Wet and Wild: Welcome to Rockville 2015

Lizzy's picture
Saturday, April 25, 2015 - 2am

Jacksonville, FL, was taken by storm as Welcome to Rockville officially kicked off the World's Loudest Month music festival series.

Looking out the window on Saturday morning did not bode well for an outdoor festival. Gray clouds were looming threateningly overhead, but a little rain wasn't going to stop the thousands of ticket holders ready to rock out at Metropolitan Park.

The doors opened at 11:00 A.M., with hard rock local Floridians World Gone tearing into the music around 11:20. New Zealand rockers Like A Storm were the first to play on one of two main stages. Over the following hour and a half, Red Sun Rising, Stars In Stereo, Sangre, Sons of Texas and Nonpoint had their sets quickly fly by. A crowd was swarming around a Jagermeister sponsored side stage in preparation for Upon A Burning Body at 1:40 P.M. when the clouds decided to let loose. Within minutes, stagehands had covered gear and equipment. The announcement of a strong storm in the area was made, advising concertgoers to seek shelter in their cars while the music was postponed until the storm passed. The rowdy crowd erupted in frustration, exclaiming, "Rain or shine, rain or shine!" but with lightning flashing in the skies above, it was clear that safety was of priority and concern. Patrons were asked to seek shelter in their cars or under a nearby overpass.

Meanwhile, social media channels erupted with various comments and opinions on the official festival pages. A wide array of comparisons to Carolina Rebellion 2013 were made, but there was also a large amount of support voiced for the way Welcome to Rockville was handling the situation at hand. After nearly three hours of downpour, the skies finally cleared. Rather than trying to shorten set times or create more overlapping sets, the decision was made to continue on with the bands at their originally scheduled times.

Queensryche was the next band scheduled on the Jack Daniels sponsored Main Stage, but it turned out that Of Mice & Men also ended up playing their earlier scheduled set on the Monster Main Stage across the field. Periphery and Testament followed up with shorter sets on the side stages, then there was another swarm around the Monster stage, where Halestorm was scheduled to play next. Unfortunately, Halestorm's name seemed foreshadowing - more dark clouds lingered above. Minutes after the time they were scheduled to take stage, another hold on the festival was called and everyone headed back to the overpass.

The bad weather returned with a vengeance, with lightning strikes just overhead. Wind blew so forcefully through the area that it destroyed a number of paper lantern decorations that were hanging around the festival grounds. On the upside, the second storm passed significantly quicker than the initial one had. Halestorm ended up playing a delayed and shortened set, while Ministry performed at the same time on the Jack Daniels stage. Slayer was scheduled to follow Halestorm at 7:10 P.M., but didn't end up started until after 8:00, causing many torn fans to run across the field to catch Marilyn Manson's twenty minutes later.

The silhouette of Manson dramatically appeared through a flashing of strobe lights and a cloud of fog back on the Jack Daniels stage at the conclusion of intro song Mozart's "Requiem". Typically notorious for erratic stage behavior, he seemed to maintain a fairly calm demeanor at Rockville, with the harshest action being the way he dropped his mic and exited the stage without a thank you or goodbye.

Fans were left to rush across what was now an endless mud pit to catch the final act of the day. Despite the weather-induced chaos, Korn ended up taking stage around their originally scheduled time, delighting the mud covered crowd with a full hour of their oldest, greatest hits to close out the first night.

The second day of Rockville got off to a much slower start, though warm weather and clear skies were a welcome improvement. Equipment was still roaming the venue grounds in an attempt to pack down and cover the rain-induced mud pits. The first band on the day's bill was scheduled to go on at 11:10 A.M., but gates hadn't even opened by then. When the band did take the stage about 30 minutes later, the field was still largely vacant. The Sweet Escape, From Ashes To New, '68, Shattered Sun, We Are Harlot, Islander and Young Guns all squeezed in short and overlapping sets in just the first two hours as the crowd thickened.

Scientific and political band Starset captivated an audience at the ReverbNation sponsored side stage. The band was formed by Dustin Bates, the vocalist with a PhD in electrical engineering. Their set featured glowing space helmets and some sort of highly customized and technical interactive sound board.

The daily line up announcement left a bit of mystery surrounding the 1:40 P.M. main stage appearance. Nothing More's return appearance in that time slot was a killer surprise. The energy stayed high through sets from Vamps and Motionless In White.

From 2:30 to 3:30, female fronted bands took the lead. Vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies turned up the intimacy, hopping off the stage and into the crowd. Led by Maria Brink, In This Moment followed with a highly theatrical set. Taylor Momsen, with The Pretty Reckless also made an appearance on the main stage.

Tremonti, Hatebreed, In Flames and All That Remains closed out the side stages on Sunday. Meanwhile, one of the largest collective audiences drew around the Jack Daniels stage. It was obvious that everyone was stoked to see Breaking Benjamin for the first time since their recent return and reformation.

Guitar god Slash kept all eyes on the same stage. There was no denying his renown as he ripped through chord after chord. Myles Kennedy cannot go without mention or merit, either, proving his prowess and range as a vocalist not only on originals such as "Anastasia" from Apocalyptic Love, but also Guns 'n Roses classics, including Sweet Child O' Mine" and Paradise City.

Since the January album release F.E.A.R. by Papa Roach, the band has been tearing up stages across America. Founding members, Jacoby Shaddix (vocals) and Jerry Horton (guitar) seem to be tireless, only becoming more dynamic and vivacious over the years. Godsmack followed with a slightly less energetic set, but were accompanied by a dazzling light show and equally on point in terms of vocals and sound.

The heavy metal, horror-masked members of Slipknot brought an appropriately heavy close to the two day festival. At a mere two songs in, they had already unleashed dual sets of revolving drum kits and an intense display of pyrotechnics. Slipknot has been touring in support of their fifth album release .5: The Grey Chapter and performed a number of the new tracks, among a legion of older fan favorites.

Despite the uncooperative Saturday weather, Welcome to Rockville sold out and drew a record setting crowd for the festival, with attendance marked at 50,000 patrons. The expansion of stages and grounds, addition of a ferris wheel, an interactive graffiti wall, food and alcohol options, plus a huge lineup of over 50 bands made for a killer weekend and proof that the festival is only going to grow and improve in the future.

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