Blue Ridge Rock Festival (BRRF) is known for its fan-driven experience, and in its 5th year delivered an incredible lineup of 172 bands across 5 stages in 4 days spread across a massive new venue in southern Virginia. VIRginia International Raceway, a 1,3000-acre property with rolling hills in the town of Alton, Virginia.
Giant rock festivals are not for the faint of heart. The weather can be unpredictable, the terrain tricky, and logistics difficult. Besides a short period of rain, BRRF Day 4 provided nearly perfect weather, especially compared to the deluge on Day 3. Photographers and fans alike were exhausted but excited about the mind-blowing lineup ahead.
One of the highlights of the festival for me was Christian rock queen and former Flyleaf lead singer, Lacey Sturm. Her unique style stresses triumph over tragedy, leaving the audience with hope no matter what the circumstances. One of her triumphs was in 2016 when she became the first solo female artist to top the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart with her debut release Life Screams. At BRRF, she began with a prayerful a cappella chorus from “I Love You Lord” which brought many to tears. Throughout the set, she sang three songs from her time with Flyleaf, a new song “Reconcile” and more gems to kick off the day.
Lacey Sturm Band Members:
Lacey Sturm – Vocals
Joshua Sturm – Guitar
John Miller – Bass
Krislyn Miller – Drums
Canadian-American singer, songwriter, and musician grandson rocked ZVN stage with songs from his new debut album, Death of an Optimist, commanding the stage like a pro. As always, he also encouraged the crowd to support charitable causes in their communities.
Project 86, a beloved rock/post hardcore band from Orange County, California, slammed the HeartSupport stage with unmatched energy and a message of hope that echoed throughout the venue. They have a final double album in the works and treated fans to a few new songs.
Project 86 Band Members:
Wage War reigned on the Monster Energy stage with impressive pyro and a beat ideal for moshing. Even more impressive were the musicians who played together so well, it was like three people orchestrating one heartbeat on stage. They cranked out head-banging crowd favorites like “Stitch,” “Low,” and “Alive.”
Wage War Band Members:
New Found Glory, the godfathers of pop-punk, energized ZVN stage with a 13-song set. This band from Coral Springs, Florida, showcased their versatility with a barrage of music styles in one concert, always keeping it fresh.
New Found Glory Band Members:
Seether, an RIAA Platinum-selling artist from Pretoria, South Africa, has rocked the free world since 1999 and was a highlight of Blue Ridge Rock Festival. Seether is Billboard’s eighth all-time mainstream rock artist and on the closing day, fired off some of their greatest hits. Frontman Shaun Morgan, who is a proponent of curating real-life friendships over social media “relationships,” recognized a sign in the crowd that read, “Let Me Play Remedy.” After “Dangerous” and “Fake It,” the last track, “Remedy,” began. About halfway through the song, the 18-year-old guy was pulled up onto the giant stage by the band and finished the song on Shaun Morgan’s guitar while singing background vocals. After the last note, the crowd cheered, and the band covered him in hugs. This was every young rock guitarist’s dream come true.
Seether Band Members:
Lamb of God, a Grammy®-nominated heavy metal band from Richmond, Virginia, hit the BRRF Monster Energy stage like a hurricane with “Memento Mori” and “Walk With Me in Hell.” The storm spread to the crowd with mosh pit injuries stopping the show twice, and the pandemonium, laced with lyrics of anger and hopelessness, continued throughout the headbanging herd of metal fans. They performed “Nevermore,” from their new album Omens, which is their angriest album yet, then ended with “Redneck.”
Lamb of God Band Members:
Grammy®-nominated multiplatinum Mississippi rock band 3 Doors Down kept the party going. Featured were fan favorites “Kryptonite,” “Here Without You,” and “When I’m Gone” complete with hard-hitting riffs for the head-banging army at their feet.
3 Doors Down Band Members:
Headliner Disturbed closed out the 5th annual Blue Ridge Rock Festival with hits that unite the masses through music. After starting the set with “Ten Thousand Fists” and “Inside the Fire,” they later performed “Hey You” from the upcoming album release, Divisive. Later, the violin, cello, piano, timpanis, and acoustic guitars were brought out for their most popular song, “The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel cover),” which I think showcases David Draiman’s vocal ability and classical training brilliantly. The 2-song encore included “The Light” and 6x-platinum “Down With The Sickness.”
Disturbed Band Members:
Day 4 was sunny, mostly dry, and much better than the drenching rain of Day 3. The crowd seemed a little weary until the energy from all 5 stages spilled into the masses still ready to rock for just 12 more hours. Everyone seemed excited to be there and willing to lend a helping hand if needed. As anticipated, the performances of the day were incredible.
Overall, I believe Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2022 was a success with huge improvements over last year. Problems this year included long shuttle lines the first two days, problems with basic media coordination and planning that prevented stellar coverage of such a great festival, and problems reaching the far stages due to the sheer distance and terrain. All of these are easily remedied and I am confident the organizers can improve these for 2023. The venue is truly beautiful and an amazing place to have one of the biggest rock festivals in the country. I must commend Jonathan Slye, CEO of Purpose Driven Events and the heart and soul of BRRF, for preserving the festival’s core values of a fan-driven experience and for recruiting the incredible lineup. His vision and hard work made Blue Ridge Rock Festival possible.
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Annette Holloway is a music, promo, portrait, and event photographer. Live concert photography and band/artist photoshoots occupy much of her time. Her work has been published on numerous media outlets including Billboard, Pollstar, NBC News, Getty Images, Forbes, HM Magazine, ICON Sportswire, Loudwire, CCM Magazine, and many more. Before diving into photography full time, she was a NASA software engineer, webmaster, church youth leader, and robotics mentor. For more information about her photography, visit AnnetteHolloway.com.