Myself and another RARAs Farm contributor were going to cover Welcome To Rockville 2016 (day two), but he had a last minute emergency, so I unexpectedly found myself with an extra media pass to Sunday’s event at the world’s loudest rock festival.
I woke up my daughter Jamee, (the new rock convert), who was delighted to get to go to another show. We had just attended the Hard Drive Live Tour with Sick Puppies the night before, which was her first ever rock concert, but she was as excited as me to be going to our first ever Rockville (see that review here).
Now, I’ve been to Mayhem Fest, Sunshine Music Festival, and Earthday Birthday before, but never to Welcome to Rockville, so I was eager to see what the Jacksonville show would be like. Let me tell you: This place did not disappoint. The bands, the crowd, the weather; everything about the festival was awesome.
We made the three hour drive and got there about noon. I was hoping to get there in time to see From Ashes To New, because their music is so fresh, and carries such a positive message, something lacking in a lot of songs these days. At least Cretin got to interview their guitarist Branden Kreider, which you can check out HERE.
When we arrived, however, Memphis may Fire was getting the crowd going. A five-piece metalcore group from Texas, these guys brought a ton of energy and had the midday audience jumping, moshing, and banging their heads despite the heat that came on the same time as their set.
One of my goals was to see Sick Puppies, even though I had just seen them a few hours before. So we made our way over to the Righty stage, where the trio rocked the house. There was around 25,000 people that attended this year’s Welcome to Rockville, and most of them were there.
New frontman Bryan Scott was able to get the huge crowd rocking with them just as easily as he had the night before when there were only about two hundred or so. Emma and Mark made a good choice recruiting this rocket city rocker- I feel like the next chapter in the story of Sick Puppies will be the best yet. The set was a little on the short side, as I found out was to be the case with all the bands I saw until later in the day, which was dictated by necessity just because the sheer number of bands who had to perform.
Once Sick Puppies ended their show, we saw some of We Came As Romans, another metalcore group, back at the metropolitan stage. This Michigan based act has six members and managed to whip their fans into a frenzy, the mosh pit bigger and dirtier than the band who had previously graced the stage.
One of the other bands I really wanted to see was hitting the Metropolitan stage next, but not for a while. We waited for Ghost in the burning heat for a while, so we could be close to the stage, and luckily a few clouds came along to blot out the sun and deliver some much needed sprinkles. Not enough rain to get wet, but enough to take the heat off.
Our wait was rewarded when the Swedish doom metal band took the stage, Papa wearing sunglasses because the sun had just begun to shine heavily on the westward facing stage. I was a little disappointed he didn’t wear the whole anti-pope costume that I had come to expect, but I suppose that would have been much hotter to wear. They played a short set as well, including their newest single “From The Pinnacle To The Pit”, as well as the grammy winning “Cirice” and their heaviest song: “Mummy Dust”. I only wish they could have had more time, but I suppose it came down to logistics, the promoters having to ensure each band got their fair share of time.
We saw Cypress Hill from the friendly confines of the VIP tent, via big screen monitors. Let me just say: the VIP tent was amazing- crystal chandeliers, huge fans, big screen tvs covering the show, tables and chairs, and a private bar- everything was so posh, I felt like royalty. The crazy thing was that we could literally smell the odor of burning marijuana even though we were nowhere near the Lefty stage on which they performed. I may not understand why the show’s promoters would add a rap group to the bill, but I know what a bunch of the metalheads have in common with them.
We had to make our way to the next group, and there had been just one problem: When I first saw the set times for the show, I was conflicted about who to go see: Megadeth or Lamb of God? But then ZZ Top dropped from the bill and the bands’ set times were rearranged. I thanked the metal gods as Lamb of God came on before Megadeth allowing us to catch them both.
After a beer for me and a soda for Jamee in the VIP, we figured we had better get over to Lamb of God before the crowd got too big. Too late, it seemed, as we found their fans had poured in from every corner of Metropolitan Park to flood the field in front of the stage. We were way in the back of the crowd.
As Lamb of God started, however, Jamee saw a cloud of dust being kicked up near the middle of the huge audience. “What’s that?’ she asked. I told her it was a mosh pit. Her eyes lit up, as she was intrigued, never having seen one before. Next thing I know, she is weaving her way through the throng of fans until we are right in the human wall surrounding the melee.
Let me tell you firsthand- a Lamb of God mosh pit is truly a spectacle to behold. Especially when you are right on the edge of all the chaos it just barely contains. We witnessed everything from guys punching each other who looked like MMA fighters, to women slamming into each other to the point of bleeding, and even a guy in a wheelchair rolling around with some buddies. It was amazing.
Lamb of God’s singer, Randy Blythe, then told the raucous crowd he wanted them to become the largest circle pit not just at Rockville, but the biggest of the whole tour. The metalheads present at the time happily obliged the Virginian vocalist, running around slamming into each other to the soundtrack of their hit “Redneck”. It was truly epic. A memory I will not soon forget, nor Jamee for that matter, an initiation into the world of metal music courtesy of the one and only Lamb of God.
Now covered in sweat and dust, we hurried over to the Metropolitan stage to see Megadeth. The crowd was already deep when we got there, as one could expect, Dave Mustaine and company being part of metal’s royalty. We waited in the stifling heat as the sun set just low enough to flood the stage. I felt kind of bad for the group, especially Chris Adler, drummer for both Lamb of God and Megadeth; who had just played a brutal set and now had to perform again.
But perform he did. The rest of the band as well. As they ripped through hits like “Hangar 18” and the appropriate for the day “Sweating Bullets” the crowd surfing began in earnest. I saw someone in a full Gumby costume, Jesus, and a lady just about naked all crowd surf. At some point, a girl turned to Jamee and said, “Okay, you’re next!”. Next thing I know, my daughter is headed towards the stage, and I have to get boosted atop the crowd just so I don’t lose track of her.
Now, I’ve been to many shows and helped many surfers ride the human wave, but I had not, until this point, ever joined them. It was a terrifying, exciting adrenaline rush. The view of the crowd and the stage was, at times, unparalleled and amazing. But for most of my ride, I could not even tell which way I was going. It was cool, but I’m pretty sure I won’t make a habit of it.
We headed back towards the Lefty stage as they were wrapping up their set, thinking we might get closer to Five Finger Death Punch. We were wrong. It seemed as if everyone at the festival who wasn’t watching Megadeth play was already here. Easily the biggest crowd of people I’d ever seen.
The sun was finally ending its show as Five Finger Death Punch began theirs. I’ve seen them a few times, and it was pretty standard fare for them. They played hits like “Bad Company” after getting the crowd to salute our men and women in uniform. They dedicated “Hard to See” to the folks in the back of the crowd; where we had begun our journey into the huge throng of concert-goers, but Jamee had snaked between so many people that we found ourselves near the center of all those people.
What a place to be as Ivan announced they had made a bet with Lamb of God that they could get a bigger circle pit going. For us, there was no way out of it- we were going to have to take part in the chaos and carnage that is the pit. I tucked my camera down my shirt and ran with Jamee, trying my best to keep her from getting knocked around too much. Luckily, there is an unspoken code of honor among metalheads, and slamming a hundred pound girl to the ground is frowned upon, to say the least.
By the end of the song, we’d made it out unscathed, and much closer to the front. As FFDP rolled through their set, my newly converted daughter again took to the top of the crowd. At some point, she tells me that the crowd was launching her lightweight body into the air like a beach ball, and Mr. Moody was cheering them on from the stage. I took the easy way out- through another mosh pit to go and collect her from where security escorts the crowd surfers out.
As the boys from Las Vegas were winding down, we headed for the road. As much as I wanted to see my favorite artist of all time, Mr. Rob Zombie, I knew I had a three hour ride ahead of me followed by a Monday at work. We were sore, sunburned, hoarse, and exhausted. But we were thrilled to have made it through Welcome to Rockville 2016, day two.
I hope many of you got to enjoy the festival, or are making plans to go next year after reading this. Stay tuned to RARAs Farm for the latest news, reviews, and more from the local rock scene, and if you haven’t already, like us on Facebook!