Welcome to Rockville 2018

(Originally Published on South Florida Insider)

Eighth Year of Florida’s Largest Hard Rock Festival a Massive Success – Review of the “Welcome to Rockville” festival at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, FL

Story by: Gleb Barabanov

Every year it seems like “Welcome to Rockville”, Jacksonville’s annual gathering of the most massive rock and metal acts in the world, gets bigger and bigger. After starting off as a one-day event in 2011, the festival has evolved into its largest iteration yet, effectively becoming the biggest metal festival in the Florida area. For the first time ever, the festival took place over three days, with each day jam-packed with amazing music to the point where I had to make some very tough choices about which band I wanted to see more.

Taking place in Metropolitan Park and the surrounding area, the event was filled to the brim with things for attendees to do, with nary a moment to of boredom to be found in-between seeing your favorite bands. From the three stages of music each day (brilliantly placed far enough apart so that no two stages ever overlap in sound), to the immense amount of diverse food and drink options to try, there was something for every fan to enjoy at the festival. Along with the expected array of music and food options, there was also a huge LED adorned Ferris wheel that gave you a birds-eye view of the festival, a pop-up wine cellar style booth featuring Maynard James Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars, and mobile guitar shop that let you try and buy some of the best brands in the industry (this was, of course, my personal favorite, and I spent quite a bit of time talking shop with the lady in the PRS booth), along with many others.

The festival kicked off on Friday with an intense starting lineup. Metalcore heroes Trivium, Underoath, Atreyu and Parkway Drive delivered the heaviest sets of the day, driving the crowd insane with their riffs, culminating in many a mosh pit and crowd surfer. More mainstream hard rock acts Five Finger Death Punch and Godsmack drew a huge following as well, with attendees filling out the enormous space in front of the stages to catch a good view of the band, something that was made much easier by the giant LED screens on each side of the stage showing the action to people that were too far to see, or just didn’t want to deal with the crowd.

Of course the main attraction of the day was the presence of the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. This was the first night of his “No More Tours vol.2”, one last trek across the globe to bring his fans worldwide one last chance of catching him live. As Ozzy entered the stage to the throng of screaming fans, a massive barrage of fireworks set off being the crowd to punctuate the arrival of the main event. Bringing out the highly esteemed six string maestro Zakk Wylde to lead the backing band, Ozzy belted out hit after hit to the insanely massive crowd that sang back every word in response. Working his way through classics like Suicide Solution, Bark at the Moon, Mr. Crowley, and No More Tears and well as classic Ozzy-era Black Sabbath songs War Pigs and Paranoid (the last song in his amazing set), the Prince of Darkness showed no signs of slowing down, and even said multiple times during his set “I Ain’t Going Anywhere!”, which hopefully means he will still be doing shows for years to come.

The second day of the festival featured the largest amount of bands playing on a single day out of the whole weekend. A stunning twenty separate acts spread across three stages were stuffed into Saturday, not counting the unfortunate dropout of Killswitch Engage who had to cancel their appearance so their vocalist could get emergency throat surgery. Stone Temple Pilots were in the midst of their first tour with their new singer Jeff Gutt, who did a pretty good job of replicating Scott Weiland’s legendary voice, especially on tracks like Wicked Garden and Plush. They also took the opportunity to debut a new song, Meadow, the first one recorded with the new vocalist. Andrew W.K. brought the party with his unique brand of aggressively upbeat metal. And Corey Taylor began the first night of Stone Sour’s new tour at the fest, bringing out an amazing light setup and confetti cannons to the crowd’s amusement.

Saturday’s main event was the appearance of super-popular metal band Avenged Sevenfold. Flanked by an enormous video screen projecting visuals behind the band and fog machines blasting the stage full of smoke, M. Shadows led the band through smashing versions of The Stage, Afterlife, and Hail to the King. During the show he paused for the crowd and told us that he had blown out his voice from being sick the last couple of days and would do his best to finish the show, but he did such a great job that I would not have known that had he not told us. They finished their time on stage with a one-two punch of crowd favorites Bat Country and Unholy Confessions.

Sunday was a sludge-rock paradise with groups like Clutch, Red Fang, The Sword, and Baroness making rare Florida appearances. Billy Idol drew a huge crowd, with many people chanting along to his songs in a hypnotizing echo effect. Thrice played a killer set, displaying songs from their latest album To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere. And Sludge-rock alums Queens of the Stone Age also made an appearance, jamming though an impressive setlist of crowd-pleasers while surrounded by bouncing LED poles.

Foo Fighters headlined the festivities on Sunday night, with a giant LED rhombus projecting graphics behind the group as they played. Dave Grohl jammed through hits Run, The Pretender, All My Life and Rope. As they played a stripped down version of My Hero, the entire packed festival chanted along to the song, overpowering the sound of the speakers. Billy Idol joined the Foos for a rendition of John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth, and Dave even brought out surprise guest John Travolta after the group’s medley of You’re The One That I Want. They finished their all too short time on stage, and effectively closed out the festival, with their biggest hits Best of You and Everlong to a crowd ever hungry for more.

“Welcome to Rockville” was an amazing three day weekend full of music, food, and fun and I can’t wait to see what the organizers have planned for next year!