A Camera’s View Of Day One Of The 2023 Blue Ridge Rock Festival

By on September 28, 2023

All photos by Kellye Robinson & Trevor Williams

Disclaimer: This review is written from the point of view of someone who was providing unpaid, volunteer media coverage for the festival. Given the circumstances of how things went down, I felt that this was the most appropriate way to cover what I witnessed first hand.

My experience is likely very different from those who had VIP or GA tickets. I want to remain sensitive to all of those who had negative experiences, but I will not condone spreading misinformation or rumors.

First and foremost, my focus is on the music, and that will be the center of this review. Our love for music is what brought us all together, and it’s the one thing that will keep us moving forward. 


On September 7th, Blue Ridge Rock Festival began its first full day of live music at the Virginia International Raceway for its second year. 

Blue Ridge Rock Fest sold out just two weeks before it even began, making it America’s largest US based rock festival. While the final number of tickets sold remains unknown, the festival grounds felt more packed than ever.

Fans worldwide gathered together to take part in the event, spanning from Virginia, to Alaska, and even headbangers all the way from Australia! It truly said something about how much the vast lineup spoke to fans. There is absolutely something for everyone, up and down the entire bill of 150+ bands. 

On Tuesday, September 5th, fans camping in the Virginia International Raceway for Blue Ridge Rock Fest began to make their way into the venue for early entry. This was meant to help alleviate the previous year’s backup and delays getting so many fans in and set up for the weekend. However on September 6th, fans coming in at the last minute still spent hours waiting to get into their spots. 

Campers were promised more space, access to more free water stations, and more amenities including a full liquor spread at each alcohol vending tent. The campgrounds were divided into several different areas: glamping, premium tent camping, RV hookups, ADA camping, family/quiet camping, and general tent camping. 

For those not staying on site, off site parking was available. In previous years, the shuttles from the parking lots may have been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Not wanting to have the same pitfalls again, Blue Ridge Rock Fest purchased 40 school buses. Both trained drivers and buses were readily available to shuttle those with day passes into the festival. At the beginning of day one, buses seemed to operate without any issues. However, as time went on, that quickly changed. 

One of the biggest differences from 2022 to 2023 is that the festival grounds were redesigned. In an effort to remove the dreaded hay hill, the fest went from five stages to four. Slimming down to four stages was meant to help improve the fan experience by reducing any overlap in set times and amount of miles walked per day. 

At the start of day one, fans flooded into the venue as soon as gates were open. Long lines formed at the merch tents, people set up camp at stages to catch their favorite bands, and others spent time chilling in the shade while comfortably listening from afar.

Around noon, it was already blazing hot, but that didn’t seem to stop fans from enjoying the music. With only one GA free water station available and $4 bottled water, security started handing out free water to help keep festival goers hydrated. 

Following Outline in Color on the Smart Punk Records stage, Kingdom of Giants came out in full force. Front man, Dana Willax, dominated the stage with his intense vocals and commanding stage presence.

With the amount of energy coming from the stage, fans would have never known that this was the last date on the Hollow Bodies tour with Blessthefall.

Although their setlist predominantly featured tracks from their latest album, ’Passenger,’ they seamlessly integrated their latest single, ‘Wasted Space,’ into the performance. 

Warming up the ZYN stage, Stitched Up Heart stole the crowd’s attention with their energetic stage presence, led by the powerful vocals of Alecia “Mixi” Demner.

Their visually captivating shows often incorporate lighting effects and gothic-style costumes, while their engagement with fans creates a sense of intimacy.

A diverse setlist ranging from “My Demon” to “To the Wolves’ ‘showcases their emotional depth, connecting the band with their dedicated audience.

On the final day of The Outlanders Pt. 1 Tour, Adema took over the Monster Energy stage. The band delivered a powerful performance, treating the audience to a setlist filled with their beloved hits, including “The Way You Like It,” “Giving In,” and “Immortal.”

The crowd was swept away by the nostalgic tunes. Although they started earlier in the day, Adema’s performance was a fitting crescendo to the tour, as many festival goers gathered to hear their favorite songs. 

At the ZYN Stage, CKY made a much-anticipated return to the live music scene, with an introduction by drummer Jess Margera’s parents, Phil and April. Their performance at Blue Ridge Rock Fest marked their first U.S. performance since 2019.

CKY’s return to the stage was met with enthusiasm and a sense of nostalgia, as fans eagerly awaited the band’s signature sound and high-energy performance.

Returning for the second year in a row by popular fan vote, Vended came out on to the Famous Monsters Stage with insane energy. In an effort to make a name for themselves, they came out covered in paint and  eye-catching costumes.

The crowd was hyped as frontman, Griffin Taylor, commanded the audience and sang popular songs such as “Asylum” and “Ded to Me.” 

Finishing up their tour with Upon a Burning Body, Born of Osiris dominated the Smart Punk Records stage. The band’s unique lineup includes keyboard player, Joe Buras, adding a distinctive layer to their sound. Their set was met with a wave of crowd surfers, a testament to the band’s magnetic presence.

With the inclusion of two vocalists and dueling guitar harmonies, the music resonated with a powerful and multifaceted energy. Born of Osiris treated their fans to a balanced setlist, featuring both classic tracks and their latest release, “Torch Bearer,” which had debuted in August 2023.

Thrash metal legends, Exodus, burst onto the Famous Monsters Stage with an explosive performance that left the audience in awe. Their expressive frontman commanded the spotlight, delivering powerful vocals and engaging the crowd.

Their set was punctuated by an abundance of crowd surfing, as fans couldn’t contain their excitement, riding the waves of adrenaline-fueled music.

Metalcore band, The Ghost Inside started their set late on the Monster Energy stage due to Vince Neil playing several encores that lasted an additional 15 minutes.

Energy was high as they had just finished up their first full tour since their bus accident in 2015. They played a wide variety of songs, including older songs and their newest single “Earn It.”

Later in the afternoon, Alpha Wolf made their way onto the Smart Punk Records stage. Unexpectedly, theirs would be one of the last performances for the day. This was Alpha Wolf’s second time playing Blue Ridge Rock Fest, and the growth they had over the last year was obvious as the crowd in front of them was massive.

Gearing up for The Touring the End of the World Tour with Motionless in White, Knocked Loose, and After the Burial, they announced new music and played a never heard before song, “Bring Back the Noise.”

Just as Alpha Wolf finished their set, the dark clouds that had been forming in the sky finally started to release. After hours of a dangerously high heat index, the rain felt like a reprieve for most. Fans happily welcomed the coolness of the rain, and celebrated. 

As Coheed and Cambria took the (Monster Energy) stage, the weather took a turn for the worse. Within a matter of minutes light rain sprinkles turned into a windstorm. Things quickly became dangerous due to lightning and hail and the venue was evacuated.

Campers and staff were asked to make their way to their vehicles, while those with day passes waited for hours, exposed to elements, in line for shuttle buses back to their cars. According to various fan accounts, they waited in line for over 4 hours before they were able to get on the shuttles. 

Meanwhile, in the venue, those who were unable to evacuate in time hid under stages, trees, tents, and whatever shelter they could find as lightning illuminated the sky and hail the size of marbles fell. 

Several hours later, Blue Ridge Rock Fest announced that the show would possibly start at 9:30pm. Because they are remotely located, the fest was not restricted to a noise curfew. They had hoped to push set times all the way back until 1am. However, due to damage caused by the unexpected storm, the rest of the day was canceled. 

With Day 1 of the festival in the books and questions revolving about the weather for the rest of the weekend, this years Blue Ridge Rock Festival will be remembered for a long time no matter in what capacity you attended it in. More to come as our coverage will continue with day 2 with pictures of Slipknot and many other bands with a full review.

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