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Blue Ridge Rock Festival

Tour Manager Who Worked 2023 ‘Blue Ridge Rock Festival’ Calls It An “Utter Sh*tshow”, Reports Of Festival Staff Strike Emerge


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There’s been a lot said on the internet regarding this past weekend’s ‘Blue Ridge Rock Festival‘. Billed as ‘America’s largest rock & camping festival’, the annual event, which was held in Alton, VA, was hit by severe weather on the opening night, September 07th, leading to much reported chaos and confusion. Various fan reports detailed issues with shuttling from the festival grounds to the campgrounds and vice versa, along with numerous tents and campsites being destroyed by the weather.

However, while the festival was ultimately cancelled on September 09th, with organizers citing severe weather, those who attended and even worked at the tour have shared conflicting accounts on the festival’s demise. One of the touring professionals working backstage at the festival has since shared his account of what went down during his time working the fest.

TankTheTech, who was employed by Electric Callboy during their appearance at the fest, has released the below video detailing his own personal experience, which he went out of his way to clarify was his own opinion and should not reflect upon the aforementioned band. In the video he outlines a timeline of stunted communication around the festival, a lack of preparedness and more.

According to Tank, Electric Callboy, who performed at the festival on September 08th, were provided little to no stagehands, initially had no air conditioning in their dressing room and ‘non-existent’ catering. The latter was said to have been explained to him as being a symptom of the chaos of the storm that rocked the festival a day prior.

Tank also complained that a lack of water was present amid the backstage area, while a prolonged wait on any transportation around the festival grounds backstage hampered his and the band’s time at the fest. He further claimed that this situation was prevalent amid nearly all performers at the festival.

One glaring instance he outlined is a scheduling change for a signing session at the fest, which he claims was agreed to in advance. Apparently the change was not reflected by the organizers of the festival.

Tank claims that not only did the signing session not have security, but also that the fans lined up were apparently there for a different band as the updated schedule for the signings had allegedly not been shared with festivalgoers in attendance.

That confusion was exacerbated when another artist apparently also scheduled for the same time showed up, leading to a minor confrontation which resulted in Electric Callboy ultimately abandoning their signing plans.

Tank further outlined delays in getting transportation and stagehands to haul the band’s gear to the stage in a timely fashion and begin setup for their set. Venting on his overall frustration, he stated in the video [transcribed by theprp.com]:

“…What I started realizing in that moment was that every single fucking thing that I advanced with that festival never got relayed to anybody. So, I realized that the staff at the festival was basically flying blind. The stage manager had no advances on anything. The stagehands that were there—which was not many of them—I only saw like 4 or 5 all day, and at a festival like that you usually have a dozen per stage, nobody knew what was going on. They didn’t know what the bands had.

I started realizing that all of the on the ground festival staff that was supposed to be doing hospitality and artist relations, they were all completely stressed. And it hit me that nobody has prepared these people for anything that’s going on with this festival. And I felt so bad for them. I hold no animosity whatsoever to the festival staff here that was on the ground working. It was complete chaos.”

Tank also relayed an incident in moving the band’s equipment and gear to the stage, in which a flatbed truck was provided, but had allegedly had no straps to secure the gear for the drive. According to Tank, one of the festival staff told the group’s crew to ride on the truck to secure the gear manually for the mile-and-a-half ride to the stage.

That decision apparently led to the minor injury of the band’s production manager, with one of the unsecured carts smashing his leg. He claims a stagehand also had a close call.

Speaking on the festival experience from the fans perspective, Tank offered:

“I walked the grounds. Dude, I am sorry for any of you that were at ‘Blue Ridge Rock Fest‘. I walked the grounds and what I saw, was like, it was unbelievable. I believe they let in too many people, just from me looking, I would guess that. I saw trash piles about 7 feet tall, all over the festival grounds. Like, they had no sanitation crews taking out garbage.

From what I understand, from what I was hearing from people that were there, they had nobody cleaning out porta potties. Porta potties were overflowing. There was barely enough water for anybody at the festival.

There were people just taking spots in the shade wherever they could. This was horrendous. This was absolutely horrendous that people paid their hard-earned money, and traveled from all of the world to go to this festival, and they were treated like scum. It was embarassing for me to see that, how the fans were treated.

I also understand that they weren’t letting people in. People paid extra money to get shuttles from the campgrounds and the parking to the stages, and they were school buses. I don’t know how many they had, but definitely not enough to carry the people there. I saw messages from people online that said that they waited online for hours and hours and hours and still never got let into the festival.”

Despite claiming to have conferred with the festival’s production a month in advance with later follow-ups regarding the load-in and setup for their gear, Tank claims that during changeover that the stage manager working the stage the band were booked for was unaware that the band had video carts and more. Tank claims that he felt bad for the manager, claiming that he had essentially “been thrown to the wolves” amid the alleged disarray.

Tank also claims that inadequate power was available during their set time, with the stage electrician claiming that they were not advanced on the band’s proper power needs, leading to a scramble to get their video carts setup. Thanks to the generosity of another band scheduled to perform after Electric Callboy, they were able to tie into some of their power.

Tank did concede that after the set, the air conditioning in the band’s dressing room had finally been fixed and that catering was provided, though he claimed water was still scarce. He went on to say that the issues with the festival did not end there for himself and the band however.

He alleged that a general lack of confusion persisted in getting the band’s gear loaded back up, leading to a two-hour delay. He stated, “I found out that they only had like one flatbed truck and forklift for the entire fucking festival, 40 bands a day. It’s just crazy. Insane logistics.”

He later said of the overall experience, “this is a step above ‘Fyre Festival‘, and I only say that because the bands actually played.” Tank later stated that he was able to have a face-to-face with the festival’s promoter Jonathan Slye, to which he vented his various complaints regarding the festival.

According to him, Slye was apparently shocked at the band’s experience. He allegedly told Tank that the production staff had been hired from the ‘Sick New World‘ festival. Tank claimed that Slye told him that he had taken on the festival trying to ‘change it’ and that he had ‘sunk millions and millions of dollars’ into the event to ensure that it ran correctly.

Explaining why he felt the need to speak up on the festival and his experience at it, Tank offered:

“I feel that people should be held accountable for this and that’s why I’m talking about this. Again, this was the most unorganized, unprofessional, unsafe production I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life touring. I can’t speak for any of the other bands because I don’t know how it was on the other stages.

We were not on the main stage, I don’t know how it was for bands like Slipknot and Danzig that were there the same day. But I do have friends, I do have friends in a lot of camps that were on the other stages. I heard a lot of the same things from other people.”

He further voiced his suspicions on the ultimate cancelation of the festival, stating:

“When I saw that the festival was canceled the next day due to ‘weather’, I was like no fucking way. I looked at the radar immediately and there was no weather in that area, at all. They canceled that festival because it was a shitshow. I talked to some friends that were there on that Saturday and I was told that a lot of the festival staff had walked off. They said ‘no, we’re not doing this anymore.’ They left.

The festival is blaming the weather for the cancelation for everything. Maybe that first day with the storms was what made everything go sideways. So you could maybe say weather was a reason, but it was not the reason. The reason this festival canceled is because it was an utter shitshow from the day it started getting planned. That’s my opinion from what I experienced.”

A report published by WDBJ7, finds various festival workers employed by the festival speaking out on the lack of proper sanitary conditions (the report alleges 6 porta potties were provided for a workforce of over 150 stagehands amid the festival’s two-week setup.)

It is further stated in that report a list of demands was apparently delivered to the festival organizers the night of Friday, September 08th on behalf of the staff working the event. That list, as shown in the above report, cited a need for more showers, water stations, sufficient catering for works, some safer shelter, better leadership and total transparency on work.

Per the report, the festival workers threatened to go on strike at 5:00pm on Saturday, September 09th. Festival organizers issued a statement earlier that day stating the festival’s programming on Saturday had been canceled due to ‘severe weather’, promising to provide a further update on the situation at the very same time the strike was to come into play.

The stagehands interviewed by the aforementioned publication stated that the festival’s organizers did not agree to their demands and as many as “80%” of the staff walked within 2 hours of the deadline. An official announcement canceling the rest of the festival was made on Saturday.

Interestingly, WDBJ7 also received word from the Halifax County Sherriff’s Office that the festival reported 45,000 tickets were sold for the event. However, the Sherriff’s Office estimates there were 50,000-60,000 in actual attendance at the fest.

In the wake of various media, fan reports and more, a new statement was issued by the festival overnight, it reads as follows:

Blue Ridge Family – thank you for your patience during these heartbreaking circumstances. There is an overabundance of misinformation circulatiing that we will fully address in due time. We see you, and are working as quickly as possible on our end to take care of you.

This past weekend’s weather cancellation was a collective one, made by the events emergency management team composed of state and county officials, as well as representatives from the venue.

We are currently in extensive discussions with our ticketing company and partners. we ask for a bit more of your patience as we work to provide you with resolution.”

Thus far information regarding potential refunds for the festival is expected later this week.

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