September 8th, (Alton, VA)
After Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021 came to an end, The reviews were mixed. At the heart of every festival is the music, and the festival certainly nailed it. They had an absolutely stacked lineup in store for everyone. Performance after performance wowed all the attendee’s. At every stage you could see the looks of ecstasy on everyone’s face as they were rocking out. But there was also problems that went along with things, such as hour’s long traffic jams getting in and out. Campers that pre-paid yet were turned away. As well as massive lines for food. These were some of the biggest complaints. With the 2022 version of the Festival upon everyone, the promoters said they heard the issues and were taking measures to correct them.
Once again, the promoters and talent buyers did their homework and yet again they put together another killer lineup. With Ghost, Slipknot, Mudvayne, and Disturbed the headliners on each day along with 170 other bands the lineup had everyone salivating for the festival to begin. In addition, the festival had moved to Virginia International Speedway. Between the lineup and the new home for the festival hopes were high that this year would be spectacular. When reports from campers arriving at the festival and getting situated with ease, things were looking good. Indeed the promoters listened and took care of one of the big complaints. While there was also a smattering of issues along the way, no undertaking of this size is without issues.
With the first day of the festival upon everyone, now it was time to see how it was all going to go down. One thing that was obvious to all was the lack of traffic and plentiful parking. While this was instantly pleasing, the multi hour wait for shuttle busses and then the equally long line at will call instantly brought back memories of the fiasco of getting into last year’s version. No one wants to spend at least half of the day just trying to get into the main gates of a festival. Simply stated, this was unacceptable. Two years of not being able to get fans onto the festival grounds in a reasonable amount of time will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.
Thankfully once you got your wrist band getting in was a piece of cake. One thing that was obvious to everyone was once inside the grounds were absolutely sprawling! Splitting the festival grounds in half was a massive hill that became instantly meme worthy. On one hand it created great viewing areas for that didn’t want to deal with mosh pits or fight it out to get to the rail. On the other hand going between the main stages and the secondary stages involved a serious trek that would take extra time from everyone’s concert time. Indeed, this wrinkle meant extra planning would be needed to make sure one could catch their favorite bands. This year the main stages, the ZYN stage and the Monster stages were setup side by side. This was definitely a good call and allowed everyone to maximize their time there.
On the other side of what was nicknamed by some the “Kate Bush hill” (as in running up a hill to be so close to God to make a deal) was the URW stage and the Fan Driven stage. While they weren’t setup side by side they were close enough for fans to quickly get from stage to stage. The final two stages, the acoustic stage and the I Heart Support stage which were the two smallest stages were towards the top of the hill. Sadly, the location of those two stages kept attendance down as people tended to make the climb up the hill only to go to one side or the other.
With so many bands on each of the four days of the festival, there would be tons of choices, as well as some hard decisions to make. But that is part of festival life. One of the first bands to hit the main stage aka The Monster Stage was Skylit Drive. This post-hardcore band recently reformed and when they hit the stage they stuck to their older material and did a great job of getting the energy of the festival kicked off. After their set was over the crowd did a quick move to the ZYN stage for Fire From The Gods. Lead singer AJ Channer proceeded to up the ante. His energy level and delivery were incredible. You couldn’t help but headbang your way through their performance. This performance would easily set the tone for the day. For those that decided to take the trek to the other side of the festival grounds and check out the Fan Driven Stage would get to see one of the best performances of the day by Afterlife. This relatively new band out of Florida toed the line perfectly between raw and aggressive while displaying polished musicianship. This is definitely a band to keep an eye out for. Rock stalwarts Red and Pop Evil both delivered solid performances that were sure to make their fans happy. Both lead singers, Michael Barnes of Red and Leigh Kakaty of Pop Evil hopped off of their respective stages and made their way out into the exuberant crowd.
As the day shifted into the late afternoon and early evening, the schedule really heated up. One of the hottest bands on the scene Spiritbox graced the ZYN stage. There is no question that Courtney LaPlante is one of the most gifted singers out there. She showed off her incredible vocal prowess with her ability to go from an ethereal voice all the way to a deep growl. Following them up was a resurgent Bad Wolves. As many know, there was an ugly breakup when previous singer Tommy Vext and the band parted ways. But new singer Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz proved he has the chops, and their set was everything you would want or expect from Bad Wolves. With a short jog back to the neighboring ZYN stage, it was now time for Nothing More. With a reputation for a high energy and exciting show, Jonny Hawkins and the band lived up to their reputation and then some. Hawkins was on fire. His boundless energy energized the crowd. Even when he was on the scorpions tail, a custom made instrument that Hawkins plays, he was radiating pure energy while giving an impassioned performance. With their latest album Spirits coming soon, they were able to perform their latest singles “Turn It Up Like (Stand In The Fire)” and “Tired Of Winning”.
Unfortunately, due to last minute cancellations the promoters chose not to juggle the schedule too much and left the Monster stage empty. Fans had their options. With three other stages going strong there were opportunities to catch other acts. Or get to the ZYN stage early for Daughtry. When Daughtry hit the stage, this was another performance that was big on emotion and depth. Chris Daughtry and his namesake band put on a great show. While there was no question about the quality of their concert, what was striking about things was the glaring lack of security at the front of the stage. Not a single security guard was there. When crowd surfers came to the rail there wasn’t anyone to catch them. Thankfully the photographers that were capturing Daughtry put their cameras aside to catch the surfers and get them to safety. The festival dodged a big bullet and should be thankful for the press photographers that were there.
With the sun fully set, now it was time for the big boys to come out. One of the big four of thrash was up now. Yes, Anthrax was at the Monster stage now to show everyone that after forty years why they are still one of the best in the business. As the PA pumped in the Iron Maiden classic song “The Number Of The Beast” everyone knew what was coming and couldn’t wait a second any longer. Their set was straight out of a greatest hits album. Whether it was “Caught In A Mosh”, “Antisocial”, “The Devil You Know” or “I Am The Law” everyone was singing along. During the show, Scott Ian thanked everyone and let them all know how much the band appreciated their support for the past forty years. During that time he made reference to the VIP area at the front of the stage. The area was near empty except for other artists that wanted to catch the bands killer performance. He questioned why it was only in front of the Monster Stage and not the ZYN stage and stated that while they could see the big crowd, no band ever wants to see such a big empty area in front of the stage. Back at the ZYN stage In This Moment was next. The vivacious and mysterious Mari Brink and her band mates put on a performance that was big on theatrics. Maria and the other performers/dancers who accompanied her were set up at the back of the stage creating a show within a show as her band mates were free to roam the rest of the stage. Their use of smoke and pyro were striking and worked well with the music. As the band was nearing the end of “Whore” the crew brought out an incredible amount of beach balls and tossed them out into the audience for the fans to have fun with. Closing out the first night of the festival was a band that truly embraces theatrics to great success, Ghost. Yes, Papa Emeritus aka Tobias Forge and his band of ghouls were set to bring the first day to an end. One of the hallmarks of a festival is how quickly the stage needs to be changed over between bands. So elaborate sets aren’t the norm. But as a closing act, Ghost was able to bring their full stage show. Looking like a giant cathedral and the drummer ghoul set on a monstrous riser everyone was able to get the experience. One third of their set was dedicated to Impera, Ghost’s latest album. Every hit song you wanted to hear was played. From the latest single “Call Me Little Sunshine” to the song that put them on the map “Square Hammer”. As you would expect the level of showmanship was worthy of the final band of a festival. Papa Emeritus and the Ghouls that make up the band are a show unto themselves. Then add in the great songs and it makes for an unforgettable concert.
With the first day in the books, the music and the weather were impeccable. No matter the stage you were at or the band playing, people were really enjoying themselves. But the delays getting in unfortunately meant they were facing everyone heading out. Now it was time for everyone to get back to their campsites or hotels as there are three more days to go!
There is no gallery selected or the gallery was deleted.
Blue Ridge Rock Festival: