Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2023: struck by storms, discontent, and disarray

Posted by on September 12, 2023

Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


The Blue Ridge Rock Festival has been on Metal Insider’s radar for the past few years. While one year had a rocky start, resulting in the creation of a now-popular private Facebook group known as Screwed By Blue Ridge Rock Festival, we were once confident and excited to see what the sold-out 2023 event would bring after an incredible experience in 2022. When we first learned about the event’s cancellation over the past weekend due to severe weather conditions, it’s no secret that we were disappointed. The festival had promised  a phenomenal lineup of artists spanning multiple subgenres of metal and hard rock, naturally attracting more festival-goers. However, as time went on and the content within the well-organized Facebook group and Reddit threads exploded, it became apparent that much more had happened than just a bad storm. One could say there were two storms last weekend, both figuratively and literally, on the campgrounds in Alton, VA. Originally scheduled to be held from September 7th to 10th, 2023, the festival took an unexpected turn. Instead of rushing to copy and paste and recycle what has happened, Metal Insider has reached out to a die-hard concertgoer, Phil Ryabkin. He attended this year’s Blue Ridge Rock Festival with high expectations for it to be a highlighted weekend but turned out to be an utter disaster. Please note that the information within this account has yet to be confirmed, as many rumors have spread or been kept under wraps. However, this account was written by guest writer Ryabkin, along with a few other attendees who shared information from those who witnessed significant unfortunate events within the circle of the disaster that unfolded during this past weekend’s festivities.


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


Blue Ridge Rock Festival was supposed to be an unforgettable experience, especially with the extensive media coverage displayed on social media, claiming significant improvements to the festival. These refinements included more accessible walking paths throughout the festival grounds and increased shuttle services to the fairgrounds. Everything was lining up for a fantastic time. Additionally, the lineup featured bands such as Danzig, Dethklok, Job For A Cowboy, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Taproot, Parkway Drive, Babymetal, Pantera, TRUSTCompany, and many more. It was gearing up to be a fantastic time for every metalhead across the country. Unfortunately, none of these expectations materialized, and it all became a massive disappointment.

According to reports from attendees, many early festival-goers waited for approximately twelve to seventeen hours just to camp inside the venue. The Virginia raceway was clearly unprepared for this situation, as the line of cars stretched so far down on Wednesday (6th) night. I came down with my friends to help one of them pick up his wristband easily. Unfortunately, due to the box office closing at ten that evening, we decided to turn around and head back to our hotel. Thankfully, by Thursday (7th) the next day, picking up the wristbands and getting into the venue with the shuttle bus was much easier. For the next few hours, everything appeared to be running smoothly. I had the chance to see several great bands, enjoyed some decent food, and was having a great time. However, at around 6:40 PM, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse, and a massive thunderstorm struck with incredible force. Almost immediately, everyone evacuated to one spot just to make a rush for the shuttle buses. The storm brought about thirty minutes of hurricane-like winds, heavy hail, and lightning strikes. One of the stages even sustained slight damage from being struck by lightning once the storm began. It was a truly frightening situation. God forbid, if the lightning had hit one of the trees, the situation could have become much worse. Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario soon unfolded.

Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin

My group of friends and I waited in line for about four hours just to board the shuttle bus. Numerous dangerous situations transpired during this time, including a person having a seizure and EMTs searching for a woman who was going into labor. People in the line were frustrated, dehydrated, and exhausted. Many were eager to get answers on why it took so long to return to our cars. Then it dawned on me – the staff was conspicuously absent and unprepared for the situation. The shuttle buses arrived infrequently, making it easy to assume Blue Ridge did not have enough staff members on deck.

Stories about the Blue Ridge Rock Festival widely circulated within the last forty-eight hours. These stories included reports of someone dying in their car from carbon monoxide poisoning, multiple seizures leading to a person’s death, a drug overdose death, and a person going missing at the festival, although they were thankfully found. There was also an alarming claim that someone managed to bring a loaded weapon onto the festival grounds, indicating a lapse in the bag check-searching process. Fortunately, a situation like this did not escalate into something even worse. This incident served as a stark reminder that concert safety measures still need improvement and brought back memories of what happened to Dimebag Darrell in 2004.

Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


While I can’t confirm the accuracy of these narratives, many of them did publicly surface, and some of the people I spoke to mentioned the severity of it. Surprisingly, local news coverage has yet to report anything about it.

Amid the already devastating hearsay spread of chaos, another widespread rumor circulated on Friday (8th) that another rainstorm was imminent. We feared our day would be cut short again, as it had been on Thursday. When people attempted to ask security for clarification, they couldn’t properly answer what was happening. A fellow fan was the one who reassured us that everything was fine and no storm was expected to pass through. The necessary information had yet to be communicated to us. The security guards remained silent and seemed irked when fans brought up this issue. Something was amiss in this situation. It looked like the staff needed to be more adequately trained, as numerous festival goers claimed the personnel had only one day to prepare for the massive influx of people coming in at once. Training should have unquestionably occurred much earlier. This was a significant oversight. 


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


Additionally, a touring band we are closely acquainted with opted to keep their identity confidential but generously offered insights into their experience at the Blue Ridge Rock Festival. We’ve received an excerpt from a source within their circle, Sabrina Rosa, who had this to say:

“Blue Ridge knew of the storm and had stopped shuttles for patrons and bands. Even after the show kept going, the band was NEVER picked up. They were only able to eat because of that monster energy thing that was on the hill overlooking that stage. When it came time to load out, BR did not reply to any of their calls or text; they got a personal friend to use their car to pick up their manager, drive to the artist camp/parking, get the tour bus, and drive it behind Famous Monsters stage where they played. It had been a total of four and a half hours, and all their stuff was cooking in the sun. They were left stranded, basically. It was only during Slipknot that they were able to get back to the bus.”


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


Describing some bands’ poor treatment at Blue Ridge has unfortunately been suggested to be a significant understatement. 

We were in a forested area, so we expected some degree of messiness, but this festival was exceptionally dirty, to say the least. Garbage was piled up everywhere due to inadequate trash cans and insufficient staff to maintain cleanliness. Porta-potties lacked sufficient toilet paper, and the handwashing sinks frequently ran out of water. Astonishingly, a festival meant to accommodate what felt like 100,000 people over a four-day weekend was ill-prepared for such challenges. More resources should have been allocated to make the festival more comfortable and manageable. It’s unforgivable that I only spotted one water refilling station, although it was advertised that there would be two. It’s hard to fathom how such an essential resource as water was so scarce, leaving the only alternative as purchasing a single bottle of water for $4. More measures should have been taken to ensure attendees could stay adequately hydrated, such as having at least four or five water filling stations.

One thing I can assert about Blue Ridge is that this festival struggled in many aspects. Despite being marketed as a “fan-driven festival” with a multitude of bands performing, it suffered from severe staffing issues, a lack of reliable transportation options, unpreparedness for adverse weather conditions, and being oversold at its worst. While the festival had promising ideas, the execution and preparation left much to be desired. It’s highly unlikely that Blue Ridge will be able to recover from these shortcomings.


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


People who contributed the information to this article.

Phil Ryabkin

John Michael Campise

Sabrina Rosa

Rene Campoverde

Jinxx Torres 

Jesus Vazquez

Kelvin “Luigi” Gabriel Lugo 

Jamey Hybrid


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


We understand and empathize with the frustration surrounding the events that took place over the weekend. Firstly, bad weather is beyond anyone’s control and has led to cancellations for other events historically through countless times over the years. However, witnessing the massive responses, potential staff walkouts, and other deteriorating conditions such as vandalized cars, fires starting in the middle of the campground, and more, wouldn’t be surprising to see documented. There’s a substantial amount of ongoing information with facts and rumors continuously sorting out to be confirmed, clarified or denied. While the event initially seemed to have a great start, with Arizona’s Job For A Cowboy returning to the stage, sadly, things unraveled amidst the brewing of a massive storm in all aspects.

Artists who were fortunate enough to perform expressed their joy. Unfortunately, the foreshadowing of how the overall festival would turn out for many festival goers became evident on Night 1 (7th), marred by a lingering storm that forced a sudden evacuation around 6:00 pm. The inclement weather forced attendees to seek shelter at campsites and in their vehicles, leading to widespread chaos. The initial incident sparked a spiral of criticism, particularly concerning the extended wait times for shuttles to exit the festival grounds. Ultimately, the event was canceled by Saturday, for both September 9th and 10th due to severe weather conditions. Organizers announced this via social media, expressing their concern for the safety and well-being of festival-goers. Refund details are yet to be revealed, and organizers have urged attendees to stay safe and support each other during this unexpected turn of events.


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin



As the 2023 Blue Ridge Rock Festival concluded unexpectedly due to ongoing storm activity, event organizers claimed to have implemented plans to ensure the safety and smooth departure of all attendees. Visitors encountering disabled or stuck vehicles were advised to open their car hoods to signal the need for assistance, as UTVs were promised to patrol the campgrounds to provide aid. Mobile fueling services were expected to roam through the campgrounds to provide gas to campers on-site. For those who arrived without a vehicle and required ride-share or pickup services, the on-site box office was there for assistance in shuttling to the Blue Lot. Campground General Stores were promised to remain open into Sunday (10th) morning. The on-site box office remained open from 10am to 2pm on Sunday, and served as a multi-service center for lost and found items, locker item retrieval, and requested unused wristband funds. 

Overall, Blue Ridge Rock Festival featured over 150 artists on the lineup, including Slipknot, Pantera, Danzig, Coheed and Cambria, Static-X, Death Angel, and many more, and it was sold out, setting a record as the largest rock and metal festival in North America, with over 50,000 tickets sold. The venue at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia, had 11,800 campsites to accommodate the majority of attendees throughout the four-day event. Artists who were initially scheduled to perform did their best to make the experience enjoyable for festival-goers. Shinedown’s Brent Smith, along with Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach and viral country artist Oliver Anthony, gave an impromptu performance within the campground area after the festival’s cancellation.


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


At Metal Insider, we prioritize legitimate reporting over rushed copy-and-paste feeds. However, there’s much more to the incidents that occurred over the past weekend, and they are still unfolding. We are happy to share additional stories and highlights, which you can find on Reddit, and in-depth coverage from a site referred to by Pics in the Pit. Major thank you to Phil for sharing your personal feedback and photos!


Metal Insider is deeply concerned about the events that transpired at the Blue Ridge Rock Festival. If you wish to share your story and experiences with us or believe there are inaccuracies that need correction, please don’t hesitate to contact us at tips[at]metalinsider[dot]net. Your input is valuable, and we are committed to providing a platform for your voice to be heard and for any necessary updates to be made.


Photo provided by: Phil Ryabkin


As the countless stories continue, check out some of the highlighted social media reactions below, ranging from the good, bad, and ugly:



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A post shared by Gary Holt (@garyholt_official)


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Categorised in: Festivals, News, Reviews