly with one of the days first bands, Someday You’ll Know Us. John and I told them we would come by and check out their set, to which they replied: “Please do! We’re playing at the same time as Sevendust, so we don’t know how many people are going to show up…” 

We had seen Sevendust multiple times before at several different festivals, so choosing to be part of an audience to a new band that is eager to be heard, we happily kept our word and watched as they rocked the dusty stage in the toasty midday mountain sun.


 

(Photos by: John Richardson)

Almost immediately after Someday You'll Know Us' set, D.R.U.G.S. took to the stage next door, playing their first show in a couple of years. Their set exuded an uneven energy, but that should be taken as a compliment. It was apparent that they were a little rusty being back on the stage again, but that gave their playing a bit of a punk rock ethos. They were feeling their way around each other’s movements, trying to get back into a comfortable groove and that uncertainty gave their performance an unpredictable spark that made them shine more than if show was polished. 

(Photos by: John Richardson)

Over the course of the next few days of the Blue Ridge Rock Festival, we checked out Clutch tearing through a brief, but energetic set of many of their best tunes. 

(Photos by: David Locklear) 

Anthrax gave a great 40th anniversary show in which they played most of their biggest songs, starting with their latest album, “For All Kings” and working their way backwards through their extensive catalogue all the way to “Fistful of Metal”. Their stage backdrop was a great collage of their album covers, giving the audience a visual history lesson of the band's peaks and valleys. 

 

(Photos by: David Locklear)

Rob Zombie showed up after sunset and delivered the goods, of course, in his unique style of lights, props, glitter, doom and titties. Halfway through this kinetic set of ball-rattling tunes, many of the women who were hoisted onto their partner's shoulders began doing the time honored tradition of removing their tops and letting everyone enjoy the sight of their boobies. Zombie commented that he loved that they did this without him having to say a word.

"This audience likes a party, I see!" he chuckled.

Roaring through tunes from his most recent release, “The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy”, to the White Zombie classic, “Thunder Kiss ’65”, when you take a ride on his roller coaster, you always get your money’s worth.

 

(Photos by: David Locklear)

Avatar played a mid-afternoon set, replete with their own brand of kooky rock/metal adorned with Kiss/Marilyn Manson-esque face paint and weirdo yoga poses that resonated with the audience that happily sang along with every chorus and head smashing riff that Avatar had to give.

 

(Photos by: David Locklear) 

Corrosion of Conformity are simply an institution at this point in their career. They recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their crown jewel album, “Deliverance”, and show now signs of stopping. They ripped through a brief set, but gave more energy in 45 minutes than the Eagles gave in their entire career. 

 

(Photos by: David Locklear)

Suicidal Tendencies were a last minute substitute for Limp Bizkit, who dropped from the bill a few weeks before the BRRF was to open, and for a group of punk surfers who have been doing this for 30+ years without selling out or losing their integrity, their energy hasn’t waned a bit. Also having 17 year old Tye Trujillo (son of Metallica’s bassist, Rob Trujillo) slap the bass probably inspired a bit of that energy, and they happily gave that back to the audience for a late afternoon rock pick-me-up.

 

(Photos by: David Locklear) 

We also caught Body Count play a couple of tunes, where we bumped into COC's Pepper Keenan and Woody Weatherman hanging at the side stage. I resisted the urge to ask for picture, as much as it killed me inside...

(Photos by: John Richardson) 

Even though things didn’t go smoothly on that first day, our remaining time at the festival was action packed, with very little time to breathe between sets. And after all, the last thing you want to experience at a music festival is boredom. The Blue Ridge Rock Festival was anything but that. 

David Locklear September 29, 2021

Leave a comment