The Welcome to Rockville Festival at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, Florida sets an attendance record with a killer line-up, gourmet food and lots & lots of ice cold beer and spirits.

The World’s Loudest Month kicked off in grand fashion on April 29th & 30th with the Welcome to Rockville Festival in Jacksonville, Florida and their sister festival Fort Rock in Fort Myers.  The record-breaking weekend saw over 75,000 music fans converge on the two sites. National Rock Review attended the 7th annual gathering in Jacksonville featuring over 40 bands on 3 stages.

Mother Nature co-operated and the Rock Gods smile as the weekend was filled with clear blue skies and temps hovering in the high 80s. Badflower and Dutch metal band The Charm The Fury launched the festival as they stepped on the gas with 2 amazing sets. The European influence was abundant all weekend and included Sweden’s In Flames & Amon Amarth, Canada’s Three Days Grace, England’s Dinosaur Pile-Up & Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes and France’s Gojira. However, the overall European crowd favorite definitely went to Def Leppard, who closed out the festival on Sunday night.

In between, the fans were treated to an eclectic mix of rock and metal that was complimented with gourmet food and ice cold beverages compliments of Jack Daniels, Monster Energy, Bud Light and more. The Music Experience tent had gear for every musician in the crowd while the FYE tent was stocked to the roof with everyone’s favorite CDs. Both areas featured a never-ending line-up of Meet & Greet guests giving fans an opportunity to shake hands and converse with their musical heroes.

One of my favorite moments of the festival was an acoustic set given by Them Evils on Sunday afternoon in the FYE tent.  Band members flip flopped all weekend with Brent Hinds of Mastodon jumping on stage with Eagles of Death Metal and Maria Brink of In This Moment joining Papa Roach. After getting frustrated with faulty pick-ups, Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan brought the crowd to a roar as he smashed his axe to bits on the stage front amps.

Columbus Ohio based Starset was another crowd favorite with their blending of symphonics, electronics, and guitar riffs all while dressed in 2001 A Space Odyssey type outfits. Not an easy feat in 90 degree plus weather !!

Soundgarden brought the house down with a 13 song closing set that was full of color, energy, and Cornell’s stellar voice. From the opening notes of “Spoonman” to the closing riffs of “Beyond the Wheel”, every fan in the place had fists in the air and voices singing along.

Mother Nature continued to please the Rock Gods and festival goers, as Day 2 brought the even warmer weather with temps reaching into the low 90s. Queens, New York-based Sylar and Austin, Texas’ Fire from the Gods opened the show with their rap-infused metal. But this day belonged to dynamic lead vocalists, as Jonny Hawkins of Nothing More, Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons, and Chris Cerulli of Motionless in White engorged the crowd with their dynamic ranges and each one left the stage drained of every ounce of energy.

Speaking of Nothing More, they debuted their latest mechanical guitar contraption called “The Scorpion’s Tail”, stinging the crowd with note after flailing note. In This Moment brought their usual Alice Cooper inspired show with rhythm guitarist Randy Weitzel adding a little blood drool alla Gene Simmons.

I was really pumped to see Of Mice and Men with Aaron Pauley on lead vocals and I wasn’t disappointed…the band lets it all hangout and was a completely different outfit from the version I witnessed during last summer’s tour.

Having witnessed a Perfect Circle like black stage club show just 3 days earlier in Detroit, I had my doubts about taking the time to watch Motionless in White. I’m so glad I skipped the hot dog and beer, as Chris Cerulli and the gang put on the show of the day. With non-stop action, Chris’ voice in perfect shape, and the largest crowd of the day, MIW had everyone on their feet and singing along.  The surfers were having a field day as the young ladies screamed their approval.

Canadian rockers Three Days Grace took the stage for an eleven song set that much like OMM had me completely forget about former vocalist Adam Gontier as Matt Waist commanded the stage. Guitarist, Barry Stock with his beard blowing in the wind pounded out riff after riff on their hits “Painkiller”, “Riot”, and fan favorite “I Hate Everything About You”.

Def Leppard closed out the weekend taking the crowd by surprise, jumping on stage 10 minutes early and causing a mad rush of fans coming over from the Chevelle gig.  They more than made up for the “Hysteria” with an all out 15 song set covering their entire catalog of hits.

I’m still debating whether I like the new split stage set-up at this year’s festival. My feet are telling me one thing, but my heart is telling me another. There are also some rumors about the festival moving to Daytona Beach next year, as the park has been put up for development by the City of Jacksonville. In either case, Welcome to Rockville, has already been placed on my MUST DO list of festivals for next and I suggest you do the same.

Welcome to Rockville
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