Photos & Review by Marie-Christine Quirion
After surviving Shiprocked last January, meeting some of the artists and seeing how contagious their energy is, living aboard a ship with bands like Wilson, Papa Roach, Tremonti, & Hyro the Hero (to name a few). The overflowing amphitheaters, destruction of ceilings, as well as climbing the structures of the boat, I did not expect anything different from Welcome To Rockville, except 50,000 people instead of the mere 2600 aboard the Carnival Valor. Obviously… I really had no idea what I was talking about.
As soon as the doors opened around 12 pm, the stadium began to flood with several hundred rock and heavy metal fans. The first performances of the afternoon were launched on 3 different stages by Dirty Honey, Amigo The Devil, Light the Torch, the energetic Hyro The Hero and the boys in Wilson. For loyal fans of Rage Against The Machine, the growing crowd at main stage was treated to an excellent performance by Tom Morello (former guitarist of the band) accompanied only his guitar. The guitarist revisited some classics of alternative rock music and of course, the group that made him so famous.
For on-site foodies, there was something for every and all tastes! Famous local food trucks supplied us with an endless supply of tacos, ice cream, BBQ, pad Thai and schnitzel. Everything was good and in abundance! In terms of refreshments, free Monster energy drinks were obviously on hand, as they sponsor most festivals. There were also many microbrewery beers, Jack Daniel also had his own tent and 4 wines from the Caduceus vineyard, famous by its sole owner, Maynard James Keenan of Tool. New this year, Metallica launched its own alcohol line with Enter Night beer as well as its own whisky, Blackened, specially designed by the band.
Energizing performances from Beartooth, Killswitch Engage, Crystal Method and Flogging Molly managed to win back and warm up the crowd in the early evening after strong winds and a good downpour completely stopped the festivities and forced the evacuation of the audience for a few hours. It was Chevelle and Evanescence (who, making their first return to the stage in years) closed the two side stages. The crowd then compacted in front of the Monster stage for the highlight of the evening; Korn.
Completely dehydrated, feet on fire after walking and dancing so much, it was with a ton of images and songs looping in my head that I returned to my room, around midnight. Although totally exhausted, I was unable to sleep. Wow! The energy and excitement following my first day of Welcome to Rockville was indescribable.
On Saturday, the doors opened on time under cloudless skies and overwhelming humidity. After a succession of rock and heavy metal bands including Tremonti and Badflower, it was the rapper Yelawolf who played the River Stage into the night. With a hip-hop and dirty south sound, it was very interesting to see such great interest and knowledge of rhymes from the rock-heavy metal community. On the Metropolitan Stage, we were treated to Skillet, The Cult and the equally popular despite the years; Judas Priest. Always as colorful as ever, the costume changes, the accessories and even his motorcycle were part of the game.
On the Monster Stage, Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society, In This Moment and hometown heroes Shinedown were able to prepare the more than 45,000 fans who came to watch the spectacular Rob Zombie. Staying true to what I heard, he knew how to elevate the atmosphere and defy the security agents by inviting what seemed like a tidal wave of ‘crowdsurfers’. No cancellation, no raindrop, no delay, Saturday was a perfect day from A to Z for Welcome to Rockville 2019.
Sunday was not as perfect as the previous day. Due to a major weather warning, festival organizers had to postpone the opening time of the gates past 5 pm. A lot of rain and high winds caused damage to the parks facilities and the premises had to be secured before they could let in the impatient fanatics in the parking lot. Unfortunately, some groups were cancelled at the last minute and some performances had to be cut to 30 minutes instead of an hour due to the significant delay caused by mother nature. Still, the fans got their money’s worth.
The newer group, “Fever 333” in my opinion stole the show. From entering the stage in a hooded prisoner uniform, the drummer jumping in the air, encouraging crowdsurfing, climbing the structure to jumping in the audience. Lead singer Jason Butler, took everything and carried it to chaos. In addition, the guys gave us, for the first time in their lives, a performance of 3 songs in acoustic format during their surprise session in the small private section of Zippo. Amazingly, their heavy hitting “Made in America”, was done acoustically, which left no one indifferent.
Another band that distinguished itself on the main stage is Bring Me The Horizon. Post-apocalyptic sets, costumes, dancers, choreography, nothing was left out. It must be said that the bar was set high for them, as they were followed by the highly anticipated Incubus and Tool. I believe that they met the challenge head on, and convinced even the most skeptical.
The 2019 edition of Welcome to Rockville concluded with the talented, but so atypical; Tool. True to himself, the singer Maynard James Keenan once again outsmarted photographers by imposing very strict rules on who could have access to the ‘photopit’ and especially by performing his very first song in the dark. Nevertheless, the band was able to surprise the audience once again by announcing their official return after 13 years with new material and by performing 2 new hits ”Invincible’ and ” Descending”.
In hindsight, I now understand why people were telling me that even after Shiprocked, I hadn’t seen anything. Shiprocked is an extraordinary experience, a small tight knit family and so much fun.
Almost like a weekend retreat for rockers, Welcome to Rockville is an energy bomb. It’s a festival where new bands have the chance to rub shoulders with the greats, and accumulate new fans. It is a festival where there is no interruption or pause to catch your breath, from the opening of the doors to the end of the last song.
No one can remain indifferent to more than 45,000 people sharing a common passion and I am no exception. Jacksonville… I tell you, see you next year!