Blue Ridge Rock Fest 2021: Day Three

Let’s reminisce on Day Three of Blue Ridge Rock Festival! By Day Three, we had this parking two miles away and walking to get to the gates thing down. Truth be told, I kind of enjoyed it, just for the people we met along the way! We made the best of it, cracked jokes, chatted about who we’re excited to see, made it fun. I mean, what are you going to do? 

We met the bands Pigweed and Awesome Ray Ray on the first day. They are all super cool, gracious guys. We promised to be at their shows. We ran between the three stages to also catch Hatebreed, since they were all overlapping. This is how we do festivals: watch Hatebreed open with “Empty Promises”, “Tear It Down” and “This is Now”, then run over to catch a couple songs by Pigweed, then run to Awesome Ray Ray for a couple songs and back to URW for the last few songs of Hatebreed. I  had to hear “Destroy Everything” live. I think the URW Stage had the craziest energy all four days, all day. Fun fact: Jamey Jasta was Headbanger’s Ball host from 2003 to 2007.

Suicidal Tendencies was a last minute add to the festival!

I heard there would be a special guest bassist, since Ra Diaz was currently on tour with Korn. I was speculating that it may be Robert Trujillo (original bassist, now with Metallica)… maybe? Turns out, it was Tye Trujillo, Robert’s son! He was amazing! We heard in an interview later that this was his first show, but you would never know it. Tye has his own band called Ottto, go check them out in SoCal. Opening with “You Can’t Bring Me Down”, the energy was stirring and Mike Muir came out with a “what the hell is going around here?”. He’s been on the Suicidal Tendencies stage for over 40 years! Ben Weinman was part Superman, part Spiderman, climbing and jumping off everything. Insane… you just need to experience it. 

Avatar was next and, I admit, I really didn’t know what they were about. I know a few songs that I’ve heard on Sirius XM Octane, but I was mesmerized by their performance. If you follow me at all, you know I love when bands have a look, a theme, something that makes me remember them. If they wear matching clothes, black thick eye liner — it’s a performance. Drinking out of a gas can, the headbanging, longass dreads were just a “fuck yes”! Avatar is now on my repeat playlist.

Trivium is one of my all-time favorite bands, so of course I had to stay for their full set!

They opened up their set with “In the Court of the Dragon” off their most recent album of the same name. Every show, Trivium always has a contest of who is the best crowd on tour. Matt is actually legit about it, too: not every show gets to be crowned tour champ, you really have to earn it! That means you’re always moving, jumping, moshing, singing and crowd-surfing. Usually, they’ll crown you champ at the end of their set, but our crowd was so insane, we got crowned tour champs right after “Down Ffrom the Sky!” It was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in a crowd!! It’s funny because Trivium doesn’t cuss much in their songs, but lead singer Matt Heafy definitely makes up for that when he’s onstage. On the comments in their live stream, I heard the “FUCK” count was up in the 70s! For a 45-minute set, thats a lot of “fucks”, but I’m fucking here for it! My absolute favorite song ever to hear live is “In Waves”; Trivium always closes their sets with it and for a great reason. During the intro to “Capsizing the Sea”, they made everyone get down on the ground and then when the song kicks in, everyone jumped up on “IN WAVVVVES!!!”.  Seriously, it was one of the craziest and most fun things I’ve ever been a part of!

Escape the Fate was missing Kevin “Thrasher” and Robert Ortiz, so Blake Bailey filled in on drums, while Matti Hoffman filled in for Thrasher. The band opened with “Lightning Strike” and “Gorgeous Nightmare”. Up next was Body Count, who always told it like it is from a perspective that many of us have never experienced. Ice-T came out in a flak jacket… I’m not quite sure about the statement he was making with that. Was it stage attire or legit death threat protection? I love what Body Count stands for, as they bring to light some serious issues (with humor added in, like in “Evil Dick”). The song “Cop Killer” based on 9/11 was a little cringey, but that is how Ice-T rolls — making a bold statement. 

Midday, the sun was just brutal.

We spent this time downing lots of water, trying to catch a little shade where we could and looking forward to the sun setting for a little reprieve. When Lamb of God is playing a festival, be on the lookout for incognito Randy Blythe cruising around taking photos. They started off with “Momento Mori” off their latest album released in 2020. Art Cruz officially joined the band in 2019 and the latest album was his first recording with LOG. Fun fact: Art Cruz literally saved my life in 2016… but, that’s another story for another time. Back to the performance, Lamb of God’s energy and pyro was FIRE! We hope to see them on the big stage for BRRF 2022. 

Megadeth is one of the ‘Big 4’… if you are new to the metal world, that would be Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. They have all been crushing the music scene for around 40 years (Anthrax celebrating the big 4-0 this year). This show had a bit of a different vibe, though. The obvious being David Ellefson was replaced by James LoMenzo. The irony was that Ellefson had replaced LoMenzo in 2010 and he seemed pretty stoked to be back! The other vibe was witnessing Dave Mustaine back onstage! Even if you are not a lifer fan of Megadeth, you have to appreciate Dave Mustaine’s perseverance and determination. Mustaine had throat cancer and is now 100% cancer-free. Besides cancer, he also has another challenge to overcome after having spine surgery a few years back. He doesn’t practice guitar anymore because of the pain. Here he was, though, standing onstage in front of us singing and shredding. In between songs, Dave Mustaine stood at the mic and looked out to the fans for a minute. He said, “Beautiful people. Everyone is beautiful here.” For me, that was a goosebumps moment. You never know what life will throw at you. Be in that moment of Dave Mustaine soaking in his moment: grateful AF to be in the crowd, with all these metalheads, appreciating the cohesion.  

Five Finger Death Punch closed out Saturday night.

Five Finger Death Punch gets a lot of shit; like Limp Bizkit, you either love them or hate them. I personally think they are fun and entertaining. Ivan Moody kept saying he wasn’t going to be political and then… he was political. He said “I didn’t start playing music to be divided”, then proceeded to divide. It kind of was a buzzkill for a minute… not because of his views or that we necessarily disagreed with him. I think we all just wanted to forget about that stuff for a few days. Moody did chose a police officer that was in front of the stage and give him an American flag signed by the whole band. The crowd chanted “USA! USA!”, which was pretty awesome way to pull us back together. 

After the music ended, we started the hike back to our car. We heard a rumbling… being from California, we think ‘EARTHQUAKE’! It was actually a train coming, so we stopped on the bridge as it passed beneath us. That was one of those moments I will never forget: California girls in Virginia, feeling the wind from a train on a summer night, like a scene from a rom-com. Stay tuned for the last and final Day of Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021, coming soon!

Photography by Heather Vandemark; Recap by Kaiya Vandemark

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