The World’s Loudest Month of rock festivals kicked off with Welcome To Rockville at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, Florida.
After seven successful years as a two-day festival, Welcome To Rockville expanded to three days for their 8th annual edition. The festival has grown from the grassy, tree-lined grounds of Metropolitan Park to also include portions of the EverBank Field parking lot. Mother Nature provided the best of weather conditions with clear skies and a soothing breeze for the crowd of over 90,000 rockers.
Opening up the festival was Boston-based MDFK with their very own unique blend of Prog-Death metal. Next up was a little southern blues and classic rock influenced jive courtesy of Them Evils, Texas Hippie Coalition, and 68. Each was like a runaway locomotive of unique sound that had the crowd up and grooving along to every beat. Rock and Roll is about cutting loose, throwing back a few brews, raising your hands, banging your head, and living life loud and proud. A recipe that each of these bands puts down with their lyrics and beats.As the only female fronted act on today’s line-up, Lzzy Hale and Halestorm had their work cut out for them and they shredded the competition. Opening with “Love Bites (So Do I )” off their LP The Strange Case Of…, they ripped through a 10 song, sixty-minute set that clearly showed the power of Hale’s vocal range. Hale confirmed at the festival that HALESTORM fans should expect to hear some new music from the band this summer. “It’s happening, we’re going to unleash something for you, actually, within the next two months or so — probably less than that, actually.”
As the only female-fronted act on today’s line-up, Lzzy Hale and Halestorm had their work cut out for them and they shredded the competition. Opening with “Love Bites (So Do I )” from their LP The Strange Case Of…, they ripped through a ten song, sixty-minute set that clearly showed the power of Hale’s vocal range. She confirmed at the festival that Halestorm fans should expect to hear some new music from the band this summer. “It’s happening, we’re going to unleash something for you, actually, within the next two months or so — probably less than that, actually.”
Next up…fans and even the event organizers themselves got the surprise of their life as Jim Steelman and Michelle Carlisle got married on site and sat down to enjoy the honeymoon of a lifetime. “I think that’s incredible,” said Lindsey Medina, head of marketing. “For us, these festivals are a really really special moment in time for all of us so I love that other fans are viewing it the same way.”
Five Finger Death Punch launched into a heavy set of classic hits combined with political rants. There were no signs of the previous malcontent as the band members smiled and joked throughout the set with Zoltan Bathory laying down the licks while smiling ear to ear. As per usual, Moody peeled off piece after piece of jewelry throwing them out to his adoring fans and even invited a couple of young crowd surfers up onto the stage. The stop in Jacksonville provided sixty minutes of hits and covers of Bad Company’s “Bad Company” and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” but there was no sign of their recent chart topper and OffSpring cover “Gone Away”.
As the sun began to set and the cool breeze set in, and the opening riff’s of Cypress Hill’s “Rock Superstar” filled the air, the crowd became fired up with the anticipation of Sully Erna and Godsmack taking the stage. Hot on the heels of their latest release When Legends Rise, their first album in four years, the band was primed and ready to let loose. Launching their career at Woodstock 99, Godsmack is the king of festival show and tonight was the crown. Filled with pyro, extreme lighting, sonic booms, and their entire catalogue of hits, this was an adrenaline rush entering your veins from start to finish. Opening with “When Legends Rise” and “Eye of the Storm” off their latest release, Sully and the boys laid down 12 tracks during the set with an even mix of hits and new work. During “Batalla de los Tambores”, the crowd was treated to a rock roll snippet of licks including The Beastie Boys “So What’cha Want”, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, and Led Zep’s “Moby Dick” complete with Erna duelling Shannon Larkin on the drums and a crowd surfer inside a plastic beach ball rolling atop the crowd.
Walking out on stage to the thunderous applause of his adoring fans, Ozzy Osbourne quickly announced “I’ll never retire. I ain’t f@*king going nowhere!!” before breaking into the opening lyrics of “Bark at the Moon”. Officially kicking off his No More Tours Part 2, his 14-song set closed out day one of the festival. Included in the set was a long 20-minute rendition of the Black Sabbath hit “War Pigs” that included a killer drum solo by Tommy Clufetos and a crowd surf by legendary guitarist Zakk Wylde. Ozzy admitted a while back that his voice doesn’t always hold up these days. “Sometimes it blows out,” he said. “I do the best I can. Sometimes I sound terrible, and sometimes it’s good, you know. But I’m only human. I mean, I’m honest about it, you know.” Well on this night, he sounded in rare and classic form as he belted tunes from across his storied career including “Crazy Train”, “Road to Nowhere”, “Shot in the Dark”, and the encore closer “Paranoid”.
Opening Day two of Welcome to Rockville was Jacksonville’s own Yashira, the only locally based band in the festival line-up. With their hard core prog based licks and mother nature giving us another clear blue sky, we didn’t find ourselves with an ounce of grief.
Saturday featured a mitt full of up and coming acts with Joyous Wolf, Palaye Royale, and Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown rocking the stages throughout the afternoon. Wolf’s lead guitarist Blake Allard reminds you of a young Dave Mustaine, while Tyler Bryant could trade blues riffs with any of the greats. Canadian punk rockers The Wild! burst on stage with eager anticipation from the crowd. With non-stop energy and a pistol full of tricks, the band raised the energy level ten fold. Taking lessons from Gene Simmons and Nikki Stixx, lead singer Dylan Villain pulls out a bag full of on-stage antics, but they are the perfect compliment to songs such as “Roadhouse” and “Slow Burn.”
Gothenburg Sweden’s Avatar brought a whole new routine to the festival with lead guitarist Jonas Jarlsby sitting front and center as The King in his throne, while the heavy beats of “A Statue of the King” poured through the speakers.
With half the day under their belt, it was time to eat and hydrate and there was no shortage of food or drink. For less than $10, you could find a plateful of pulled pork, blackened shrimp, tacos or even a custom-made wood-fired pizza, a far cry from the hot dog and a bag of chips this would normally get you at the stadium. As far as beverages were concerned, Monster Energy came through with ice cold freebies while Jack Daniels, Bud Light, Caduceus Cellars and Heavy Tiki served up island cocktails and spirits.
Back to the action, it’s unclear why they were relegated to the side stage, but the Butcher Babies made the most of the smaller crowd with one of the most energetic sets of the day. Carla and Heidi let it all hang out in the scorching heat, exchanging high fives with crowd surfer after crowd surfer.
A young lad named Landon and his father attended the Music Experience tent as part of their Welcome to Rockville trip, where he met Clint Lowery of Sevendust. Lowery was so impressed with the 12-year old’s shredding skills, that later that afternoon he invited him on stage during their set. His magical weekend didn’t end there, the next day Landon participated in the Music Experience 30-Seconds-To-Shred contest hosted by Gear Factor’s Squiggy and ended up winning first place and a Paul Reed Smith guitar in the “Best of the Best.”
The afternoon continued with festival favorites Hollywood Undead, Black Veil Brides, and Asking Alexandria. A treat for all their fans to see them perform outside of dark venues and into the bright warm sun. Andrew W.K. closed out the side stage with an energetic set with the fans “partying hard” along with the beats.
Corey Taylor, fronting the other rock in the line-up Stone Sour, has all of the chops to front multiple entities. Touring relentlessly in 2017/2018 to support their latest release Hydrograd, Taylor and the band left nothing behind during their set. Opening with “Whiplash Pants” from the new album and the crowd was immediately engaged. The ten-song set was littered with fantastic lighting, pyro, and Corey soaking the crowd with water bottles and even a confetti-shooting bazooka.
The day ended on a somber note as Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows was clearly suffering from serious vocal issues and part way through their set a serious injury to a crowd surfer forced them to suspend performing for about 30 minutes.
Day three or as it was nicknamed by the fans “Foo Sunday” began with another clear blue sky and temperatures climbing into the mid-eighties. The buzz in the air started early as word spread about this band called The Fever 333. You can often be let down by this early buzz when the band is clearly not able to live up to its reputation. Approaching the stage, a lone male figure dressed in a black outfit stood in front of a white sheet and your mind began to race about what this gimmick was all about. However, this was clearly NOT the case as the sheet came down and lead singer Jason Aalon Butler ( ex of Letlive ) ripped off the hood and began a thunderous assault on the crowd of fans. With lyrics based around the message of Community, Charity, and Change, the band is a combination of Rage Against the Machine, NWA, and a little Yelawolf thrown in for fun.
Even more buzz was being circulated about Greta Van Fleet, who have exploded over the past year. Guitarist Jake Kiszka, who is featured on the cover of the June issue of Guitar Player, and his merry band of brothers had the crowd hooked from note one. Although their set seemed short at only six songs, the long drawn out riffs played by Jake extended the set to just over 30 minutes. Clearly, these guys have the hearts of the many young ladies in the crowd, but the hardcore lyrics and savage licks have won over the men too.
Britain’s hottest new Indie band Wolf Alice touring in support of their latest effort Visions of a Life’, took the crowd by surprise. We were expecting a softer set, but instead were treated to hardcore punk with a twist of pop. Lead vocalist, Ellie Rowsell showed a stunning vocal range while the entire crowd of fans sang along.
Glam rocker Billy Idol and longtime guitarist Steve Stevens tore through a 10 song set that included “Dancing With Myself”, “Flesh for Fantasy”, “Rebel Yell”, and the classic “White Wedding”. The latter done with Idol stripping down shirtless and showing that he can still compete with the young guns on the marquee.
In true Queens of the Stone Age fashion, the beautiful sunny mid-afternoon stage was completely engulfed in smoky fog by the band leaving the crowd barely able to see Josh Homme or his bandmates, but on the flip side, no photographers were hurt during the set.
David Grohl and the Foo Fighters have been known to share the stage with many surprise guests, some like “KISS GUY” Rick Astley and today’s show was no different where the famous Danny Zuko aka John Travolta showed up. Travolta, who recently wrapped up filming the new Fred Durst movie Moose, apparently was watching the band from the side of the stage. About mid-way through the performance, Grohl broke into the Grease hit, “You’re the One That I Want”, and Travolta responded by walking out on stage to give Grohl a hug, but refused the invite to sing along. Also, during their set, the Foo Fighters brought out Billy Idol to cover John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”. Playing for over two hours, their set was the highlight of the festival and was the crowning glory of three days of music madness.
We give Danny Wimmer and his crew five thumbs up as this weekend with its massive line-up and bucket loads of potential logistical nightmares went off without a hitch and everyone has already begun talking about what 2019 will bring to Jacksonville. See you there!!!
Event Date: 27-APR-2018 to 29-APR-2018