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2015 WELCOME TO ROCKVILLE Festival Recap

By Travis Failey, Planet Earth Contributor
Monday, May 11, 2015 @ 4:41 PM

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A Manic Kind Of Monster-Welcome To Rockville Day 1

The 2015 Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville Festival was truly an unforgettable experience. You can probably say this about a lot of music festivals that you have attended due to the bands’ performances, but this year’s Rockville at Metropolitan Park was an extreme case of Ying and Yang. Highlights from the day include a tornado taking down houses in the area, which led to two evacuations, a surprise performance by NOTHING MORE on Sunday, and SLIPKNOT destroying the main stage to conclude the weekend. This year’s lineup included 43 bands headlined by KORN on Saturday night and SLIPKNOT on Sunday.

Friday night kicked off the World’s Loudest Month (http://worldsloudestmonth.com/) with a free show at The Landing in downtown Jacksonville. The Landing is an outdoor courtyard and entertainment complex in the round on the St. Johns River. It has multiple restaurants and bars with a stage area with its back to the river. According to the locals I spoke to, the multiple story facility usually has country acts and “horrible cover bands.” But Friday would be very different as the Welcome to Rockville’s Free Pre-Show party’s lineup would include WORLD GONE, 36 CRAZYFISTS, AVATAR, NONPOINT and California’s HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD.

This was our first time seeing AVATAR. They put on an unforgettable performance for a few different reasons. The first was the dramatic stage performance by all of AVATAR’s members, but especially their charismatic and made-up front man, Johannes Eckerström. The second being the real people Freak show that they put on during their hit song, “Smells Like a Freak Show”. The freaks included a woman who was able to swallow a pool cue and a man who was riding a skateboard with only his torso and arms to push with. It was a scene right out of this season’s American Horror Story. To say I recommend seeing them would be a huge understatement.

Florida’s own NONPOINT would be up next and they gave the crowd their hits and their heart. Elias and the guys are the most active band on stage and the crowd feeds off of them. They are also one of the hardest working bands in the industry as they played Rockville the next day at 1:00. This was a very quick turnaround and NONPOINT’s performance on Saturday was top notch. You’ve got to give credit to NONPOINT’s crew for making it all happen without a glitch. NONPOINT is always on the road and it pays off for them with packed rooms of loyal fans. Will they ever reach the next level? I know that they want to as all bands do, but from my experiences with them, I believe that they would be content playing to twenty people or 20,000. NONPOINT closed out their set with “Breaking Skin”, then their crowd-chanting anthem, and their biggest hit to date, “Bullet With A Name”.

Closing out the Welcome To Rockville’s Free Pre-Show would be HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD. Rock meets Hip Hop which leads to a bouncing mix of bodies and beats. HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD would come out with their trademark masks and the party was on. In support of their much anticipated release in Day Of The Dead, they too would be asked to do a quick double duty on Saturday at Rockville. Opening with the title track and their current single, “Day Of The Dead”, it was obvious that they have a huge following of young fans and that they are adding others even if they don’t get HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD the first time they see or hear them. With four different and diverse vocalists taking the lead at any point in the songs, they never get bogged down in redundancy, all the while keeping the audience engaged and bouncing. Their grooves and beats are contagious and when they played “War Child”, which hasn’t been heard live before, the crowd picked up the song quickly and the band didn’t miss a beat. I anticipate that “War Child” will be HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD’s next hit single and SiriusXM Octane will have it in regular rotation.

HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD has a lot going for them. From the partial use of the masks, the great stage show, the diversity in their music and probably most important, is that women of all ages love them. Women like their sound and men like women. It’s a profitable combination and HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD could be on their way up to a much larger stage in a much larger venue. HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD is another band that I highly suggest that you see if they come to your town. It was unfortunate for those who did not make it to The Landing for Friday’s performance, as HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD, as well as several other bands on Saturday’s schedule, would not perform at Rockville due to the severe weather.

Saturday April 25th would be the official kickoff for this year’s Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville Festival, or should I say a Monster Energy Monsoon? Upon arriving at the entrance gate, the park’s security told us that they weren’t letting any more people into the park. The area was under a “Code Blue” due to a weather system that was forming in the area. We eventually were let into the venue after talking to a supervisor, and were lucky enough to catch the tail end of NONPOINT’s set. Once again they didn’t disappoint and looked no worse for wear after doing two shows in 14 hours. We spoke with vocalist Elias Soriano about them being one of the hardest working bands on the circuit and he smiled and stated “ Well, you gotta make the donuts.”

We didn’t know that the couple of songs by NONPOINT would be the last time that music was played on any stage for about three hours. The sky went dark grey and a huge storm system came through rolling through and blanketed Jacksonville and Metropolitan Park. The crowd and many of the staff were evacuated via security, all the while a loud speaker message continuously looped. Everyone was told to leave the park and to go to their cars.

The rain was coming in thunderous sideways sheets and the wind was whipping like I can remember from my days in Downtown Chicago. During both evacuations, we were located behind the stage under a large tent where the artists dine. It was a pretty calm environment considering what was happening in the sky. Artists and others continued to eat and network amongst themselves while we figured out our exit strategy for indoor shelter in case the tornado came over us. Thankfully for everyone, the storm subsided around 3:30 and the fans were let back into the park. Promoter Danny Wimmer came backstage and said that the show would start back up and the rest of the schedule would continue.

This meant that QUEENSRYCHE would be the first band back up after the break with FOZZY, SCOTT WEILAND AND THE WILDABOUTS, EXODUS and others having to cancel their sets to keep to the music festival’s tight schedule.

The renewed, revived, reinvigorated QUEENSRYCHE with Todd La Torre taking center stage as their front man got the crowd back into the festival mood after the first evacuation. Opening with “Nightrider”, and featuring a short set of hits including “Jet City Woman”, “Empire” and going back to their 4 song EP from 1983, “Queen Of The Ryche”, QUEENSRYCHE proved once again that they are back and are at the top of their game. Even though the younger fans may not have been familiar with their music, they appreciated the tightness of the band and the vocal range of La Torre. Talking to La Torre before the set, he mentioned that he wasn’t feeling great, but you would never have known it by his performance on Saturday. The band made a great choice in La Torre to lead them back to relevance and with a second album on the way, all points lead back up the pike.

TESTAMENT officially got “Thrash Saturday” started after EXODUS got tornado’d out. Alex Skolnick, Chuck Billy and the boys had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the get go. TESTAMENT opened up with “Over The Wall” and played a shortened set that included “The Preacher” and “The New Order”, With the sun now shining bright over Metropolitan Park and the Reverb Nation Side Stage, TESTAMENT sounded like the band hadn’t aged since the eighties. Skolnick is a virtuoso on guitar and one of the most under-appreciated players in the business, and I don’t know how Chuck Billy does it on vocals. With raspy, aggressive vocals and screams that most vocalists half his age can’t perform, Chuck and TESTAMENT clearly have found the fountain of youth.

After TESTAMENT, HALESTORM was next on Saturday’s schedule in support of their third full length release Into The Wild Life but a different kind of storm rolled in. With aggression, the blue skies became angry again and just as HALESTORM was to take the stage at 5:15, the voice from the loud speaker struck again and the Welcome to Rockville festival would be evacuated once more. The storm was shorter in length but more intense than the one earlier. After an hour or so the crowd was let back in. Some fans were frustrated with the delays and evacuations but talking to some of them, they understood that it is all about safety for everyone involved. Promoter Danny Wimmer and his team did a nice job informing every one of the schedule changes and storm updates via social media, but HALESTORM would surprise even the promoters, apparently, by playing to a small main stage crowd. HALESTORM played a seven-song set that included three songs from their new album: “Scream”, “Amen”, and their hit “Apocalyptic”.

While HALESTORM performed on the Monster Energy main stage, the “Godfather of Industrial,” Al Jorgenson, and MINISTRY performed on the opposite end of the park. Jorgenson is an interesting looking character and his stage theatrics took precedent over the music. Many in the crowd were not familiar with MINISTRY’s music, but it didn’t matter as long as Al was up there. “Just One Fix” from their 1992 release Psalm 69 got the most reaction from the crowd. Massive moshing in the pit would lead to fans covered in mud, but they didn’t seem to mind.

When MINISTRY was announced in the lineup, I thought they would be a little out of place, but they gained some new fans on Saturday from a younger generation and the Welcome To Rockville Festival afforded them that opportunity. Many bands including PRODIGY, NINE INCH NAILS and RAMMSTEIN wouldn’t exist without MINISTRY and it’s great to see them get their due in 2015.

When we arrived at the side stages for SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, the amount of fans waiting to see Mike Muir and the band was growing exponentially by the minute. They stole the show on Saturday. Opening up with the anthem “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and finishing their set with “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…”, vocalist Mike Muir, bassist Mike Morgan and the rest of SUICIDAL TENDENCIES moved the crowd like no other band except for KORN. In the photo pit you could feel the ground shaking around you. Like TESTAMENT, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES is a veteran band who knows what to play so there isn’t a lull except when Muir speaks, which pumps up the crowd even more.

With EXODUS, TESTAMENT, SLAYER and SUICIDAL on the bill, the resurgence of old school thrash and metal, came full circle.

Back on the other side of Metropolitan Park, SLAYER closed out the “Thrash Saturday” portion of Rockville. If you’ve seen SLAYER before, you know what you are getting: aggression, tons of reds, blacks and pyrotechnics. And don’t forget Kerry King and his trademark chains. It seems SLAYER, like the other members of the Big Four, have been going non-stop since the 1980s. Even though the onset of grunge in the 90s had a huge effect on metal, SLAYER stayed true, never changed, and kept their fan base fully intact.

We could only stay for a few of SLAYER’s songs due to MARILYN MANSON being up next on the Monster Energy main stage. SLAYER was late getting on and that caused a snafu in the schedule. They played a great set that included the classic SLAYER trio of “Raining Blood”, "South Of Heaven” and “Angel Of Death”.

Veterans MARILYN MANSON and KORN would be the final two acts of Saturday’s lineup at Welcome To Rockville. Manson seemed a bit more subdued throughout his set of mostly hits including “The Dope Show” and “Beautiful People”. While on stage, often with his hand in his pockets, Manson was dressed all in black with face paint, but it looked to me and others that he was just going “through the motions.” Manson sounded great, but his stage performance seemed uninspired.

KORN closed Rockville Day 1 out in Metropolitan Park as they celebrated the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album, which they played in its entirety. With the bagpipes in tow, vocalist Jonathan Davis and KORN opened with “Blind” and played the controversial “Daddy”, which hadn’t been played live up until this tour. KORN played as a headliner last year on this same stage, but their energy level compared to last year’s performance seemed to be down.

KORN played a three song encore of radio hits in “Falling Away From Me”, “Here To Stay” and “Freak On A Leash”, completing an eventful first day of the 2015 version of the “Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville” music festival.Enduring the elements of torrential rain and a tornado touching down in the Jacksonville area, two evacuations, band set cancellations and mud everywhere, along with great sets by veteran bands, Day 1 will go down as one of my most memorable concert experiences ever.

Rockville Recovers On Day 2

On Day 2 of the 2015 Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville festival fans would be given a gift from Mother Nature. There wasn't a cloud in the sky throughout the day and promoters, along with the city of Jacksonville, did a great job to get Metropolitan Park ready for the second day of festivities. They brought in truckloads of red mulch to cover the mud puddles that encompassed the grounds the day/night before.

There was a different "buzz" in the park, as some fans who might have been reserved the day before were ready to have fun and get their money’s worth. Sunday’s lineup was filled with more modern rock and metal acts, highlighted by PAPA ROACH, SLASH AND THE CONSPIRATORS, GODSMACK and the much anticipated closing set by SLIPKNOT. An added bonus for the day was the early announcement of the special guest act in San Antonio’s NOTHING MORE. LIVE was originally scheduled to play in this spot, but for reasons unknown, the switch was made.

This was NOTHING MORE's last stop on their first world tour, and they looked no worse for wear. They opened with the controversial “Christ Copyright” and broke out the “bassinator” after their recent hit single “Jenny”. The “bassinator” is the swinging bass rig that has been a staple in their shows since I was turned onto them two years ago while opening up for ADRENALINE MOB. Since then, they have been on a fast track to commercial success, and it's been fun to watch. Sometimes nice guys do finish first and it has happened for NOTHING MORE. Their legions of fans, a number of their songs are being played in mass rotation, not only Sirius/ XM Octane Radio, but also on terrestrial rock stations across the country. NOTHING MORE completed their set with the multi-percussion monster in “Salem” and their biggest hit to date, “This Is The Time”.

With MOTIONLESS IN WHITE playing across the park and the BUTCHER BABIES with Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd crossing over on the side stages, we would only be able to catch partial sets from each band. Like NOTHING MORE, these two bands have been touring non-stop since the Mayhem Tour in 2012. From small dimly lit clubs to the music festival circuit year in and year out, MOTIONLESS IN WHITE and the BUTCHER BABIES are both road warriors. Both bands have grown and matured over the last couple years and it shows on stage. Chris Motionless has developed a stage presence that is nothing short of dynamic and the BUTCHER BABIES are not just a band of pretty faces. MOTIONLESS IN WHITE got the biggest pop from the crowd when they performed their biggest hit to date “A.M.E.R.I.C.A.”. And when Heidi and Carla went into the crowd to join their thrashing fans, we weren’t sure that the fans would let them get back to the stage.

IN THIS MOMENT and Maria Brink moved up from the side stage to the main stage this year but someone with a familiar name would be playing on the Jagermeister side stage. Marc Tremonti, formerly of CREED and still with ALTER BRIDGE, is out on tour with his own band in TREMONTI. The sound of TREMONTI is edgier than his previous work with impressive guitar skills and vocals. Playing “You Waste Your Time” from their debut and the single “Another Heart” from their upcoming June 9th release Cauterize, TREMONTI blends aggressive guitar with a perfect mix of melodic vocals and meaningful lyrics. A few pits broke out during the set and as the day wore on the security guards and their crew had their hands full. Not only was the moshing in full effect throughout the day and night but the amount crowd surfing was incredible. The security guys earned their money and they do an unbelievably difficult job. People of all shapes and sizes are now going up to surf with unpredictable results. The police and the medical staff saw several cases of heat exhaustion, intoxication, broken bones, seizures and other medical conditions, which were dealt with promptly and professionally.

There were also great food trucks, beverage stations, and other attractions this year like “Tequila World,” Crazy Dave’s Music Experience, and new in 2015, the RISK interactive graffiti art installation, and a ferris wheel , which offered a unique view of the festival. Band signings were available throughout the day and even included Corey Taylor from SLIPKNOT.

As with any multi-stage festival, it is unfortunate that you just can’t see every band on the schedule unless you are The Flash. This means that some great performances would have to be missed. Due to some crossover on Sunday, we would miss some of the heavier bands like IN FLAMES, HATEBREED and ALL THAT REMAINS. We would also miss THE PRETTY RECKLESS, but I was told after their set “if you’ve seen them perform before, there isn’t a need to see them again.”

As the sun started to go down on Metropolitan Park, a black hatted man and his trademark Gibson and Marshall stack arrived on the Jack Daniels' main stage. SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS played a set of new and classic hits from his catalogue. Opening with “You’re A Lie”, then directly into the GUNS 'N' ROSES classic “Nightrain" Slash and Myles took the crowd on a journey through Slash’s career. Slash’s solo hit “Anastasia” got the crowd singing and it was a perfect lead in to “Sweet Child O' Mine”. The ten-song set would conclude with “Slither” by VELVET REVOLVER and with an encore of “Paradise City”.

As the sold out Rockville crowd bounced from stage to stage and hit-makers PAPA ROACH played on the far stage, it was evident looking throughout the crowd that there were many younger kids than in previous years. Adults are turning their kids onto their music and creating the next generation of metalheads. Hopefully they will teach them how to mosh the correct way and appreciate a great American rock band like GODSMACK. GODSMACK is a band that walks the fine line between rock and metal with powerful guitars and vocals while mixing in intricate drum arrangements from Shannon Larkin.

Out in support of the recent release in 1000 HP, GODSMACK hasn't shown any signs of slowing down and tonight wouldn’t prove differently. GODSMACK’s 12-song setlist included: “Straight Out Of Line”, “Voodoo” and “1000 HP". Throw in the duel drum battle between Larkin and Erna, along with the extreme use of pyrotechnics throughout their set, and you walk away from a GODSMACK show almost exhausted fromsight and sound intoxication.

After GODSMACK concluded their performances on the Jack Daniels Main Stage, everyone in Metropolitan park traveled to the Monster Energy Main Stage for the conclusion to the 5th Annual Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville Festival for SLIPKNOT.

As SLIPKNOT's crew was setting up their elaborate stage show, there was a eerie calm before the SLIPKNOT storm. The mood switched when “For Those About To Rock” came on by AC/DC. The energy level and the look of anticipation for the upcoming set was palpable and when SLIPKNOT dropped the curtain, once again the ground shook as if earthquake was happening. Yes: tornados and earthquakes, all in one weekend.

Donning their trademark masks and touring in support of their release, .5: The Grey Chapter, SLIPKNOT performed a 14-song set full of fan favorites and deep cuts to satisfy the maggots new and old. Amongst them was the opener “Sarcastrophe”, “Pyscosocial” and one of this year’s staples on Sirius/XM’s Big ‘Uns, “The Devil In I”.

With the dual tom drums on sizzorjacks and multiple pyrotechnic displays, SLIPKNOT not only provided an intense musical performance, but a stage show that cannot be rivaled, even by the forefathers of this brand of stage imagery. Even if you don’t enjoy their music, a SLIPKNOT show should be experienced by everyone at least once in their lives, and Slipknot was the perfect band to end this year’s metal music festival.

The 2015 Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville Festival was, without a doubt, a weekend to remember. A big hand goes out to all that were involved in the promoting and organizing of the event. From a great pre-party on Friday night at The Landing, to the police and EMS, park staff who provided safety at all costs during an extreme weather event, to the final song on Sunday night, many people behind the scenes should be thanked. The park staff, security, the EMTs and the City of Jacksonville, should all take pride in what was accomplished during this challenging weekend. As 40,000 plus attended and celebrated the music that they love, the metal community stood once again as the family that I cherish and know it to be.

For more information on Welcome to Rockville and other locations for the Worlds Loudest Month check out http://worldsloudestmonth.com/

Check out the Welcome To Rockville Photo Gallery right HERE.

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