What happens when you take a tired musician and send him to Welcome to Rockville? You AMP him beyond belief, yes pun intended. As I stood in line waiting to get into the venue, I could feel the wave of emotions in the air. Shouts of joy and chants from all over, spurred on by local rock hype group “The Rockvillans”, were just the tip of what I was about to experience.
Once the gates opened, security did an amazing job of getting people into the rock and roll haven that was Welcome to Rockville. The first major thing I noticed was the easy access to shade, drinks, and food. The layout was very well thought out, helping to cut down on long walks to find concessions or bathrooms. Starting off on the Metropolitan Stage was, Palisades, who sounded amazing! The fabulous job done by Brown Note Productions on light and sound, set the stage for what was about to be an amazing event. With so many amazing bands the day seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Mesmerized by the experience it was hard to believe I had two more days of this ahead. The Used, Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Godsmack, and so many more bands made it seemed like a rocker’s wet dream. As the night finally came like a large curtain blocking out the sun, the Prince of Darkness finally took the stage. Ozzy’s intro was perfect! Starting from the beginning and fast forwarding to the Legend he is now. As he took the stage there was a moment of calm that set across the crowd as they all seemed to take a single breath at the same time. The calm passed in an instant as the whole crowd erupted into screams of excitement to what they were witnessing. The fireworks were a nice added touch. If there was anything to learn from the day it was clear at that moment: You are never too old to live your dream. The start of the first song was a little shaky sound wise as the production team quickly worked to set his levels, but by the second song the venue was roaring in delight. With a light show that would make a person swear they were on drugs, and Zakk Wylde ripping up the stage, the night ended in the presence of legends.
Day 2 started off with a bang! Band after band, talent at every turn, I finally stood grinning like a young child at his first rock concert, as Sevendust took the stage. With an emotional and cd perfect performance they set the bar that would be very hard to reach at any normal event, but this is Welcome to Rockville. As the sun finally began to set Breaking Benjamin took the stage. On tour now for their album Ember, Breaking Benjamin kept the energy going and set the stage for STP, Stone Sour and Avenged Sevenfold to end the night leaving the crowd feeling more energy than when they came.
On the final day of the Festival, I thought I would be dead from the night before, but the rush of electricity that shot through me was immense. With amped up performances from bands like Fireball Ministry, The Bronx, and The Fever 333 kicking off the day you could tell this was going to wrap up the weekend very nicely. I was most pleasantly surprised to hear Greta Van Fleet for the first time, as they took on the stage and made everyone in the audience turn their heads weather for the first time or not, but nevertheless, instantly becoming fans of the nostalgic yet unique sound that is Greta Van Fleet. I personally was amazed at this new generation’s twist on classic rock! Just in time for a second wind of energy to hit, Welcome to Rockville concert goers were graced with the king of New Wave era, Mr. ‘White Wedding’ himself, Billy Idol, and soon to follow the Queens of the Stone Age. As the Queens of the Stone Age took to their last song, you could see concert goers migrate towards the main stage in preparation of the final performance of the weekend as the Foo Fighters graced the stage. At this moment, I found myself thinking about how much I love music. As Dave Grohl came out on stage, I could see the diverse crowd standing on the edge of sheer bliss. Dave surprised us all with a star guest before he hit a classic medley of songs to include a very familiar song and star who you may remember from Grease, yes, John Travolta himself. Dave finished his performance as promised with members of the audience either regretting not previously attending a Foo Fighter concert, or thinking they’ll never miss a concert again if Foo Fighters was on the bill. This performance definitely left Welcome to Rockville concert goers with memories that would certainly leave them eager to attend next year’s festival sooner rather than later. As a whole and getting to know a lot of fellow concert goers, the consensus was that this is one festival that any and all rock fans should be marking down on their concert calendar each year and making a plan to attend.
The only aspects that I would like to see a little different next year pertained to the VIP lounges enter and exit areas getting blocked by the HUGE crowds of regular ticket goers making it very difficult to leave and enter the area. A suggestion made by many concert goers in the VIP area was to limit the amount of VIP tickets sold for the space, as even bathroom lines started to get as long as regular ticket priced bathrooms. Overall, Welcome to Rockville was a positive life changing event for anyone who is thinking of where to go for their first music festival, and/or reconnecting after a long hiatus from the rock concert scene. Most definitely a lot of thought and organization was put into this event to make sure everyone had a great and most of all safe time. The diversity of concert goers, and people who came from all parts of the country was another way to emphasize that music has one powerful way to bring us all together no matter what we personally believe in our personal lives when we get back to our day to day routines away from Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, Florida.
WORDS BY NATHAN SHOEMAKER
PHOTOS BY ORIGINATE DESIGNS PHOTOGRAPHY