I returned to Virginia this year for another round of Blue Ridge Rock Fest. I sure did. The headliners for 2022 were Slipknot, Disturbed, Ghost, and Mudvayne.
There were a few issues last year at Blue Ridge Rock Fest, and they were widely publicized and discussed. I was there, and, as I wrote at the time, there were rough spots but certainly the line-up was great and the music was fantastic. This year, the festival moved to a new venue to address many of the concerns from the previous year, and, given that earlier experience, one might reasonably expect this year to be a lot better. I have a few thoughts on that. The upshot is that this year’s line-up and music were once again excellent, and there were still a few noticeable problems.
The new venue was not an improvement over the previous one. The biggest problem last year with the venue was parking. It was a tough slog. This year at the Virginia International Raceway, I thought there would be parking lots on location. I had never been to the speedway, so this was just in my imagination. In fact, this time the festival used remote parking locations and shuttle busses. Guess what. There were long lines for the shuttles. Like last year, the first couple of days were the worst and things improved as the weekend went along.
Many of the problems from last year were indeed mostly solved this year, and that is good news. The big issue besides the long wait for shuttle was the layout of the venue on the festival grounds. Last year, one of the best things about the festival was that the stages were relatively easy to get to. No so this year. There was a total of five stages. The two main stages were near the entrance and set up side by side. That is a good arrangement. To get to the third stage, you had to trundle up a long sloping hillside. It wasn’t too bad, but it was a bit of a slog.
The final two stages were past the third and down a steep hill, lying at a considerable distance across a rutted field. Once you arrived at any of these three separate regions, it wasn’t so bad as long as you stayed there. Moving between stages was very difficult for me. I am an out of shape older dude, so you could say that my complaints are my own fault. Fair enough, but whether it is my own fault or not, it was a situation for me. Anyone with mobility issues would have faced a considerable challenge (you can read Heather Koepp’s discussion of this at the link below). I was at the festival primarily as a photographer, so moving between the stages is what I had to do, all day every day. After a while, I started making choices about which sets to shoot based upon whether I would be able to make it in time or not to the next stage. You always have to do that at a big festival to some extent. At Blue Ridge, it was a bigger than usual problem.
What else do you need to know about the Blue Ridge experience? The music was fantastic. Alice Cooper, Down, Halestorm, Tenacious D, Cannibal Corpse, Kittie, Anthrax, Municipal Waste, Baroness, Jelly Roll, and so many more. The headliners were OK, too. You can tell some of my favorites from the photos I have included here. There will be many more to follow in individual photo galleries in the coming weeks. There is also a feature article at Ryze-Up Magazine that uses my photos, if you want to see them (link below).
Oh yeah, the weather. I know I sound like an old man talking about the weather all the time. Guilty. These big outdoor fests are at the mercy and whim of Mother Nature, though, and that’s the truth. There wasn’t any weather that was dangerous enough to affect the program schedule, but wow it did rain on Saturday. Drenching, cold rain. Tough conditions. The music continued to be excellent, even as the conditions worsened the experience, through no fault of the organizers at all. Saturday wiped me out so much that I have only foggy memories of Sunday.
I am on the fence about whether to go back next year. We’ll see. For able-bodied fans who aren’t seeking a physically comfortable experience, Blue Ridge Rock Fest offered great music this year and will probably do the same next year, too. After two years of experience under my belt with this festival, it is coming down to a question of stamina for me. I’ll just have to wait and see which way the wind is blowing in 2023.
Photos by Wayne Edwards.
Blue Ridge Rock Festival, https://blueridgerockfest.com/
Rival Magazine article by Heather Koepp, https://www.rivalmagazinela.com/live-show-reviews/what-went-wrong-at-blue-ridge-rock-festival-2022
Ryze-Up Magazine feature, https://www.ryze-up.com/ryze-up-magazine-current-issue/ryze-up-magazine-october-2022/
© Wayne Edwards