When you pull into the parking lot of the Central Florida Fairgrounds at ten in the morning and see groups of people adorned with piercings, tattoos, and multi-colored hair drinking beer by their cars, you might think: “I might be in the wrong neighborhood!” Or, if you’re like me, you think: “This is going to be one hell of a party!”
I’ve been to this thunderous celebration of hellacious hard rock for each of the past four years. The festival on the banks of the St. Johns River always features a handful of huge metal bands and five times as many smaller bands on the cusp. There’s definitely something for everyone blaring on one of the Welcome To Rockville stages at any time, but here are five bands that everyone should check out.
Fort Rock, the sister festival to Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, has set the dates and lineup for 2017. Similar to Rockville, Fort Rock will see Def Leppard headline Saturday, with Soundgarden headlining Sunday evening. Other featured acts include a reunited A Perfect Circle, The Offspring, Mastodon, and Chevelle. The fifth annual show sponsored by Monster Energy Drink will be held on April 29th and 30th at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL.
Welcome To Rockville Lineup Announced for 2017 Event
Earlier today, the long-awaited 2017 lineup announcement for Welcome To Rockville was released. This year’s featured bands include a few legendary artists and a slew of up and coming acts. Early bird tickets go on sale Tuesday, December 6th for the April 29th and 30th event at Jacksonville’s Metropolitan Park.
(Our band photos from the festival are provided after each band’s recap)
Before I get into my capsule band reviews, let me remind you of a few things. There were two bands playing at a time, virtually all the time, so by default, I missed half the artists. I also was backstage interviewing from time-to-time, so I missed a few other bands. Basically, if I missed your favorite act, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
These bands are listed in the order that I saw them:
Rev Theory – The crowd and I were really into “Hell Yeah,” but truthfully, the rest of the set was kind of mediocre.
Middle Class Rut – Two talented musicians, but still, just two guys! Hard to believe with the sound they pumped out but they filled the air with powerful, hard driving alt-rock, and drummer Sean Stockham was one of the highlights of the day. Middle Class Rut Photos
Monster Truck – was not familiar with this soulful foursome at all. I assumed they were a big Texas rock band based on their guitar driven southern sound. I was wrong, these guys hail from Hamilton Ontario, but they’ve got a sound big enough for Texas. Monster Truck Photos
Adelitas Way – Lead singer Rick DeJesus had tremendous rapport with the crowd and quickly had them at a fever pitch. At one time, he directed the fans to keep crowd surfing stageside where he jumped down to greet them. He joked that the Security crew wasn’t going to be happy. Yeah, no shit. He nailed that one, as a tidal wave of fans surfed to the stage front. He and his mates sounded great and put on a killer show, but he was a bit of an ass for putting the fans and Security crew at risk when the surfing escalated out of control. Adelitas Way Photos
Evergreen Terrace – They killed it. I don’t love their music, but I was about the only one in the crowd who didn’t. Local boys definitely on the brink of bigger things. Front man Andrew Carey sang the closer from amidst the crowd. Cool stuff. Evergreen Terrace Photos
Chiodos – These midwest rockers offered up engaging alt-rock with a gritty hard edge. The band has reunited and sounded sharp. They offered one of our favorite lines of the festival: “You’re all hot and sweaty, and not even with your own sweat; but that’s rock n roll.” Indeed it is. Chiodos Photos
Smile Empty Soul – Hard to believe these guys have already been around for 15 years. Their grunge infused rock sounded great in a set nicely book-ended by their early hit “Bottom Of The Bottle” and their strong new release “Chemicals.” We caught up with drummer Jake Kilmer afterwards and will be sharing that interview shortly on this website. (So Follow / Like for alerts) Smile Empty Soul Photos
Alter Bridge – As good as the first group of bands were, they just kicked the talent up a notch. Two uber-talented guitarists, Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti absolutely lit the stage up; and Kennedy also offered up what might have been the best vocals of the day. Their thirty minute set was damn near perfect. I liked hearing the band express their appreciation for the active, engaged crowd, despite the fact that they took the stage at the sweltering worst time of the day. Alter Bridge Photos
Volbeat – Love their music, but had never seen these Danish rockers perform live. They’re making some of the most intriguing hard rock gracing the airwaves these days and it translated great on the big stage, as they were my Top Artist of Welcome To Rockville. Front man Michael Poulsen’s voice was distinctive and powerful and he humorously interacted with the crowd throughout the set. The entire band sounded fantastic, and dual lead guitars from Poulsen and Rob Caggiano stole the show. They also offered a campy Johnny Cash cover that had the crowd singing along. Volbeat Photos
Cult – The first time I saw Cult, they opened for Billy Idol in the mid-eighties. I love their music and their album Love is one of my personal Top 10 ever. But, quite frankly, they still are weak live. I just get the feeling there’s someplace (anyplace) that Ian Astbury would rather be, and even Billy Duffy and his band mates could care less.
We Came As Romans – I heard they were a talented band with a unique approach to their rock music, but was surprised by how good this band sounded. Their mix of hardcore metal and sweet pop worked perfectly. The crowd loved them and these guys are destined to continue their ascent up the rock music charts. The vocal trade-offs between Kyle Pavone and David Stephens was one of the highlights from the entire Festival. I need to catch this band performing a full set soon. We Came As Romans Photos
Avenged Sevenfold closed night one with a big arena set, plenty of effects and pyro, and they were smoking. Why the heck they closed the show at the smaller of the two stages, I will never understand. Unfortunately I watched from somewhere just north of St. Augustine but there’s no denying they nailed their set and closed night one mightily.
Within Reason – These guys kicked off Day 2 of Welcome To Rockville, after doing the same thing the night before in Ft. Myers. The quartet from Alabama are doing there own thing on this tour and with their new album and it seems to be working great as their tight set was packed with excellent active rock ‘n roll. A great way to start the day! (We’ll have a full band interview in the next few weeks so make sure you Follow for updates). Within Reason Photos
The Pretty Reckless – Well, Taylor Momsen was “Pretty” but their music was just plain bland. I was bored.
Sick Puppies – This talented trio brought it from Down Under to the Monster Energy Fire Museum stage and put on a nice Alt-Rock set. Shimon Moore sounded great and had the crowd’s apt attention and as they raced through an engaging set. Female bass player Emma Anzai was one of the few females gracing a stage this weekend and without a doubt, the most memorable, as she delivered a great performance bouncing all over the stage. Sick Puppies Photos
Nothing More – For the second straight festival, Nothing More, a talented quartet out of San Antonio stole the show. They play gritty addictive hard rock that had the crowd engaged throughout. Still, as good as the music is, it is blown away by their stage show. Every band member is a consummate performer, and their theatrics on the stage were unparalleled all weekend. A spinning elevated bass, four drum kits and a whole lot more. Trust us these guys put on one hell of a show and are a can’t miss act. Nothing More Photos
Black Label Society – Another band that just didn’t really do it for me. They had a big passionate crowd, and the guitar work from Zakk Wylde and crew was solid, but nothing really stood out about their set, so I left early to see…
Lacuna Coil – caught the end of their set, and quickly wished I had seen the whole thing. Goth metal with underlying catchy melodies. Christina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro nicely traded off girl-boy lead vocals and sounded strong. Lacuna Coil Photos
Theory Of A Deadman were the first band we saw at the featured Metropolitan Park stage, and they commanded the crowd’s attention, with lead singer Tyler Connolly by far the most entertaining front man of the event. He played a fun brief “Sweet Home Florida” and before “Bitch Came Back,” introduced it as a song for the ladies. The band absolutely killed it. Theory Of A Deadman Photos
Seether sounded good, but quite frankly did not live up to my expectations – a decent set, but not the “Can’t Miss” band I expected. Their closing song, “Remedy” did not suck, however 🙂
Staind – Aaron Lewis was at the opposite end of the spectrum, his voice was fantastic and Staind sounded damn near perfect. They had the singalong set of the night, too. “Now,” “Outside,” “Something To Remind You,” and “It’s Been Awhile” had the crowd singing in unison back to back… Staind Photos
Rob Zombie – Unfortunately, we knew we were going to miss Korn, so this was our last act of the weekend. Thankfully Zombie and his band killed it. The stage was a sight to behold, covered in muted eerie images, and Zombie and the band fit in perfectly. They opened with a rousing version of “American Band” and kept the energy going for a fun and powerful set. Zombie was a theatrical front man who put on a killer show. Rob Zombie Photos
All told, it was two days of obscenely sweaty, loud and aggressive rock ‘n roll, and one hell of a good time.
We have hundreds of photos coming in the next 24 hours, which we will share via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
If you were there, who were your favorite acts? We’d love to hear your thoughts.