Full Review Of Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021 (Day 1 & Day 2)


Since the full lineup was announced back in early June, the buzz and excitement about this festival was higher than any other in the country.  Just looking at the full list of bands would make any music lover’s head explode.  Blue Ridge managed to wrangle up some of the biggest bands in metal as well as a superb list of up and coming acts to make this one of the most well rounded festivals to date.  With four days of perfect weather, enough food options to feed an army and the music to lead them into battle, Blue Ridge Rock Festival would certainly fill the void of live music in these music hungry fans.

As we made our way to Danville from Eden, NC the GPS ETA was growing by the minute.  At the 2.1 mile mark from the venue, the traffic came to a halt and the waiting game began.  To be honest, I was surprised that it took that long to hit traffic.  But when you have 40,000 people converging on a single area delays are to be expected.  After a three and a half hour crawl we finally got to our parking spot for the week and couldn’t get out of the car fast enough as we began our trek to the site.  The sounds of Spirtbox fueled our effort up and down the long road as we passed tent city and all of the RV’s lined up on either side.  Once we made it through the maze of parked cars or eyes gazed upon the beautiful sight of the plethora of stages as the hands of thousands of fans extended into the air.  After catching the last couple of songs of a dominating set on the StayLit Stage by Spiritbox, including the savage tracks Hurt You and Constance,  we make our way to the Monster Energy Center for a little pick me up.  The two story structure was almost like a mirage in the desert full of ice cold drinks and an amazing 360 degree view of the entire fairground and vendor area.  Following a quick break to get our bearings straight, it was time to go to work and head back to the StayLit Stage for the incredibly brutal 5 piece from Dayton, Ohio Miss May I.  Their energy, intensity and great setlist really got the fans going and was a strong way to kick off my start to the Festival.  From there it would be a healthy trot to the other side of the fairgrounds to take in the Swedish battle chants of the metal generals of Sabaton.

The Monster Energy Stage would be decorated with M-16 mic stands and multiple boxes marked “High Explosive” on either side of the drum riser.  Due to an extended delay to technical difficulties, Sabaton’s set time was pushed back but that didn’t discourage the faithful fans from displaying their anticipation with thunderous “SAB-A-TON” chants.  But it wouldn’t be too long before the band stormed the stage and Singer Joakim Broden arrived like he was shot out of a cannon as the crowd’s excitement exploded.  The band marched through Ghost Division and The Attack of the Dead Men’s blistering solos and windmill hair spins.  Whenever Bassist Par Sundstrom, Lead Guitarist Tommy Johansson and Guitarist Chris Rorland would step up to supply their backup vocals it would instantly create a full and powerful wall of sound that is reminiscent of a scene from The Hunt for Red October.  Joakim’s stage presence and energy is always a fan favorite and helped keep the fast paced show moving through their seven song set.  By the end Sabaton had won over the largest crowd of the day and really set the bar high for day 1.

The previous delay caused a bit of a conflict between three bands who are now starting within ten minutes of each other.  Black Label Society, The Ghost Inside and P.O.D.  I chose to stay put and wait for the mighty Zakk Wylde and company to shred our faces off.  Donning his denim vest and token plaid kilt Zakk walks on stage like a man possessed as his guitar feedback ignited the bands classic Genocide Junkies.  The band hammered their way through a blistering set.  But like every Black Label show, it would be the tribute to the iconic Abbott brothers Dimebag and Vinnie In This River that would have the crowd’s voice andovation at its highest.  From there it was a mad sprint to catch the remaining set of A Ghost Inside.  When I arrived, I was blown away by how fierce and vicious they were live.  You definitely get a taste of it on the records.  But watching them on stage and then seeing the fans going absolutely insane, it really put a smile on my face knowing where they are now after everything they’ve gone through.  I can only hope The Ghost Inside have a headlining tour in the near future.

Skillet has always been known as one of the great live bands on the road and their set tonight did not disappoint.  Their incredible visuals incorporating pyro, stunning graphics, high energy stage presence and of course how could you go wrong with John Cooper strapping on a C02 backpack launching compressed air high into the sky.  After a plethora of hits including Feel Invincible, Legendary and Monster, Skillet certainly made their mark on the crowd.  A Day to Remember and Halestorm were on top of their game and gave the fans incredible performances and more than made up for lost time in front of a live crowd.  With the set times more spread out at this point in the day, you’re able to watch the fans go from stage to stage like a musical pilgrimage to the final act of the night.  Closing out the first day on a high note would be Breaking Benjamin.  Right out of the gate they had a special treat for their fans as they started off their set with a song making its live debut with Dark off their 2015 record Dark Before Dawn.  The band’s set played out like a greatest hits album and every fan in front of that stage showed their appreciation louder and longer than at any point in the day.  Breaking Benjamin was excellent from start to finish, putting an exclamation point on a great start to the festival.

For the start of Day 2 I found myself drawn in by the sweet smells of Island Noodles which I have no shame in admitting, was my breakfast or lunch every day of the festival.  After filling up I head to the Monster Energy Stage to catch a solid up and coming band Stitched Up Heart.  Singer Alecia “Mixi” Demner’s vocal range had the powerful yet soulful harmonies followed by that intense growl that sneaks up on you.  Their sound is a perfect blend of crushing and melodic which appeals to a wide range of fans.  Luckily for fans there would not be much of a need to wonder off as Fozzy and Sevendust would be following up back to back.  Chris Jericho led the charge like the consonant showman that he is, getting the crowd involved from the start.

The band never took their foot off the gas with fast paced tracks like Nowhere to Run and Lights Go Out.  Their iconic Judas might have had fans thinking that was it for their set, but instead broke out an amazing cover of AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.  Before the dust could literally settle, the 7D banner would fly high as Sevendust rushed the stage and right into Dying to Live, the first track off of their newest album Blood & Stone.  For me this was a set I was dying to see since it had been years since I had last seen them live.  Even after 20 years Sevendust still has that crushing viciousness behind those killer riffs and breakdowns.

The middle of the afternoon had me sprinting the length of the fairgrounds to catch bands like Clutch, Gemini Syndrome, Tallah, Bad Omens with Asking Alexandria’s stellar set rounding off my musical marathon.  Following a very short breather I make my way back to the Monster Energy Stage to bear witness to the legendary Anthrax perform a special 40th Anniversary set.  Scott Ian, Frank Bello, Jonathan Donais and Joey Belladonna tore up the stage like mad men with Charlie Benante thundering drumming behind it all. Anthrax cranked out adrenaline pumping tunes like Caught in a Mosh, Efilnikufesin and Indians inciting mosh pits all around the stage while thousands of fans scream the words to every song throughout their career spanning set.

Next up would be probably one of the most anticipated sets of the festival with none other than Fever 333.  When singer Jason Aalon Butler walked on stage with a black hood over his then stood attentively behind the mic, it was merely a clam before the storm.  Shortly after guitarist Stephen Harrison directs the crowd into the perfect position, Bite Back would initiate pure insanity on stage.  Nothing was safe around Butler as he slid, kicked and pulled on just about everything around.  Not even the band’s drop was safe.  Fever 333 did not let the heat stop them from climbing high above the stage on the support columns during their powerful anthem One of Us and still had enough energy to belt out a couple of verses.  By the end of their set Fever 333 had captivated and completely owned the crowd and definitely made a lasting impression on everyone fortunate enough to witness it.

As I look down at the schedule, I find myself a bit undeceive as to who to catch next.  Chevelle, Rise Against, Atreyu and I, Prevail are going on within 35 minutes of one another. So I decided to stay put for I, Prevail’s set and it was the right move.  There was no time wasted as singer Eric Vanlerberghe makes his way to the stage sporting a killer Cannibal Corpse shirt and sunglasses and jumps right into the brutal Bow Down.  The one two vocal punch of Eric and Brian Burkheiser has always been a huge dynamic to the band’s sound.  But when you add the crushing sounds of songs like Gasoline, Deadweight and Come and Get It it creates one of the best sets of the day.

Skate Punk legends The Offspring stepped in at zero hour to fill the slot for Limp Bizkit after they backed out of all festival dates this year.  They stepped on stage and the nostalgia train left the station as the theme songs of my middle school and high school years took me right back to those times.  Songs like Come Out And Play, Gotta Get Away and Pretty Fly for A White Guy are such classic songs and The Offspring served them up with as much enthusiasm and energy as they did 20 years ago, all while holding on to the great signature sound.  After a short encore, the band would wrap up a stunning 19 song set with none other than You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid and their breakout hit Self-Esteem.

With just two bands remaining we all make our way to the Liquid Death stage for the anticipated set of Motionless In White.  What seemed like seconds after I make my way through the pit the red MIM sign illuminates the backside of the stage.  Chris Motionless would be the last to grace the stage, taking the fans’ cheers noticeably higher the second his blonde hair could be seen through the thick red lighting. After exchanging pleasantries with the fans Motionless tells the crowd “This first song is called Reincarnate”.  His immediate command of “GET UP” would ignite the band into action as the rotating spotlights danced across the jumping crowd.  That raw energy is exactly what was needed to set their set off right and it didn’t stop there.

Thoughts and Prayers would pick it up tenfold as the insanity ensues in the crowds as multiple mosh pits open up without warning.  Mid-way through, Motionless In White would set off their pyro pods across the front of the stage, creating an absolutely hellish atmosphere.  Half way through the set Motionless would pull out a very impressive cover of The Killers hit Somebody Told Me.  The band gave it a more true to form cover instead of something more reimagined.  Regardless, the fans loved every second as they couldn’t sing loud enough.  Following some pretty good tracks like Another Life and Brand New Numb Motionless In White would wrap up their impressive set with their fan favorite Eternally Yours.

Standing in front of the stage you can’t miss the ten pointed pentagram mic stand rotating colors like a demonic Christmas tree.  On displays all around the stage Rob’s last name starts to get spelled out letter by letter as the fans react like it is a spelling bee.  Soon the message “The Demons Hate You” is displayed on the stage as Ginger Fish counts off and John 5 literally slides into the song’s intro off stage, meaning it could only be one song.

He soon emerges just before Rob Zombie slides out of the shadows wearing his token bell bottoms, tassel jacket and hat as the band drop into the horrifyingly heavy The Triumph of King Freak.  The stage show paired with this attention grabbing track had fans locked in immediately and in total awe.  It wouldn’t be long until one of the most famous intros in metal start to reverberate across the open field.  More Human Than Human had everyone in the crowd jumping up and down making the whole area look like they were wading in the ocean.  Just before the main verse a 12 foot robot sways his way on stage and soon shows off his Zombie like dance moves.

Later in the set, John 5 starts the Tone-Loc classic Wild Thing as Zombie dedicates the next song to all the ladies out there and encourages all of them to get on their man’s backs.  The song would be Living Dead Girl and not long into it, the ladies of the audience begin to float across the crowd as if they were on rafts in the ocean.  Soon beach balls make their way across the sea of people changing the look of this rock show into more of a rave.

Rob Zombie would toss in some pretty stellar covers of legendary songs like Blitzkrieg Pop of the Ramones and the Beatles Helter Skelter as well as John 5’s amazing guitar solo following the White Zombie classic Thunder Kiss 65′.  After an unbelievable 17 song set, Rob Zombie and company would wrap up the night and Day 2 with 1998’s smash Dragula not only leaving the fans here amazed and hungry for more.  Luckily for the 40,000 in attendance, they’d still have two days left.