The RARA’s Farm team decided to divide and conquer this year’s two day Welcome To Rockville festival and I have to think we had the more melodic day, as we enjoyed a magnificent Saturday of excellent rock ‘n roll at the newly configured Metropolitan Park.
Day 1 featured an iconic and diverse cross-section of powerful rock, seamlessly crossing genres and generations, as tens of thousands in attendance were treated to 12 hours of non-stop music. I didn’t love every artist, but I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the fifteen acts I caught on this steamy Florida day.
For me, the day was generally a celebration of bands who broke through in the 90’s and who still brought their A game to the Florida rock music fans who flocked to the four stages.
I’ve got some general thoughts on the overall festival experience below. First, let’s take a look at the music and some of the ‘newer’ bands who impressed, and I know some of these bands aren’t new, but it’s my article, so my rules:
- Escape The Fate: This band chews through and spits out musicians like a ravenous Japanese movie monster, but damn, they put on one hell of a stage show. Easily the most animated performers we saw all day, and they sounded great.
- Pop Evil: Another solid set from a band that just delivers hit rock song after hit rock song. We were surprised to see a young blonde woman playing drums, but she killed it. Leigh Kakaty interacted and teased the crowd throughout the set.
- Lacey Sturm: Former Murderfly vocalist is out on her own, and delivering gritty rock with her powerful voice. She also delivered the day’s most inspirational moment. “You all are beautiful, you have a purpose and none of you are mistakes…”
- Bullet For My Valentine: They had the crowd in a frenzy throughout their thirty minute set, and they sounded great with some of the best guitar work of the day.
There were also a handful of more veteran bands who caught my attention with strong performances. The final three on this list, were the best bands I saw all day…
- 3 Doors Down – I loved their no B.S. approach to their set on what was easily the most stark, stripped down stage. For them, it was all about the music. Longtime frontman Brad Arnold sounded great and led his bandmates through a tight, hit filled, crowd-pleasing set.
- Candlebox – I spoke to bassist Adam Kury before their set and he pointed out how the band has been rejuvenated by the addition of two new guitarists. They featured a few strong tracks from the new album Disappearing In Airports and had one of the day’s best singalong moments with a stellar version of “Far Behind.”
- Collective Soul – Oh my, I’ve seen Ed Roland before, and he’s always been good, but for this show, he was a madman, flying around the stage and delivering one hell of a performance. The setlist was awesome and the last six songs, as good a selection as any band offered all night.
- Filter: Richard Patrick and has band killed it and for 90% of the day, they were the most impressive act to grace any of the stages. The new Crazy Eyes incarnation of Filter is heavy and more industrial than some recent versions, and they just freaking rocked. Patrick said several times how much he loved playing the new stuff, and it sounded perfect live. As the set wrapped up, he shared that there was only time for one last song, and let the audience vote. “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” “Welcome To the Fold,” or “Take A Picture” and then he kicked in with “I wish I would’ve met you, now it’s a little late…”
- Disturbed: I knew they were good live, but they blew me away with one of the most creative sets I’ve seen in years. It was their first trip back to Jax in four years, and they made it memorable. Look at this setlist: Ten Thousand Fists, The Game, The Vengeful One, Prayer, Liberate, Stupify, The Sound Of Silence, Inside The Fire, The Light, Closer/Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For/Baba O’Reilly/Killing In The Name Of, Indestructible, Voices, Down With the Sickness – that’s just about perfect. The set was accented by a slew of pyrotechnics, and excellent showmanship. The band was great, particularly vocalist David Draiman and guitarist Dan Donegan who was spectacular all night. Shinedown had to come on afterwards, and I actually felt a little sorry for them trying to follow Disturbed on a night where they absolutely nailed it.
In full disclosure, due to interviews and stage conflicts, I missed a few acts that I heard a ton of buzz about: Trivium, Red Sun Rising, Crown The Empire, Monster Truck and Pennywise.
BTW – I did see Crown The Empire, and realize that many folks loved them, but I was totally unimpressed.
Speaking of unimpressed, I was a bit disappointed in the control of the crowd surfers and moshing. There were signs everywhere that it was prohibited but absolutely no effort to enforce. I saw a woman in a wheelchair get crushed by a crowd surfer during Disturbed’s set, and saw another woman hobbling off after catching a surfer with her neck/back. If it’s allowed, pick a certain area, like the middle section between the Lefty and Righty stage perhaps, which was clearly confined by barriers on each side.
I loved the Monster Energy Lefty/Righty stage set-up. A great way to see the headline acts, almost without interruption. Awesome move.
I also loved having two bands play at once throughout most of the afternoon. A few people whined that they were missing someone they liked, but the only way to avoid that is to eliminate one of the bands entirely. That would be stupid. Rockville’s decision here was perfect – giving people choices and spreading out the crowds.
I think the VIP was better this year, but feel for the premium paid, stealing a few more feet of space closer to the stages would be nice. The tent with all of the Marshall amps and TV screens was the perfect place to chill.
There was a great, diverse selection of lunch/dinner items available throughout the grounds. The food and drink prices were high, but typical for festivals. I’d love to see more free tap water or the allowance to bring in bigger containers. As an example, EDBD allowed folks to bring in gallon containers, offered opportunities to refill and sold bottles for only $2.
I liked the new layout for the most part, with one exception – the center VIP area was too much of an obstruction for all of the other festival attendees and with only one path into it, was not the ideal set-up to for VIP ticket holders either.
Finally, as a member of the media, we are always treated great at Welcome To Rockville. This year was no exception, but this year, it was kicked up a notch, as the media pavilion on the St. John’s shoreline was the best I’ve ever been to, and the artists loved it, too.
Before you leave, we have a handful of photos on our Facebook Page Welcome To Rockville photo album HERE and will have many more to come, so make sure you give our Page a like HERE.
Day 2 thoughts coming in the near future from Phil Snyder, so check back with us soon
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