Waking up Sunday morning to the realization that today would be the last of an amazing four days of music was a bit somber. But before I start to bum myself out, there are still forty-three bands going on today, with plenty of action and great music left to experience.
Looking at today’s lineup it’s hard to figure out where to start. So many good bands like Solence, Silent Planet, Burden of the Sky and GFM just to name a few. If you looked at the schedule for Thursday, there was still one band that had yet to be announced. As the day went on, the news got out that Flyleaf was the mystery band. Many fans were disappointed when they found out. But the let down would mend itself once Lacy Sturm took the stage. She would give fans what they wanted to hear by playing riveting versions of flyleaf favorites like I’m So Sick, Fully Alive and All Around Me. That signature voice captivated fans and gave them a embracing blast from the past.
While the sounds of Twizted and Jeris Johnson circulate in the air, the biggest act of the morning is about rock the ZYN Stage as Nonpoint draws in the masses. Singer Elias Soriano lights the match as Nonpoint explodes into the head banging anthem Ruthless. Dressed head to toe in matching black outfits and glowing red shoes, the band’s energy and connection with the fans would fill the emptiness felt from last year when the band understandably had to cancel their appearance. The hard hitting five piece from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida gave the crowd a killer performance and had the fans screaming every word. Right next door, Hoobastank would take the crowd right back to their high school years with nostalgic hits like Running Away, The Reason and everyone’s favorite Crawling in the Dark. Singer Doug Robb sounded as good as he did in every video we’d love to watch on TRL. The band as a whole really sounded tight and maybe with a little luck, we’ll see them on the road again soon.
After Hoobastank, I pull anchor and head over to the URW and Fan Driven for a late afternoon of crushing music. First up would be the metalcore attack of ERRA. The band would kick things off with a trio of heavy hitters from their latest self-titled ERRA including Gungrave, Scorpion Hymn and Sol Abstentia. The band’s unique blend of harmony, melody and brutality have been what really sets them apart from the rest of the pack, including today’s lineup. This would also be the first time many fans had seen the band with guitarist Clint Tustin since the departure of longtime axe slinger Sean Price. The rest of their set would set off multiple mosh pits and waves of crowd surfers and would solidify one of the best acts so far. Jumping across the staging area to the URW Stage for a heavy dose of artistic musical talents of Baroness.
John Baizley’s creative and musical direction has led Baroness through five amazing albums, which would be on full display here today. Baizley and guitarist Gina Gleason hit the stage with smiles on their faces, serving as a calm before the storm. As soon as the band drops into The Sweetest Curse, the level of intensity goes through the roof. Baizley and Gleason fed off of each other’s energy as they ripped hard hitting riffs and shredding leads. Their high level of vitality would spread through the set with rippers like A Horse Called Golgotha and War, Wisdom and Rhyme before the emotionally charged finale of Take My Bones Away.
A short walk would bring myself and hundreds of fans to the Fan Driven Stage for a killer time with the boys north of the border in Silverstein. Their brand of upbeat mix up pop punk and metalcore had fans leaving their feet with anthems like Smile in Your Sleep, Bad Habits and Die Alone. Singer Shane Told had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he worked the stage under the heavy riffs supplied by Josh Bradford and Paul Marc Rousseau.
Another in the slue of killer bands to grace the Fan Driven Stage was the fan favorite The Devil Wears Prada. Before the band could even take the stage, the energy within the crowd was as high as it had been all day. And when the band rushed the stage, the fans’ excitement blew like a top as it was met with the crushing sounds of Sacrifice. From the first note, Mike Hranica’s vocals just explode off the stage while the insane music behind him just fuels chaos in the pits. TDWP is at the top of the list of a long line of incredible talent from the great state of Ohio. Their ferocity made them a highlight of the entire day as they raged through heavy hitting songs like Anatomy, Revive and Watchtower. My next journey up the hill would be a daunting one, but would be well worth it as it was for the final reunion set of the festival from Lancaster, PA’s own Texas in July.
It’s been seven years since the band has hit the road and only their fourth show in as many years, but fans were piling in to catch what was going to be a killer set. ERRA singer JT Cavey would pull double duty today and reprise his frontman role with the bands and to the fans’ delight. The band made sure to make up for lost time and present them with an absolutely crushing set including C4, It’s Not My First Rodeo, Bed of Nails and of course Hook, Line and Sinner. Whether you are a long time fan or catching them for the first time, Texas in July made up for lost time and absolutely killed it as they closed out the Heart Support Stage for the festival.
Next, local Virginia natives in Lamb of God would hit the stage with a full head of steam as the screams of a hundred thousand fans filled the air. The band exploded with the crushing opening track of their self-titled album with Memento Mori. While the chaos continues to rage in the pits, singer Randy Blythe steps up on the drum riser and roars “WALK WITH ME IN HELL!”, as the stage becomes an inferno around him. Every time Lamb of God hits the stage, they deliver one of the most brutal shows you’ll ever witness.
The onslaught rolled on with insane setlists like Now You’ve Got Something to Die For, Omerta, Ruin and Vigil. During their flagship track Laid to Rest, the band had to pump the breaks as multiple fans needed medical attention in the crowd. Once those fans were safely helped out, Lamb of God would make sure they heard this last one from the medical tent as they pulled the chain off their 2006 classic Redneck.
After the chaos, the crowd would shift to the left as the modern rock hit makers in 3 Doors Down take the stage. The band would get things going with some fan favorites like Loser and It’s Not My Time. Singer Brad Arnold would lead the charge and get the fans going over waves of great guitar riffs from Chris Henderson and Chet Roberts. Hearing anything from this band just takes you right back to where you first heard them and instantly hits you with a nostalgic rush.
3 Doors Down would continue on with the pieces that could easily be a greatest hits album with staples like Life of My Own, Here Without You and of course, their groundbreaking Kryptonite. As the fans’ cheers seem endless, this incredible band would wrap it all up with their chart topping anthem When I’m Gone.
I found myself in full sprint from ZYN Stage to the URW Stage to make sure I was front and center for the start of Killswitch Engage’s set. It seemed like seconds after what felt like a cross country pilgrimage, Killswitch exploded off of the stage. The band set it off quickly with the tenacious Strength of the Mind. The fans embraced the energy as it fueled mosh pits throughout the crowd. Anytime Adam D takes the stage, it’s never a dull moment. Armed with his signature mohawk, pizza themed guitar and his “I’m With Stupid” shirt, Big D would let his playing and backup vocals make the real impact.
Between his soaring melodies and absolute roars, singer Jesse Leach really stole the show as his vocals shined on tracks like Rose of Sharyn, The Signal Fire and The End of Heartache. Killswitch Engage put together just a crushing set spanning most of their career. But you can’t go wrong with your own amazing cover of Dio’s classic Holy Diver to wrap up your set. As the band give their final waves and thank you’s to the elated crowd in front of them, I think it hits a lot of people that there is just one band left to see.
While making my journey back to the Monster Energy Stage, it occurred to me that this would be the last time I would EVER have to endure the treacherous “Hill” for the last time. As I got to the top in a final blaze of glory, I turned around and gave it a giant middle finger, turned my back and will sleep just fine, never laying eyes or feet on it again. My out of breath power walk immediately turned into an air gasping sprint as I saw the stage lights begin to glow and the unmistakable sounds of Ten Thousand Fists start to ring out. The seismic rhythms of Dan Donegan, John Moyer and Mike Wengren leave a wake of destruction throughout the crowd as David Draiman’s vocals explode off the stage. One fan behind me even yelled “He’s taking on the shape of a unicorn”, for anyone that can appreciate a good Step Brothers reference.
Luckily for us, everyone kept their rugged looks intact, but damn if we didn’t get our asses rocked by a laundry list of crushing yet equally lifting songs like Are You Ready, The Vengeful One, The Game and one that will always be near and dear to my heart, Stupify. You could just look across the crowd and see fans older and young just singing their hearts out, pounding their fists and devils horns proudly through the air. As the hits just kept coming, Disturbed rolled out their new single Hey You and the chance to be some of the first to hear it live had the fans excitement at an all time high. The band would throw out some of their iconic and reimagined covers like Genesis’ Land of Confusion and Simon & Garfunkel’s legendary The Sounds of Silence.
Disturbed rolled out their juggernaut Indestructible and then gave their heartfelt thanks to the crowd before walking off stage. It seemed like the enormous ovation from the fans was enough to bring the band back out, which only caused the cheers to become almost deafening. Draiman is known to ask fans during the chorus of The Light, to hold up their illuminated phones or lighters. I’ve seen this first hand on multiple occasions. But to look out at what seemed to be an endless sea of fans throwing up their phones in almost perfect unison was an amazing sight to see as it created such an atmospheric layer to Draiman’s ascending vocals.
With an incredible career spanning twenty-five years and countless fan favorites, Disturbed would take it all the way to their breakout debut and unleash Down With the Sickness. Fans left their feet as they scream out those famous words “Oh, ah, ah, ah, ah” as lights fire off around the stage, lighting up all of the mayhem. As the song wraps fans the Disturbed shared in a touching moment in the uniting of metal and music lovers alike. And what better way to end four absolutely amazing days of music to a close.
Every year since its inception, Blue Ridge Rock Festival has continued to grow and set themselves apart from every other festival in the country. The festival’s montra has always been “Fan Driven” and “Your Festival” and that has always resonated with the fans and continues to be the unique connection that Blue Ridge has with them. How many other monster festivals like this gives us the oppertunity to vote on who we want to see, regardless of the band’s status or notoritiy.
As the festival has progressed, so has their elite bookings, bringing just absolutely incredible live performance that certainly leave their impressions on everyone in attendance and creates that massive 100,000 plus rushing to get tickets. This year the most exciting part was seeing the incredible reunions that brought bands out of retirement and gave us old heads a special a glimpse into our past as we remembered seing bands like Kittie, God Forbid, Shadows Fall and Texas in July, just to name a few, on tour.
While I was walking out the last night, you could hear people saying “This was the best fucking show I’ve ever been too” and “How could it possibly get any better than this”. And to be honest, I asked myself the same question. At this point, Blue Ridge Rock Festival has establish themselves as a premire expierence for music lovers and as people exited the fairgrounds, I’m pretty sure we all were saying the same thing to ourselves…. WE CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT YEAR!