Blue Ridge Rock Fest Takes Flight: A Review of The First Two Days of The Festival

By on September 9, 2022

BRRF 2022: Day 1

After a mostly successful year in 2021, Blue Ridge Rock Fest returned to Virginia, promising a bigger and better experience. With more bands, over 175 to be exact, two side-by-side main stages, and a new venue, the festival took place September 8-12th. After grounds complaints last year, the VIRginia International Raceway stepped in to host the largest rock and metal festival in the world.

While the sheer size of the event is enough to excite any rock and metal fan, the most unique part of BRRF is that it operates as a Fan Driven Rock Experience. This means that fans had been voting for nearly a year to create the line-up and experiences offered. BRRF really does something special by catering to all types of rock music fans.

Throughout the course of four days, almost every sub-genre in the rock/metal realm was represented, ranging from deathcore bands such as Slaughter to Prevail to emo-classics like Hawthorne Heights to radio rock sensations, 3 Doors Down – and everything in between. 

The line-up in 2022 was especially exciting due to a large number of unique performances. BRRF offered rock fans reunion sets, bringing several bands out of retirement. Others played full albums or added a special element to make the experience more unique.

Fans could find five different stages, Monster, ZYN, URW, Fan Driven, and Heart Support, placed throughout the VIR grounds. The two main stages, Monster and ZYN, were placed side by side this year and had zero overlap. Down the hill, aka the Kate Bush Hill, fans could find the URW and Fan Driven stages. The smaller Heart Support stage could be found right in the middle of the venue. 

After two years filled with uncertainty and hesitancy, life for most is finally starting to feel normal again. Concerts and festivals are finally back in full swing, and music fans are more hungry than ever for live and in-person events. BRRF’s diverse lineup drew in a highly diverse group of fans from all over the country.

People from various backgrounds and vast age ranges gathered together to spend four full days celebrating live music again. Walking into the venue, you could see long lines of fans anxiously waiting to enter hours before gates. 

The first day started out relatively mellow with a performance by Smile Empty Soul on the ZYN stage. Down the hill, the tone quickly changed when Australian metalcore band, Alpha Wolf played the Fan Driven stage. With this being their first US festival performance, energy was high, and fans were moshing and crowd surfing by lunchtime.

With the same intensity, Unearth brought fast-paced drum grooves and duel-guitar harmonies to the stage. By this time, everyone was quickly running up the hill to watch the first reunion band of the festival, Shadows Fall, on the ZYN stage. Fans from all generations let loose, and for the first time, many witnessed both a baby and an older gentleman dressed as Santa Clause crowd surfing at the same time.

As the afternoon progressed, the crowds grew larger and excitement was buzzing through the air. Bringing in former As I Lay Dying bassist, Josh Gilbert, Spiritbox returned to BRRF for the second year in a row. Following an incredibly successful year, Spiritbox earned a longer set and a place on the larger, ZYN stage.

Doing double duty during the festival, Doc Coyle hit the Monster Stage with Bad Wolves. New vocalist DL came out with enormous energy, practically running laps on stage. Next on the ZYN stage, Nothing More made a short stop on their tour with In This Moment. Booming with enthusiasm, frontman, Johnny Hawkins had everyone hypnotized as he bounced around the stage. 

Back down the hill, another one of the most anticipated reunion bands was setting up on the URW stage. Kittie sounded incredible, never missing a beat. You would have never guessed that they had come out of retirement.

Shortly after, one of the most brutal death metal bands of the last 20 years, Cannibal Corpse, took over the URW stage. With windmill head-banging intense enough to blow away the crowd and guttural vocals deep enough to summon Satan himself, Cannibal Corpse was a force to be reconned with. 

Each performance got bigger and bigger as the sun started to set. Shutting down the URW stage, Ice Cube made himself right at home in the middle of a rock festival. Fresh from filming a headlining show at Red Rocks, In This Moment brought their brand new production, including pyro, and lit up the ZYN stage.

Their expansive stage setup included all sorts of theatrics including props, masks, and multiple outfit changes. On the Monster stage, Ghost and the Nameless Ghouls closed out the first night. This stop on the ImperaTour was particularly special because this was Ghost’s first time headlining a US festival.

Walking out of the venue, you could feel the anticipation buzzing in the air.  Unsatiated, music fans were eager for more. While day one was overflowing with amazing acts, it was only a tease for what was to come over the next few days. 

BRRF 2022: Day 2

As music fans began to enter the festival grounds on day two, they had some major choices to make. On the Monster and ZYN stage, fans could enjoy popular bands such Buckcherry, Sevendust, Saving Abel, and Theory of a Deadman.

For those with an appetite for heavier and darker music, they made their way down the hill to the URW and Fan Driven stage. The tone down the hill drastically differed and the day would be filled with heavy moshing, waves of crowd surfers, circle pits, and a wave of dust that very well may still linger around the VIR grounds today. 

Starting out the day, Vended lead singer, Griffin Taylor (son of the one and only Corey MF Taylor), held is own on the Fan Driven Stage. With their in-your-face sound, they primed the crowd for what was to come. Moving on the URW stage, deathcore band, Fit for an Autopsy really set the tone for the next several hours. You could literally feel the intensity in the air as moshers created a cloud of dust and waves of crowd surfers made their way to the barricade.

Next up on the URW stage was one of the most highly anticipated bands of the entire festival, Slaughter to Prevail. As if things could not get any heavier, the Russian deathcore band produced one of the most brutal performances of the weekend. The air was thick with dust kicked up from the rowdy crowd and fans of all ages could be found surfing the crowd in tidal waves. The energy they produced was truly extraordinary. 

Following Slaughter to Prevail, one of the most iconic deathcore bands over the last 15 years, Whitechapel, kept up the intensity on the URW stage. Maintaining the same intensity, they filled their setlist with some of their heaviest songs. Up next on th URW stage was All That Remains. They were out on the road, touring their huge breakout album from 2006 “The Fall of Ideals”  in reverse order.  So many fans were truly excited to hear these iconic songs live. The harmonizing guitar parts on these songs are always a crowd favorite. 

Not quite yet feeling like fall, the day was hot and humid. So hot that some bands even started to have technical difficulties due to overheating issues. However, on the Fan Driven stage, Dayseeker made the best of it. Improvising, frontman Rory Rodriguez broke out an acoustic guitar and played a mini show with what time was left in the set.  Not to leave fans disappointed, he included a never released song about his daughter Hazel, called Afterglow. 

The Swedish metal legends, In Flames, opened with a new song from their forthcoming album, “Foregone”. They played a well-rounded setlist, including songs from eight different albums which would have made any long time fan happy.

Darkest Hour played on the Heart Support stage. Guitar player Mike was the highlight of the set, running back and forth and headbanging from the opening note to the final cymbal crash.  With such a small stage, the crowd interaction is so much more important because the band members can basically reach out and touch the fans. 

Back down the hill on the URW stage, hardcore staple, Hatebreed kicked up the pace once again. Front man Jamey Jasta and the rest of the band had the crowd completely hypnotized. He had fans doing circle pits, crowd surfing, and moshing by command. At one point, the crowd participation turned into a contest and had the left and right side of the crowd screaming to try and be louder than the other. 

Down doesn’t tour like most bands these days. Typically only playing a few sporadic shows here and there, this was a rare opportunity to see the New Orleans based metal band. Vocalist Phil Anselmo sounded great and had his signature menacing look on his face.  Guitar player Kirk from Crowbar played double duty this weekend, also jamming with his other band, Crowbar a few days later. 

As the sun went down, things heated up quickly. Growing in popularity, Gojira earned themselves a larger stage and a later set time. With pyro literally warming up the main stage, Gojira prepped the crowd for Mudvayne. They did not disappoint fans, as they brought full production. Fan favorite, A Day To Remember returned BRRF for a second year in a row, shutting down the ZYN stage for the day.

Not to be outdone be the fans seen at the URW stage, crowd surfers made their way down the barricade in floods, even literally surfing on top of each other. Shutting down the URW stage, shock rock legend, Alice Cooper, impressed fans with with is highly visual and theatrical stage setup. 

Closing out day two of BRRF, Mudvaybe shut down the Monster stage, coming out in their old-school makeup and outfits. After finishing up the Freaks on Parade tour with Rob Zombie, which was their first tour in over a decade, they brought all of the tricks.

Things got heated as pyro exploded on the stage throughout the set. Not only could you feel the heat from the crowd, but you could all of the emotion that frontman, Chad Gray, was pouring out during the performance. 

On day two, fans left the festival feeling the effects of a very hot and heavy day. However it was not enough to stop them from wanting even more. Fortunately, things would cool down a bit on day three. 

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