Welcome to Rockville 2019

(Originally Published on South Florida Insider)

Florida’s Biggest Rock and Metal Festival Can’t Be Stopped – Feature on the “Welcome to Rockville” Festival in Downtown Jacksonville, Florida

Photos and Story by: Gleb Barabanov

Neither Rain not Storm could stop Florida’s largest rock and metal festival from having its biggest year ever. Over 50,000 rabid fans came to rock out at the eighth edition of the three-day festival, turning the downtown Metropolitan Park area into a cornucopia of musical offerings. Three stages of constantly jamming bands filled the day, from up and coming bands like Architects and Ocala locals Wage War to established acts like Killswitch Engage and Chevelle (and of course, headliners such as the almighty TOOL). I particularly liked the setup of the festival, with bands timed out to start playing one right after the other. It ensured that there was never a dull moment in the festival where you’re waiting for a band to start playing. I also liked that the lineup has some oddball choices in there (lookin’ at you, Yellawolf)

Another thing I really enjoyed was the amazing variety of things to do even if you weren’t watching a band. A massive variety of food vendors serving everything from pizza to crowd favorite Island Noodles ensured that even the pickiest of eaters could find something to munch on. A craft beer garden, liquor booths, and even a stand from Maynard’s own Caduceus Cellars in addition to travelling beer vendors throughout the festival and a stilt-walking shot-girl provided libations of all kinds. And the awesome assortment of vendors selling everything from cigars to clothes to vapes (including my favorite booth, the guitar booth) left festivalgoers going home happy each night.

Although the fest suffered a small weather related setback a couple of the days, I was very impressed with how they handled it. Almost all the bands scheduled were able to play their sets, and the festival was even able to get the Mayor of Jacksonville to agree to extend the noise ordinance until midnight.

The festival provided a veritable cornucopia of music for fans of all ages. On Friday, guitar master Tom Morello played some of his new electronic-oriented material, as well as breaking into some of his older hits, including a medley of some Rage Against the Machine songs and an Audioslave song as a tribute to Chris Cornell. Killswitch Engage put on an absolutely amazing, if shortened, set. Jesse Leach’s voice still sounds as good as ever, and the one-two punch of guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroezel kept a moshpit going the entire time. After a couple of songs, the weather turned sour and rain began to monsoon on the crowd. The band had to stop playing and everyone had to crowd under the bridge while the weather passed, but thankfully all the bands that were scheduled to play for that day were still able to play.

After a small delay while the skies cleared up, crowd favorite Flogging Molly emerged onto the stage to much aplomb from the waiting crowd. Jamming through their hits such as Swagger and If I Ever Leave This World Alive, the group did an amazing job in kicking the festival back off and getting the wet concert-goers up and at ‘em again. They finished their time on stage with their most famous song, The Seven Deadly Sins.

Due to Keith Flint’s unfortunate untimely passing, The Prodigy were not able to perform this year. However, The Crystal Method was able to come in at the last second and cover their time. Scott Kirkland put on a killer show, an eclectic mix between rock and electronic “big beat” music, and after the amazing set he put on the thought of an electronic music act at a metal festival no longer sounded strange to me. Chevelle was up next, and the Illinois trio put on a killer show as always. Consisting of brothers Pete, Sam and Dean, the alternative metal trio emerged onto the fog-covered stage and blasted right off into their song Young Wicked. After a few more songs from their newer albums, they finished their all too short time on stage with their biggest hits, The Red and Send the Pain Below to a cheering crowd hungry for more.

After a small break to set up the stage, the night’s headliner Korn was finally ready. The first few beats of Dead began to play, and Jonathan Davis appeared with the rest of the band. Flanked by a giant LED monitor projecting visuals behind them, the group kicked off right into one of their most famous songs, Falling Away From Me. Cranking through hits like Here to Stay, Make me Bad and Got The Life, the band sounded as tight as ever, with Jonathan nailing every part. The group finished off the first day of the show with their most famous song, Freak on a Leash.

Day two was, thankfully, far less wet. The sunny weather allowed the concert to go off without a hitch, with all of the bands playing on time. Zakk Wilde’s Black Label Society was the first band I was able to catch that day, and Zakk absolutely shredded it. This was his second year in a row playing Rockville (He played here last year with Ozzy), and you could tell he was enjoying himself. Flailing his guitar everywhere as he was jamming out, the group powered through hits Bored to Tears and Suicide MessiahIn This River was played as a tribute to brothers Dime and Vinnie Paul from Pantera, and they finished their time on stage with their most well known song, Stillborn.

The next band I was able to catch was In This Moment. I wasn’t too familiar with their music, but their definitely put on a killer live show. The instrument players were all dressed up in classic metal corpse paint, and singer Maria Brink (surrounded by 3 faceless assistants) appeared on stage wearing a large black shawl. As they began to play, each song was accompanied by an intricately choreographed dance complete with costume changes and new sets. They were one of the most visually impressive bands on the tour for sure, and they definitely made some new fans that night.

Jacksonville natives Shinedown took to the stage next, with Brent Smith and co playing a killer set including fan favorite Second Chance and a cover of fellow Jacksonville natives’ Lynnard Skynnard’s Better ManJudas Priest was the next group to take to the stage, and the nearly half century old group sounded as tight as ever. Rob Halford came out onto the stage wearing a totally awesome Voodoo Necromancer outfit diving right into the first song, appropriately called Necromancer. Each new song had Rob changing into a new outfit, and the group blasted through hits like The Sentinel and Breaking the Law with raw intensity rarely seen in groups these days, much less ones that are almost 50 years old.

A fellow “Rob” was up after Rob Halford and Judas Priest finished their set: Rob Zombie. The main course of the evening was finally set to begin as the lights lowered and the fog filled the stage. Finally Rob Zombie began to appear on the stage along with guitarist John 5 and the rest of his band. Kicking right off into Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown, the band began to play some newer songs. As a giant video screen projected clips of horror movies and music videos, the band played absolute classics such as Superbeast, Living Dead Girl, and the classic White Zombie tune Thunder Kiss ’65. During the some of songs, various giant old-school horror movie monsters marched around the stage while Rob and the rest of the gang played their sets. After a few more songs and a trailer from his new movie Three From Hell, the band finished off with what was arguably their most famous song, Dragula.

Day three was postponed a few hours due to inclement weather, and the doors didn’t open until about 3 pm. However, the festival was once again able to secure the ability to play past the curfew until midnight, and only a minimum number of bands were not able to play. The first group I was able to catch were British metallers Architects, who surprised quite a few crowd goers with their music. The band sounded absolutely fantastic, and I’m sure they made quite a few new fans that weekend. The Interrupters were up next, and although I had never heard of the group before, I was totally stoked to see a ska-punk band on the docket, adding even more variety to the lineup.

Progressive genre innovators Meshuggah were up next, and Jens and company brought the heavy to a whole new lever. Bringing out a hit-filled setlist, the group jammed through Rational Gaze, Lethargica, and Bleed, filling the small third stage to near capacity. Bring Me the Horizon was up next, and even though I had never heard of them either, they definitely won me over with their killer stage show. Giant speaker cabinets lined with LED screens surrounded the stage playing visuals and giant pyro cannons lined the stage. Incubus also put on a great show as always, playing crowd favorites Anna Molly, Pardon Me, Drive and Wish You Were Here.

But of course, the main event of the whole weekend was about to begin. After a long painful wait while the techs set up the stage, TOOL was about to take the stage for the first time this year. The enormous crowd was gathered all the way to the other end of the stadium, with the band easily drawing the biggest crowd of the show. As the lights dimmed and smoke filled the stage, Adam, Maynard, Danny and Justin walked out and took the stage, breaking into the first song AEnema. The crowd went absolutely wild with crowdsurfers riding back and forth all the way to the front of the stage. They debuted two new songs, Descending and Invincible, finally giving the hungry fans a taste of new Tool for the first time in 13 years! If you’ve never seen Tool live, it’s an absolutely incredible show, with large screens playing videos created by Adam and his team while an amazing light and laser show went on behind them. Playing crowd-pleasing classics Schism, Forty-Six & 2, and Sweat, Maynard drove the crowd absolutely bonkers as the surrounding fans screamed every word back at him. After a short break featuring Ions (-), the band broke into Stinkfist as their encore, pushing their time to the very end of their curfew and playing an amazing hour and a half set.

The festival was a fantastic experience that, even though it was slightly delayed by the weather, was still the best metal festival that I’ve been to in a long time. I cannot wait to see what Welcome to Rockville has lined up for next year!