Splice Magazine

Licensed Publication of Splice Media Group

Blue Ridge Rock Festival Day 1 Review

Danville VA, (September 9th, 2021)

It’s been nearly two years since there has been a proper music festival.  With the world shaking off it’s cobwebs, everyone was getting restless for some great entertainment. Cue Jonathan Slye head of Purpose Driven Events and his announcement that Blue Ridge Rock Festival was coming back with a vengeance. Pre Covid 19, Blue Ridge Rock Festival was an up-and-coming event.  In it’s previous three years, the festival morphed from a one-day event to a full-fledged three-day extravaganza.

Now that the dust has settled and people were clamoring for live music to come back, Jonathan Slye and his team decided to go big and reward everyone with an epic event. One of the most important pieces to the puzzle was the acquisition of a permanent home for Blue Ridge Rock Festival. In their search they found a great piece of property nestled in the rolling hills of southern Virginia just on the outskirts of Danville. Now that they found a home for the festival, it was announced that they were adding an additional day to the festival. Yes, Blue Ridge Rock was now a full on four-day behemoth featuring 150 of the best bands in the rock scene.

With a new home in place, and now an even bigger festival at hand, this fourth iteration of the festival might as well have been a whole new event. Of course, Covid-19 would rear its ugly head and cause issues with the line-up. Whether it was bands such as Limp Bizkit and Bush cancelling their entire tours out of an abundance of caution or Gojira having immigration issues, Purpose Driven Events did an admirable job of filling in holes in the line-up and juggling things to satisfy everyone. Even though this was an outdoor event, Covid was still a concern for many. To address this concern, take home Covid tests were provided free of charge. This was definitely a great touch and something that every promoter should do for their attendees.

But what is most important is the music. On this front the promoters did a fantastic job. But with this being an essentially new festival issues were going to rear their heads, with the worst being traffic. As the festival was in a relatively remote area, and so many people showing up this was going to be inevitable. On the first day this was at its worst as many people were close enough to hear Spiritbox while struggling with traffic. As the crowd teamed into the festival grounds the one thing that was obvious, this place was huge. With six stages, merch areas, and of course the all important food area it needed to be big.

For many one of the first bands that they were able to see was Miss May I. This 5 member outfit out of Dayton Ohio put on a particularly brutal set. The energy that they put forward set the bar high for every band that would follow them. Lead singer Levi Benton worked the audience like a pro by getting everyone involved during their performance of “Under Fire”.  For many one of the day one must see bands was Sabaton. This Swedish bands calling card is their use of history and war in their stage show and songs. Seeing their stage setup of M-16’s turned into mic stands and crates labeled high explosive on the stage completely fed into their reputation. Sadly though, there were technical difficulties that prevented them from starting on time. But once they got going they delivered the goods. Lead singer Joakim Broden is gifted with a larger than life persona and tons of energy, so when he hit the stage all eyes were on him. Their performance of “The Attack Of The Dead Men” was definitely a high point of their set. Between their hair flying and the blistering guitar solos it was as much a treat for the eyes as the ears.

For those that caught Sabaton’s set, there were decisions to be made. With the technical difficulties pushing the start of the show back, when it ended there would be several bands starting within minutes of each other. For many though, the choice was obvious, stay put and watch a guitar god do his thing with his band. Yes, Zakk Wylde and his brothers in Black Label Society would be gracing the stage next. With his Wylde Audio guitar in hand he pulled no punches and left no prisoners as he tore through numbers like “Suicide Messiah” and “Funeral Bell”. While Zakk may have struck a menacing look with his long hair flying while wearing his vest, kilt, and combat boots, his performance of “In This River” a tribute to the Abbot brothers was one of the most tender moments of the festival.

With the sun beginning to set of the first day, it was getting time for the bigger bands to come out and play. Skillet gratefully benefitted from this time of day. During their high energy set they had the pyro going along with their usual incredible visuals. Between that and songs like “Feel Invincible”, “Legendary”, and “Hero” they had the crowd completely pumped up. Lead singer John Cooper even brought out his CO2 guns blowing towering white plumes into the sky. Another fan favorite A Day To Remember absolutely packed them in during their time on stage. They ripped though their set at a frenetic pace breathlessly playing crowd favorites. While festival performances are usually reserved for songs that everyone knows and loves, the band actually debuted a song. For the first time live the band played “Last Chance TO Dance”. The second to last band of the night is one of the most popular bands out there, Halestorm. Lzzy was on absolute fire and she and her band mates sounded phenomenal. If it seemed the crowd knew every song and was singing along its because the band played every hit song in their catalog.  Talk about a fans dream! Arjay Hale even got to do an amazing drum solo which included playing with drum sticks the size of baseball bats.

Capping off the first day of the festival was Breaking Benjamin. For their first song they decided to play live for the very first time “Dark” off of their album Dark Before Dawn. They followed that up with lead singer Benjamin Burnley performing a particularly powerful performance of “Red Cold River”. Guitarist Keith Wallen had his time out front getting to sing “Sooner Or Later” and “Break My Fall”. After playing a full on seventeen songs instead of the usual shorter festival sets, the band finished the night off with their mega hit song “The Diary Of Jane”.

While the first day may have started out with issues, once things started to roll and the bands played that is when the early frustrations abated, and everyone started to enjoy themselves. As it should be, the bands and music were the stars of the day. After all what is a music festival without the music, and the folks at Purpose Driven Events delivered the goods when it came to the groups that graced day one of the festival.

Blue Ridge Rock Festival © Mark Matson
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