We finally made it to Day Four of Blue Ridge Rock Festival! We were hot and dragging ass a bit, but so ready for this amazing lineup to close out the fest. By the last day of any festival, you know the fastest food lines, the cleanest port-a-potties (we vote BRRF as the cleanest festival potties ever) and you’ve made a ton of new friends. Some will become lifelong friends and forever festival buddies.
We Came As Romans guitarist Andy Glass is crazy fun to watch — jumping all over, hyping up the fans.
“Blackhole” made its live debut. “Blackhole” is the band’s latest single, featuring Caleb Shomo (of Beartooth). New album release coming soon? Starset has a dystopian aesthetic that is very intriguing and makes you want to dig deeper into their music. Siobhàn Cronin, Starset’s touring violinist, is absolutely stunning. There’s something about a violin in metal band that is so beautiful and mesmerizing…
Pop Evil started off with “Deal With the Devil” and “Let the Chaos Begin”. The song “Breathe Again” seems to have a whole other meaning after the last two years! And, Hayley Cramer on drums; I love seeing a woman with sticks crushing it! We heard there was an awesome acoustic set in the VIP area after their set.
Underoath is like watching a band be 20 Monster energy drinks deep with insane energy. Guitarist Tim McTague also plays some percussion for “On My Teeth”. Christopher Dudley reminded me of a Chris Farley SNL skit… I couldn’t take my eyes off of him! Underoath gave us two live debut songs with “Damn Excuses” and “Hallelujah”, so be on the lookout for a new album release coming in early 2022. Next up was Fit For a King, whose bassist, Ryan O’Leary, was hardly on the ground. He was always spinning and jumping and just super entertaining to watch! They opened up their set with “The Price of Agony” and played other hits, like “Breaking the Mirror” and “When Everything Means Nothing”. We even got to hear lead singer Ryan Kirby let out a VERY impressive 24-second long scream at the end of their set when they played “Backbreaker”.
It was literally one of the longest screams I’ve ever heard… I still can’t get over it.
The Hu is a Mongolian folk rock and heavy metal band, using traditional Mongolian instruments and poetry infused with metal. I love their style all-around: the colors, the culture, their sound is beautiful and metal! Drowning Pool seemed to have a short set, yet crowd-surfers were still going strong even after four days. True metalheads never let the “Bodies” hit the floor!
One of the spots we hadn’t checked out all weekend was the medical tent. So on Day Four, with sun hives, dusty lungs, sun exhaustion and fatigue, we thought Kaiya should go check it out. They said they were understaffed, but were handling it pretty well. They put ice packs on her neck, wrist and behind the knees to cool her down. She drank more cold water, took some Benadryl and hid out in shade until the sun went down like a vampire. Yes, we drank tons of water, electrolytes and no alcohol, but the sun and high heat were still brutal. Be careful out there!
We heard Steve-O was a host, but hadn’t seen him anywhere, but while we were waiting for INK to start, we heard festival-goers start cheering. There came Steve-O crowd-surfing to the front before he jumped up on the stage. Of course, we are waiting for him to do something Jackass-stupid and he did not disappoint. He borrowed a knife and decided to slice his tongue. With the blood he did war paint on his face and chest. The fans loved it.
Ice Nine Kills… Wow! I had no idea what I was in for with this set! I’ve heard “Savages” on Octane: it’s a cool song, but doesn’t even tap into what INK is all about. INK has a whole horror theatrical performance that I was not expecting at all. I’m not a huge fan of old horror films, but I’ve seen most of them. I love how INK interprets a film into a song. They are fucking brilliant! I was in awe of what I was watching. Even if metal is not your thing, but horror is — you should go check them out! I bet you’ll change your mind.
Papa Roach played Infest (released in 2000) in its entirety. We also got to hear two live debut songs, “Kill the Noise” and “Swerve” (featuring Fever 333). A new album is expected to drop in early 2022, too. I love their new music. This was my first time seeing Papa Roach and I was quite impressed with their stage presence. Have I said this before — this is why you need to go to festivals and check out as many bands as possible. You see and feel something totally different than when it’s just on your speakers.
There are some ongoing meme-worthy shenanigans with lead singer Ronnie Radke of Falling in Reverse. Ronnie tells his personal story of mental struggles in his songs. Many of the songs describe what it’s like to be in his head. I think it helps understand the struggle of mental health and the behavior with more empathy and less judgment. When people relate, they feel less alone to maybe seek help if they need it. There was a person in the crowd wearing a ‘Fuck Ronnie Radke’ shirt. The gloves came off and Ronnie lost his shit onstage. I have never seen FIR live, so I wasn’t sure if it was part of the show. You know, the heckler in the crowd kind of thing… Nope. He went on a rant about his prison time and how he’ll get his “daddy’s biker gang”. Many of us were like, “WTF?” I almost left thinking “what an asshole!”, but I stayed a little longer. After the song, he stopped and apologized for the rant. He said he still felt the guilt, so he knew he was in the wrong and apologized. I thought that was pretty big of him for that particular moment. Just to be clear, we are not condoning the behavior or words said that night or anything in his past.
Shinedown then closed out Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021 — one of our favorite weekends to date.
Starting off with “Cut the Cord” and playing the favs “45”, “Devil” and “Monsters”, Shinedown didn’t disappoint. Jelly Roll joined them onstage for a beautiful acoustic “Simple Man”. After an amazing four days, the fans were still going strong, singing every word. They ended with “Sound of Madness” and some awesome fireworks to close the festival. The feeling walking to the car was bittersweet. We are exhausted, sun beat and ready to roll home, knowing tomorrow the after-festival blues will set in.
For this mother/daughter team, we (Heather and Kaiya) say Blue Ridge Rock Festival goes down as one of the best times ever. The festival was a much needed break from the real world. Thank you to everyone that made it happen! We are so excited for BRRF 2022!
Photography by Heather Vandemark; Recap by Kaiya Vandemark