Diane Webb: I agree wit Chris! I’d love to see the return of Mayhem Fest and Warped. Those were fantastic touring festivals. I’d also love to see a few more smaller festivals strategically placed, especially in the Pacific Northwest as we are severely starved for good rock/metal festivals. I’ve even asked the executives at DWP to consider Seattle for a festival location. But sadly logistics of these tours coming up here usually is a hindrance. I’m also working with a good friend here who does a blues festival on seeing if we could expand it to a rock festival thats inclusive of more main subgenres to grow it into something a bit bigger and provide an option for more music lovers in our area. Ah yes Zenae, the porta-potties point!! I don’t know about Hellfest, but Wacken and Sweden Rock plus many others in Europe set up water flushing porta-potties. I am definitely spoiled by that and I’m definitely apprehensive about American festivals where I know they’re gonna put regular old honey buckets and that never get clean smell bad and always have piss on the seats and floor, especially at summer time. Collectively, has anyone in the US been to a festival with water flushing porta-potties? Does that even exist here?
Ian Weber: “Well damn Jackie, I can’t control the weather!”
(If you don’t know what I’m referring to in my intro, please disregard my response in this thread immediately and Google that famous quote from Michael Kelso)
Well, hey. Look at all the fine contributors in this topic.
Here it is: the return of the Headbangers’ Brawl, now with no weather altering conditions!
As festival mania usually races all across America during the summer, not every destination event is gonna come out unscathed with issues. Whether you’re disappointed about how Purpose Driven Events put the kibosh midway through Blue Ridge Rock Fest 2023 or you’re thankful that gnarly weather didn’t exacerbate the well-being of the attendees and the performers involved, some issues could have been fixed with simple safety parameters implemented. But hey, when there’s a potential foot or more of rain dropping, it has a way of changing logical priorities.
With other popular American rock and metal festivals to consider attending like the M3 Festival or Welcome to Rockville, I’m certain that nobody’s gonna miss the Blue Ridge Rock Fest if it doesn’t return for future installments.
Zenae Zukowski: This has definitely exceeded all expectations for a disappointing event. People continue to discuss the aftermath, including getting covid, “festival flu,” which can be expected but some have claimed to have “Giardia,” an intestinal infection likely from food or water contamination. Seeing the possibility of contamination is something that should be taken seriously and investigated.
Sean Matthews: Ummm, here goes…
Okay… I took some time to dig around before jumping in on this. This is my take on it all from a photojournalist standpoint. I’ve been covering shows for over 20 years, a bit more than 10 for Metal Insider. Like most people in this industry, I have a full-time job, and photography and writing are passions that I do on the side for fun. I started shooting, helping a friend with a local magazine here in Detroit, and scaled up to Metal Insider after a chance encounter with the editor at that time (Hi Bram!).
Covering rolling festivals that were previously mentioned in the Brawl, I loved hitting the local tarmac for Monster Energy’s Uproar and Mayhem festivals and the yearly Warped Tour, which started my love-hate relationship with multi-stage shows! I graduated to one-off shows like Rock On The Range, Carolina Rebellion, etc., when they picked up traction, and I haven’t really looked back. As a person who covers DWP shows for Metal Insider and has built a good relationship with the DWP camp, I never once asked to go to BRRF as I thought of the whole thing more as cheating on the festivals I have grown to love.
I’ve watched media friends migrate to BRRF as the new holy grail on US soil, comparing it to festivals in Europe like Hellfest and Download. However,… there’s almost no comparison at all! I understand the want and NEED that some people must create or attend a festival of that magnitude without having to fly across the globe. Still, it’s been proven time and time again by BRRF and its creator, Jonathan Slye that it’s just NOT possible… at least with him at the helm. Looking back into most festivals’ histories, they all start with humble beginnings, a couple of bands on one afternoon, then more bands over two days, etc., etc. until they get to where they are now. It appears BRRF just came out of the gate swinging once Purpose Driven Events took over because 2017-2019 it was a smaller one- or two-day festival. Then in 2021, it was monstrous!!!
Being at every Rock On The Range but the first, a trend can be seen with the partnership of DWP and AEG in the beginning. A one-day show, then two days, then add a Friday night pre-party, then add a third day. As they expanded their reach, branching out to other cities with shows like Aftershock in California, Welcome To Rockville in Florida, and Carolina Rebellion in North Carolina, it was systematic and controlled. Even when the partnership dissolved and we lost Rock On The Range, and a few others, DWP had already created festivals that ran amazingly independently without AEG’s partnership.
I went to my first Welcome To Rockville in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2019, the last year, before being moved. A storm rolled in, and we were all evacuated to our vehicles, and if you didn’t have a vehicle on site, they had a safe place for you to bunker until the storm passed over. When it moved the following year to Daytona Beach, at the Daytona Speedway, there were already contingency plans in place for storms. This has been the case for ALL DWP shows since I have been in attendance for more than 10 years. The crowd’s safety (much to everyone’s surprise) is their #1 goal every festival. In Daytona Beach in May 0f 2022, a storm rolled in Friday morning and shut the festival down for a few hours, they called it a “Code Red.” The screens take over with warnings and people are asked to evacuate to their vehicles, or in this case the grandstands at the speedway if needed. When that happens, they send vendors in there to sell water and beverages and try to keep people calm while they wait. At the end of the storm (which is when lightning is no longer in the area) they reset the system and allow people to scan back in and continue on with the day. Which, I presume, is how most festivals of this magnitude operate.
When the storms started rolling in that evening, I was in the photo pit shooting Ministry and the rain came down sideways, almost like a hail, and the show went on. We all saw lightning light up the sky at one point, and just like that “Code Red” again. This is the first time; I’ve ever taken shelter inside the production area where the teams are all waiting on standby for the go or no go call for it to resume. After what seemed like an eternity there was radio silence, and a cancellation call sent out. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve witnessed an entire room sigh in sheer disappointment at the same time. No one lives for these moments. No one wants to call off a show and send THOUSANDS of people home. No one takes enjoyment in this moment. I watched a news clip today of the COO of VIR (the venue of BRRF) talk to a reporter about how no one can prepare for things like this… he said:
“I challenge anybody to present an outdoor facility that can house 40,000 people at a moment’s notice when bad weather comes in. That’s what we ran into. There’s an expectation that, ‘you should have had a shelter to put 40,000 people under.’
Danny Wimmer Presents does it at EVERY festival, EVERY time! SEVEN festivals A YEAR! EVERY year! People ask me why I love DWP and the festivals they produce so much, and this is seriously one of the points. They take everything into consideration for multiple festivals (some in the same months on opposite sides of the country) every year, plan for almost every scenario, and 99% of the time pull them all off with very little hiccups. Jonathan Slye and his team have ONE… ONE festival a year, and his team is SO busy trying to pack 300+ bands into a show that it seems like every other aspect just gets left to the side. Year after year BRRF fails to deliver and bands still sign up to play, and fans still buy the tickets… It BOGGLES my mind. And don’t even get me started on cruise ship festivals… they run better than BRRF and they’re literally in the middle of the open ocean for a week! I always thought the inflatable band set schedule at Warped Tour was the worst thing that could happen to the concert industry… but Jonathan Slye and Blue Ridge Rock Fest have taken it to a whole new level.
Zenae Zukowski: I hope our readers get this deep into this brawl because that was well said. Sean, You’ve seen how festivals pan out and deal with poor weather conditions. This reminds me: I was at Rockville in 2015, and I think it was day one when we were evacuated for a few hours. I remember standing under a tree for “safety.” I guess that was during my rebellious days. But the festival, Rockville, does seem to have made a better emergency plan since? And, yes, I hear you are trying to have a European festival on American soil, which, sadly, gets proven that you need to book that plane ticket and go to Hellfest, or x festival of choice out there. It’s a different experience. Not just with the festival organizers, the lineup, food, etc., but the crowd and overall atmosphere are different, worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. If not for following Metallica these two years, I would have booked another European festival. I cannot wait to go back. And the cruises are picking up. There’s definitely a new competition out there, which these events do help sort out visa issues, etc. But, everyone knows, I’m a 70000tons of Metal lifer. And yes, Sean, I know about those random Metal Insider encounters. If it weren’t for randomly bumping into Bram one year on a KoRn party bus, I wouldn’t have had my life change the way it surprisingly has over the years. So, hello, and thanks, Bram! Back to the subject at hand, I’m surprised BRRF plans for a return in 2024. There’s definitely competition out there with fests now that Vegas has picked up a few interesting ones. My only concern about fests like Sick New World was seeing how short the sets were. I get the hunger to book as many bands as possible to have one of the biggest and best festivals out there, but be fair to the festival goers, performers, and staff. I like the point of starting as a one-day, smaller-scaled fest and slowly building steam depending on experience and ticket sales.
I will end this brawl with a random SLAYER! Hopefully, lessons were learned this year….hopefully.