Review and Photo Credit Michael Spencer (Photography).
This is a rags to riches story of how to effectively make an impact on the music world at a very young age. This festival was started by one Jonathan Slye, who at the ripe young age of 19, in 2018, started promoting a festival in the state of Virginia, which has grown over the years, It’s moved locations at least three times to where it was held this year in the metropolis of Danville, VA, USA. Haven’t heard of Danville? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, and I’ve lived in Virginia for 15 years. Located about 250 miles south of Washington DC. It’s claim to fame was it had a major impact in the US Civil War and, in fact, was the capitol of the confederacy, when the South surrendered. This history is not forgotten by the locals as rolling into town for a four-day music festival greets the visitor with many examples of confederacy and rebel flags flying in multiple locations. This is 2021, right?
Blue Ridge started as a one-day event in 2018. Then returned in 2019, bigger, then 2020 was cancelled due to Covid 19. Upon cancellation, Mr. Slye promised a bigger and even better festival for 2021. Adding another day then started booking bands. Tickets were on sale even before the first band was announced. Getting mine on day one for $80.00 a piece, plus service fees. With the current situation with Covid, there were some challenges with bands being able to travel, others with direct impact with Covid, and others that were tied up with contractual obligations to other US festival tours. With all that said, he still booked bands, a hell of a lot of them, 180 at the last count.
But the core of the festival experience is twofold. The music and the experience. First off, and an attendee, I give thanks to the Blue Ridge team for all that they do. This was a huge festival in a new location with challenges in the logistics standpoint, I can only imagine the sleepless nights this created. Firstly the ticketing company for the festival dropped the ball completely, it was more or less a debacle on day one. Getting in staightened out eventually, but it wasn’t easy for many. A location situated on a rural side of a hill in the middle of literally nowhere. Picture the original Woodstock. We’ll begin with getting there.
The road system wasn’t set up to handle the anticipated 40,000 a day in attendance. Saying it was trying would be an understatement, but seem to get better day by day. Then, with the current state of people not really wanting to work in the USA (all industries, not just music festivals), there were a slew of no shows from contracted vendors to handle traffic getting in, transportation from offsite parking and campsite assignments, along with RV site assignments. The first day was rough, but it’s a music festival and things go wrong. Not one is perfect, so if you’re looking for turn down service and a chocolate on your pillow, this might not be the type of event for you. People bitched and complained about the challenges. But it’s the music, that’s what gets us to go to these events. And that was on point. Beyond expectations in fact. I mentioned 160 bands. Four-day general admission passes were $120.00. Four-day parking was $55.00. A 16oz beer would set you back $6.00. And Monster was $5.00, with bottled water being $2.00. The food was good, and reasonably priced. Ponder this, when was the last time you paid $1.50 per band for a concert? I’m old enough to remember $7.50 concerts.
Music. Did I mention 180 bands? The festival was set up on the side of a recently cleared hill. Some cleared to dirt, some was scrub. There was a very significant dust problem, especially when a mosh pit broke out. With two very large, three medium and two smaller stages, homing to a lot of local, smaller touring acts opening the festival, then major acts playing throughout the day. An App being available to help plan your experience, giving you the ability to minimize the amount of walking between stages and missing bands.
(Full schedule can be found HERE).
Thursday started off with a local band called Pulses. The day progressed through with performances by Texas Hippie Coalition, Spiritbox, Soulfly, Testament, Miss May I, Adelitas Way, Sabaton, From Ashes to New, Black Label Society, The Ghost Inside, POD, Skillet, A Day to Remember, Halestorm with Breaking Benjamin closing out day 1.
The first day, just on it’s own was worth the $100 spent on my ticket.. But wait, there’s more..
Friday started off with Stitched Up Heart, and continued with Fozzy, D.R.U.G.S., Sevendust, Clutch, Gemini Syndrome, Asking Alexandria, Anthrax, Chevelle, Fever 333, Rise Against, Atreau, I Prevail, The Offspring, Motionless in White, and Rob Zombie closing out the night.
Okay, this is getting out of hand. There are two more days of this? Where’s the Monster, Red Bull, the showers. By this time, I miss my bed, but camping and people there to lend a hand are what makes a festival a memorable experience. Waking up to your camp neighbor saying “I made some extra bacon if you want some” kind of restores faith in humanity. Recharged, refreshed and ready to rock day 3.
Saturday starts off with Another Day Dawns, and off to the races again with a local band RVNT, All that Remains, Corrosion of Conformity, 10 Years, Hatebreed, Avatar, Wage War, Trivium, Cypress Hill, Body Count with Ice T, Seether, Lamb Of God, Megadeth, Badflower and Five Finger Death Punch to close.
Okay, at his point. The festival life causes you to forget parts of the event and the bands start to run together. It wasn’t until two days after the festival that, after berating myself for missing Trivium’s set, I realized after finding pictures I had in fact seen them… Oops. And then on to Sunday..
Sunday started off with Fight Club, and followed with Ayron Jones (probably the most jaw dropping act I’d ever seen live. Don’t sleep on him, the band are that good), marching on smartly with We Came As Romans, Starset, Magg Dylan (new local band, you’ll be hearing a lot from them soon), Pop Evil, Underoath, Killswitch Engage, F.I.L.T.H., Ill Nino, Mastadon, The Hu, Ice Nine Kills, Papa Roach, Falling in Reverse and Shinedown closing out the Festival. Shinedown’s performance of ‘Simple Man,’ acoustic, with Jelly Roll trading off vocals with Brent Smith is something I’ll never forget.
Okay, breathe. It’s over. But in reality, it isn’t. A true festival will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. The artists were into the festival as much as the fans, because at the end of the day this festival had something for everyone. Rock, Metal, Rap, Soft Rock, Thrash Metal, the list goes on.
Blue Ridge Rock Festival bills itself as the ‘Fan Driven Experience.’ I have to agree, I’ve seen a lot of shows in my lifetime, including a number of festivals. Seeing the good, the bad, the ugly and the OMFG, did that just happen. This was just the good. Were there some challenges? Yes. Were these challenges addressed quickly? Yes. Was this the best bang for the buck for that many bands? Yes. It was raw, energized, fun and reasonably priced. At the end of the day, would I go again? YES!!!
FYI, dates for 2022 – September 9-11, 2022, with a pre party September 8th. I will be there. No matter what. This festival is that good….