Blue Ridge Rock Fest 2022: Day One

After a year-long wait, we finally got to go back to our favorite fest — Blue Ridge Rock Festival! The fest was held at its new home at the Virginia International Raceway. After last year’s debacle, we were anxious to see the new improvements. If you didn’t read our recaps from last year, here’s the short version: it was kind of a mess operation-wise, but we had the time of our lives and couldn’t wait to go back. There have been some scathing reviews about this festival. If you know Kaiya and I at all, we always try to find the positive side: we are at a festival with our friends and some of our favorite bands; while there are some things that suck, we’re here to have fun! Are there a lot of things about this festival’s operation that need work? Absolutely. I believe they are fairly easy to fix. More staff, more TP and more water stations. The number one reason we came back is the heart of the fans and the founder, Jonathan Slye. Metalheads always look out for each other: it’s what we do, but there is something different about BRRF fans. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. We’ll touch more on that in upcoming articles for the last two days.

On the pre-party Wednesday evening, Kaiya and I headed to the raceway early to hopefully get our passes, check out the parking scene and see Fate Destroyed play! We kept our expectations at bay and were up for the adventure. We’ve literally been counting down the days since last year. We got sent to the camping area, car search… which was kind of annoying, since we weren’t camping, but Wednesday was for campers, so totally understandable. Kaiya got a cool media wristband and I got four stickers for my photo pass — one for each day. The security staff for the car search were super fun! One had a mullet wig, others were dancing around… just a cool vibe rolling in. We were asking security about media parking, when we got a phone call from our friend we left at the hotel:

“There’s a fire and we’ve been evacuated.”

No freaking way! Security heard it and said, “I’ll escort you out the quickest way.” He was awesome! It turned out to be a dumpster fire outside, so everyone was fine. Instead of seeing the show, we got a great night’s sleep, waking up refreshed ready for Day One of BRRF 2022! 

Day One — here we go! We were fired up with anticipation. Walking by the tour buses was pretty cool and In This Moment had a ton! They have a huge production with a lot of moving parts, so it makes sense. Finally, we got into the venue just in time to witness Fire From the Gods kicking off the weekend! We just missed them a couple weeks ago in California, due to a photo pass delay, so I ran down the hill to catch them. Lead vocalist AJ Channer was fired up, which started the party off right!

We all know the festival schedule struggle: do you see your favorite band that you’ve seen 10 times or go check out the band you haven’t seen, but only know one or two songs? I try to opt for the bands I haven’t seen before; seeing bands live in-person hits a different vibe when you can actually feel their energy. I decided to hike down “Hay Hill” (if you know, you know) to catch AfterLife on the Fans Driven Stage. I only knew one song “Part of Me”, but I loved their energy. New fan right here! I stayed for a couple songs of Palisades before running back up the hill to catch Pop Evil.

The muscle burn climbing that hill is no joke! 

Last year at BRRF was the first time I had heard of Spiritbox. They seemed to be the talk of the festival, the “can’t-miss band”. Lead vocalist Courtney La Plante had long, long blue hair. This year, she had a whole different look: short dark hair, with booty shorts, an over-sized T-shirt and boots. She had the beautiful angelic voice with a sassy strut and then went to deep screams, shooting daggers from her eyes. 

This was my first time seeing Bad Wolves with new lead singer Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz: it was definitely a different vibe and they seemed to be having a blast up there. I was loving the side-by-side main stages, too! It was an easy walk back and forth for media (until it wasn’t… Day Four news). 

As I was walking across the festival to catch We Came As Romans, I stopped in the VIP acoustic tent and caught a few minutes of Sleeping With Sirens. Kellen’s pitch was insane. I love bands that do a little bit more to stand out, especially at a festival where we see 15 bands a day.

If I don’t know your band, what is going to make me remember you after the festival?

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a mask or special pyro — just make me remember you. We love We Came As Romans and their energy stands out. It’s hard to take your eyes off Andy Glass. He has this radiating smile and energy that just makes you want whatever he’s drinking. David Stephens also always goes out with the fans during “Daggers”. Up next, Daughtry was one band that has been on my list to see for a long time. I was a big fan when he was on American Idol. They put on an amazing set. We realized that there was no security; after watching the Woodstock documentary a few weeks ago, that got to my head a bit. We didn’t know where they went. Did they quit? Is something happening? I was halfway through making a plan with my girls in case things got out of control, then I remembered we’re at Blue Ridge, where people help people. We finally heard they were working the Ice Cube stage. I believe that’s when Icon Pit Crew came in. You can criticize that the event was understaffed, but it was pretty amazing to watch this crew switch their fan shirt to security shirt and have fun with it. They were pumping up the crowd, dancing and catching surfers. It was so incredibly heartwarming to watch them all weekend. 

Anthrax is still celebrating their 40th Anniversary. I’ve been a fan since Among the Living was released in 1987 and I still cannot get enough. Every song brings back a memory. Rolling into the high school parking lot with my friends in my bright yellow 1973 Ford Pinto, windows down, blasting Anthrax and seeing the eyes roll, backs turn, as we all got out of my car… Congratulations on celebrating 40 years, Anthrax!

This was my first time seeing In This Moment. I am kicking myself for not staying for the whole set. Maria Brink was absolutely gorgeous and the theatrical production was amazing. We left early to catch STP playing across the festival and after making the long walk, we found out no media was allowed. I will not miss In This Moment again. Ghost is not one of my favorite bands, but he is an amazing artist. The costumes and the storylines that go with each costume is intriguing. Another reason I love festivals, you meet huge fans of different bands and they are happy to share their knowledge, gaining a whole new appreciation for their music. It started raining fake money (aka, “Mummy Dust”); the artificial currency didn’t go much further than the VIP section. Photographers, EMS and VIP swooped them up quickly, like they were real dollars. The coolest part was when they ran over to the rail with stash in hand and gave them to the fans in GA.

I freakin’ love metal people. 

And, with that Day One was a wrap! We walked to our car, passing the long line waiting for shuttle buses. We loved the two main stages side-by-side and that they were set up at the bottom of the hill. You could camp out at any spot on the hill and still see and hear both stages without being in the mix or having to move your spot. The Monster Energy viewing deck was awesome! Thank you, Monster Energy, for keeping us going all day and being so cool to media people. Although the other stages were far apart and there was the dreaded “Hay Hill” (great workout!), there was no sound overlap. To me, that’s huge! I just want to hear the band that’s in front of me. Our favorite part was seeing our friends from last year and making more friends. We love the hearts of the people that attend BRRF! Day Two is coming up soon!

Photography by Heather Vandemark

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