By Greg Maki
Still a relatively young event, the Blue Ridge Rock Festival has grown quickly to become one of the biggest rock festivals in the United States. Hosted by a new venue in 2022, the Virginia International Raceway, the festival featured a massive lineup of more than 180 acts performing on six stages across four full days and the campground pre-party. The list included everything from some of the biggest hard rock/metal acts around to some of the most brutal to reunions of classic bands to lesser known, up-and-coming groups.
I’m well aware that there were many issues with this event, most significantly the hours-long wait many endured for the shuttles to take them to and from the satellite parking lots. (Media were allowed to park on-site, so this wasn’t a problem for me.) At the venue itself, the most glaring deficiencies I noticed were a lack of hand-washing stations outside the porta-potties (ew) and not nearly enough security working the barricades at the stages. Both are significant health/safety issues and absolutely must be addressed next year.
The music was what brought us all together, though. That’s what I focused on while I was there, and I’ll do the same here. Here’s how my day went.
12:05 P.M. – ZYN STAGE – THE DEAD DAISIES
The classic rock sound of the Daisies seems out of place at this festival, but they’re up there rocking it anyway. This early, the crowd is small but appreciative. This is the first time I’ve seen the band with Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals. While I prefer the John Corabi-led lineup, this might be the best pure rock ‘n’ roll we hear all weekend. A light rain begins to fall, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with.
1 P.M. – URW STAGE – CROWBAR
The Riff Lord, the Beard of Doom, Kirk Windstein is back after last night’s performance with Down, this time fronting his long-running New Orleans sludge metal band Crowbar. It seems ridiculously early for this kind of unforgiving music, but here we are, and Kirk and friends kill it. Countless bands go faster, more “extreme,” but for me it doesn’t get any heavier or more powerful than the monster riffs Crowbar churns out song after song. One of my favorite sets of the entire festival so far.
CROWBAR SET LIST: “Conquering,” “High Rate Extinction,” “Bleeding from Every Hole,” “All I Had (I Gave),” “Chemical Godz,” “Planets Collide,” “Like Broken Glass”
1:50 P.M. – ZYN & MONSTER STAGES
What was supposed to be the debut live performance by Sion, featuring vocalist Howard Jones (Light the Torch/ex-Killswitch Engage) and guitarist Jared Dines, quietly fell off the schedule a few days ago. (Dines later went on social media and said he informed the festival that Sion would be unable to perform three weeks prior.) Now I see the Monster Stage getting set up for Adelitas Way, which I guess means no Lacuna Coil either. Much disappointment.
2:30 P.M. – ZYN STAGE – MUNICIPAL WASTE
We’re partying like it’s 1986 here at the Zyn Stage, and a big part of me wants to stay. The Richmond, Virginia, band is doing its best to keep thrash metal alive, and even though the crowd isn’t large yet, the circle pits are rolling. Halfway through the set, frontman Tony Foresta informs those in the crowd who arrived late, “We’re about 14 songs deep in this motherfucker! We have 37 more songs!” You won’t find a band that offers more pure fun than Municipal Waste this entire weekend.
MUNICIPAL WASTE SET LIST: “Breathe Grease,” “You’re Cut Off,” “Grave Dive,” “Beer Pressure,” “Headbanger Face Rip,” “High Speed Steel,” “Sadistic Magician,” “Slime and Punishment,” “Under the Waste Command,” “Demoralizer,” “The Art of Partying,” “Born to Party”
3:15 P.M. – MONSTER STAGE – ADELITAS WAY
Adelitas Way seems to have a new guitarist every time I see the band live, which somehow never has an effect on the performance. Today, they’re as locked in and tight as ever, even though I haven’t followed the band closely in recent years and I’m unfamiliar with some of the set list. Outspoken in interviews, frontman Rick DeJesus is a positive presence on stage, talking about the need for the rock community to come together and lift each other up in these turbulent times.
3:45 P.M. – URW STAGE – POWERMAN 5000
I saw Powerman 5000 for the first time in over 15 years earlier this summer on the “Freaks on Parade” tour headlined by Rob Zombie and Mudvayne. The set list today is identical—featuring three songs from the band’s 1999 album “Tonight the Stars Revolt!” along with some more recent material—and the show is just as much fun as it was in July. Spider One commands the stage with authority, and the band behind him is a blast to watch, too.
POWERMAN 5000 SET LIST: “Footsteps and Voices,” “Nobody’s Real,” “Invade Destroy Repeat,” “Horror Show/Seven Nation Army,” “Bombshell,” (“An Eye Is Upon You”) “Supernova Goes Pop,” “When Worlds Collide”
4:45 P.M. – MONSTER STAGE – BLACK VEIL BRIDES
The sky finally opens up and the rain starts coming down hard just minutes before Black Veil Brides take the stage and the “Trinity of Terror Tour” takeover begins. Though I’ve never been able to get into it, the band certainly has its fans and knows how to engage the audience from the stage. Guitarists Jake Pitts and Jinxx are particularly fun to watch. Frontman Andy Biersack stops “Knives and Pens” due to an injury in the crowd.
BLACK VEIL BRIDES SET LIST: “Faithless,” “Coffin,” “Crimson Skies,” “Wake Up,” Scarlet Cross,” “Knives and Pens,” “The Legacy,” “In the End”
5:35 P.M. – ZYN STAGE – ICE NINE KILLS
Outside of the headliners, no band at this festival brings a bigger show than Ice Nine Kills, with masks, props, onstage murders and more. It’s all in good fun, celebrating horror films that so many, especially in the hard rock/metal community, know and love. A slightly shorter version of its “Trinity of Terror” set list is pulled entirely from the band’s two most recent albums, “The Silver Scream” (2018) and “The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood” (2021). Though he looks a bit annoyed between songs, frontman Spencer Charnas is a born showman, clearly relishing in portraying the various slashers, and the band is stellar. Charnas stops “Hip to Be Scared” in the middle of its last chorus due to another injury in the crowd and later dedicates “IT is the End” to, appropriately, the punk rock band Pennywise, which will perform later today.
ICE NINE KILLS SET LIST: (“Opening Night”) “Welcome to Horrorwood,” “Wurst Vacation,” “Hip to Be Scared,” “Stabbing in the Dark,” “Rainy Day,” “IT is the End,” “Ex-Mørtis,” “The Shower Scene,” “Funeral Derangements,” “The American Nightmare”
6:25 P.M. – MONSTER ENERGY STAGE – MOTIONLESS IN WHITE
Wrapping up our detour to the “Trinity of Terror,” Motionless in White goes over bigtime, and a flaming stageshow doesn’t hurt. The crowd loves everything frontman Chris Motionless says and does, but that doesn’t prevent yet another injury, and the band has to end the banger “Slaughterhouse” early. What is going on out there today?
MOTIONLESS IN WHITE SET LIST: “Disguise,” “Sign of Life,” “Voices,” “Slaughterhouse,” “Masterpiece,” “Cyberhex,” “Another Life,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Eternally Yours”
6:40 P.M. – URW STAGE – GOD FORBID
Nearly a decade in the making, one of the very best 2000s metal bands reunites. No one, including the band members, seems to know if this will lead to anything more, but judging from the crowd reaction—which includes multiple “God For-bid!” chants—there definitely seems to be an audience for it. Nick Hipa, formerly of As I Lay Dying, is on guitar, joining Doc Coyle, who we saw Friday with Bad Wolves, for a potent attack. The stage backdrop is the cover of the band’s finest album, “IV: Constitution of Treason” (2005), and the set list spans the entire God Forbid catalog. Frontman Byron Davis seems overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the crowd. It’s an emotional, triumphant performance and one of the highlights of the festival.
GOD FORBID SET LIST: “Force-Fed,” “Chains of Humanity,” “Antihero,” “Broken Promise,” “Washed Out World,” “War of Attrition,” “Don’t Tell Me What to Dream,” “To the Fallen Hero”
9:10 P.M. – URW STAGE – TENACIOUS D
And now for something completely different. Jack Black seems tickled that Gwar played the URW Stage immediately prior to Tenacious D and that Slipknot is up next on the Monster Stage. Black and Kyle Gass, with a full band behind them, are an absolute blast, playing all the classic D songs. Highlights include “Kickapoo,” “Beelzeboss,” “The Metal” and “Tribute.” The crowd is huge, and the photo pit is filled with photographers (naturally), as well as artists who have performed throughout the weekend. Everyone wants some D!
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