Danville VA, (September 12th, 2021)
After three days of near nonstop music, its finally here the final day of the festival. With so many great bands left on schedule, its easy to forget that tomorrow everyone leaves the festival ‘bubble’ and heads back to reality. Sadly though reality would affect one band on the schedule. Phil Anselmo And The Illegals had to drop off the schedule due to a hurricane going through their hometown of New Orleans. Also Bush decided to cancel all dates due to Covid as well. Indeed, these were tough losses but in these uncertain times it could have been far worse. Even with those losses day four’s schedule was stacked!
With some of the up and coming young bands such as Atron Jones, and Fame On Fire all done with their performances, it was time for the more established bands to take over. One of these was Starset. Known for their science themed back story, elaborate costumes, and hard rock infused with orchestral sound this band had attracted a huge crowd early on to see them. When they hit the stage they were all dressed in their latest outfits from a dystopian future. Their performance was filled with tons of their hit songs such as “Carnivore”, “Echo”, and “Monster”. Their fans also got a real treat as they also played “Infected” from their soon to be released album Horizons.
After 3 days of the festival, if your energy was waning all you needed to do was catch Pop Evils set. Between the tons of hit songs this Michigan based quintet has and lead singer Leigh Kakaty’s infectious energy if their set didn’t get you going it would be best to check to see if you could fog up a mirror. They lead things off with “Deal With The Devil” and they promptly tore things up and the crowd just fed off of their energy. It didn’t matter what they played; whether it was “Let The Chaos Reign” or “Footsteps” or for that matter any of their songs they had that wow factor that made you wonder why they weren’t closing out the whole festival. In what could be considered a bold move Leigh Kakaty decided the stage wasn’t enough for him so he leapt off, made his way to the crowd, and proceeded to go into the crowd and have everyone hold him up so he could crowd walk.
After Pop Evil was done it was off to the other side of the festival grounds for We Came As Romans. This metalcore outfit out of Troy Michigan quickly had the crowd jumping, moshing and yes even crowd surfing with their energetic set. In a treat for all their fans, they even played “Black Hole” their latest single for the very first time. Right after their performance was done metalcore fans would be thrilled as Fit For A King was up next. There would be no easing into things as they started things off with “The Price Of Agony”. As expected the crowd went nuts and bodies were flying, either in the mosh pits or in waves over the crowd as surfers. Bassist Ryan “Tuck” O’Leary was a show unto himself. Whether he was getting impressive air jumping off of the risers in the front of the stage or spinning around he was in near constant motion.
The theme of metalcore was strong on this day as Florida’s very own Underoath would be taking the stage next. As the band hit the stage lead singer Spencer Chamberlain said to the crowd its been six hundred and fifty three days since we played a live show. After saying are you ready the band launched into the live debut of “Damn Excuses”. The pent up energy that they had could power a small city. But one thing that was also obvious was how well they sounded. The near two year layoff never showed throughout their show. Fan favorite “In Regards To Myself” was equally brutal as it was flawless.
For all those that wanted a break from the sun, and the crowd surfers Pop Evil was playing an acoustic set in the VIP tent. Instead of the whole band it was just singer Leigh Kakaty and guitarist Nick Fueling. As leigh was talking to the crowd he said that when pop Evil was formed it started out as guys just jamming and sitting around a campfire having a great time. To hear them play songs like “Monster You Made Me”, “Torn To Pieces”, and “100 in a 55” in such an intimate setting was amazing. While Leigh can whip up a crowd when things are electric, but at the acoustic show, he made everyone feel like they were just his buddies sitting around playing songs having a beer and a good time. It really was the hidden gem of the day.
Two bands that were also playing right after each are both known for having spell binding shows except for entirely different reasons. The first was The Hu, the hard rock band from Mongolia that has taken the world by storm. While Mongolia is not known as a hot bed of metal or even rock, somehow the members of The Hu figured out a way to marry rock and their traditional music into something so fresh and new. For many there this was a sight to behold watching them playing their traditional instruments instead of the usual gear you see. It was an amazing sight during “Wolf Totem” watching the crowd fist pump and chanting Hu along with the band. Performances like this just show how powerful music is as it can bridge a giant cultural gap and join people as one.
Up next was Ice Nine Kills. If there is one band that knows how to take performances to the next level its these guys. Unless you’ve been under a rock you know that this band has a love of horror movies. All their songs are based on them, and they even bring their favorite scenes to life when performing. With this kind of reputation it was no surprise that this was a heavily attended show. When the band took to the stage they were all dressed in suits ala Patrick Bateman the protagonist of the movie American Psycho. They launched into the song “Hip To Be Scared” off of their latest album Welcome To Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2. From there it was a fun show of great songs along with tongue in cheek gore as lead singer Spencer Charnas would be running around with various implements of death and destruction while carving up his crew playfully.
With the set, it was now time for one of the bands that has been churning out hit songs for over twenty years. Yes, Papa Roach would be plying their trade now. As this year was the twenty first anniversary of Infest their major label debut, they decided to play the album in its entirety in order. If that wasn’t enough, they would also be performing some of their biggest hits as well as new music. Hopefully everyone would be buckled up as a Papa Roach show is a wild ride. Just as they set out to do, they played every song off of Infest in order. Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix had boundless energy that you couldn’t help but feel down into your bones and I’m sure he fed off of the crowd as they were singing along with him word for word. After all for many there they grew up on this album.
After a well deserved break the band came out and debuted not just one new song, but two new ones off of their upcoming album. The first song was “Kill The Noise” which was yet another high energy blast. The other was “Swerve” which was equally fun. Some of the other hit songs they played were “Getting Away With Murder”, “Scars”, and show closing number “Born For Greatness” Over the course of all seventeen songs they played, the band left nothing in reserve and their performance was easily worthy of headliner status.
With the evening nearing an end there were only two bands left to go. It was now time for Falling In Reverse to do their thing. As all the fans were chanting “Ronnie” the band made their way to the stage. They jumped right into “Rolling Stone” to get things going. The band performed under what had to be some of the best stage lighting of the festival, which is no mean feat considering all the challenges that festivals face in that department. Lead singer Ronnie Radke channeled his high energy into the show. He covered every inch of the stage and made sure that all the fans were engaged in the performance. Unfortunately as they say, there is one in every crowd, and during their performance a fan was at the front wearing a f*ck Ronnie Radke shirt. When Ronnie was checking on the people in the front row seeing if everyone was ok he spotted the guy and the two got into a verbal altercation. While that might have marred their show, He more than made it up for things with stellar performances of “The Drug In Me Is You” and “Popular Monster”
Now it was down to the final performance of the night and of Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021. Closing out the festival would be the band that has more number one rock hits than any other band ever, yes Shinedown would be closing things out. With all eyes at the Monster Energy main stage it was amazing to see some forty thousand people waiting for Brent Smith and company to perform. With the venue pitch black the pa started pumping out Sargeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles hit song which was followed up by quotes from the Joker and even Dr. Martin Luther King. With the stage lights coming alive in a deep red, the band appeared and launched into “Cut The Chord”. Brent Smiths powerful voice filled the entire festival grounds while guitarist Zach Myers and bassist Eric Bass were jumping around the stage. Now THIS is how you start a concert off!
Their set was a well crafted murders row of one hit song after another. They tapped into every album from their illustrious career. They played hits like “Unity”, “45”, “If You Only Knew”, “I’ll Follow You”, and “Devil” among all of the hits they played. During the show Brent asked the crowd to show us what the stars look like tonight, but all I ask is that you leave them on. With that forty thousand people lit up the night sky with cell phones, lighters or whatever they had at hand creating an absolutely amazing sight. They proceeded to perform “Get Up” as the crowd painted the sky with all the lights.
As Zach Myers started off playing the intro to the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic song “Simple Man” and Brent starts in on the first verse, he stops and says to the crowd I’d like to introduce Jelly Roll. The crowd lets out a massive cheer of approval and the two take turns singing verses. Their two distinct voices meshed perfectly, and this was definitely a goosebumps moment. When they finished, he asked the crowd if they wanted one more, which of course had everyone cheering wildly. They chose a perfect song to cap off the night “Sound Of Madness”. With everyone fist pumping to the song halfway through fireworks shot up from the stage and as the song ended a massive burst hit the sky to close out the night.
After four days Blue Ridge Rock Festival has come to a close. While there were some well publicized bumps and bruises early on, its easy to forget that so much about this years version of the festival was new, not to mention that the world was just beginning to wake up from the pandemic. After all there was a certain festival held in 1969 that had traffic so bad it shut down a major freeway, had people knocking down a fence to get in without paying, and massive rain and mud. Yet everyone considers the original Woodstock a success. Overall the folks at Purpose Driven Events did something that no one else was willing to do, put on a four day music festival featuring a large chunk of the premier rock bands on the planet at a time when there was so much uncertainty. They gave everyone that attended something sorely missing from the world, a live music festival. Over the course of the four days, every band that played gave one hundred percent and help to make the festival an overall success. When Blue Ridge Rock Festival comes back in 2022 mark your calendar, book your hotel, and save the vacation days cause its going to be that much better.
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