As a Jacksonville resident, I had never experienced Welcome to Rockville before. I mean, could I even call myself a Jacksonville resident? Was I ever going to win over the title? This is the story of my adventures in gaining the title of “Rockvillian”. It’s a ton of cheap beer mixed with lots of black clothing, infinite moshing and a two-hour Foo Fighter's set. Get ready.
Immediately, the smell of bbq sauce, chicken and sweaty ticket scalpers filled the air. The porta potties all reeked of cheap cigs and joints. MDFK, unfortunately, censored their name for the younger metalheads but still let their colors shine through as they opened up on the Monster Energy Stage early Friday afternoon. Several metalheads could be heard talking all weekend about how they were the perfect torch to light Rockville.
Our appetizer was Five Finger Death Punch. Everyone broke out into air claps as they serenaded and brought the crowd to an evening mellow, as mellow as metal can get. Our entree was Atreyu (a California crew formed in 1998). Our feet were soothed from the asphalt after walking over a grassy hill to the River stage. The main singer, Alex Varkatzas, said, “How is Florida doing? Are you ready to be rocked some more?” Queen's "Phat Bottomed Girls" blew out of the speakers.
The circle pit opened up as we made our way to catch the end of Godsmack and grab a beer. We arrived to “Voodoo” playing as a human rolled around in a plastic hamster ball on the crowd. Godsmack ended on a brilliant jam filled with eclectic drum beats, a fiery explosion and a drumstick to the crowd. Sully Erna, the lead vocalist, screamed out, “God damn it’s fucking good to be back in this fucking state. We are here on a promo tour. WHEN LEGENDS RISE is out today.”
Our dessert was Ozzy Osbourne. "Crazy Train" began his walk on stage along with fireworks above the famous Rockville Ferris wheel. Lights shined through the crowd as he gripped the microphone harder with his polished black fingernails. Trippy backgrounds dripped into different filters of Ozzy as the crowd slowed to a mellow tone. Mid-show brought some funk vibes to the crowd with “No More Tears,” as everyone swayed.
As I walked in, security graciously blessed me with sunscreen for my pale skin (shouts out to the man who supplied me, you're a real one). Palaye Royale came out with cigs hanging out of their mouths, decorated in badass makeup and outfits. Sebastian Danzig, the lead singer, graciously spoke, “Thank you for sweating your balls off with us today!”
I sat down with MDFK (check out our interview with MDFK here) as they sat under a tree with a table decked with a mini chess board, Alice in Wonderland vibes. We spoke about Gibson guitars filing for bankruptcy as well as their new projects, and if anyone is wondering what their name stands for it's revealed in the interview!
Stone Temple Pilots began with "Wicked Garden," which transitioned into "Vasoline". Everyone was shedding tears to "Plush" while singing along (RIP Chris Cornell). Stone Temple Pilots debuted their new single “Meadow” and ended their set on “Sex Type Thing”.
Breaking Benjamin ended an energetic set with "Diary of Jane" as we made our way to Andrew WK, who graced us by saying, “You’re all beautiful” and serenaded us with piano-infused rock. Fireworks set off the end of the night as Avenged Sevenfold prepared to walk on stage. We took it easy and head-nodded while grubbing on Hebros Kitchen's falafel pita and rosemary chicken mac and cheese.
As Avenged Sevenfold's set started to come to an end, all the metal freaks were drinking from stilt-wearing, booze women. Their visuals gave us Coraline vibes that turned into space lightning. The main singer, M. Shadows stated, “I’ve been sick. As you can tell my voice is shit. You got two choices: we can come back for another show or you all can sing along.” Fire drew up from across the stage, spurting with each guitar riff, leaving all of the Rockvillians with a satisfied taste.
On day three, we were served with a plate full of eggs and veggie sausage with a side of Red Fang. We enjoyed our early afternoon meditation with TWLOHA as Chad, music and events coordinator, gave us insight into a day in the life of what exactly happens at their tent as well as suicide and what steps you can take to get help for you or someone you know (check out that interview here).
Underneath a giant Pringle that smelled like Banana Boat was where all of the late night Rockvillians shaded themselves during Red Fang. Everyone knew they had to pace themselves to make it all the way through the two hour Foo Fighter's set coming that evening.
Greta Van Fleet, aka modern day Led Zeppelin, (Check out our interview with Greta Van Fleet from their show in Atlanta last year)were next to bless us at Monster Energy Stage (check out our 2017 interview with them). The lead singer, Josh Kiszka, was dressed in feathers, leather skin and moccasins, jamming with a tambourine. Towards the end of the set, Josh Kiszka declared, “In celebration of the sun, let’s play a song about peace, love and unity”. Sam Kiszka, the keyboardist, was barefoot and slaying. The whole mass loved "Black Swan." They ended on "Safari Song," and all of the ladies' hearts melted as Josh belted out "mama".
Thrice was next on our list. Their entrance was a little dry. As the second song came on, they began to deepen the metal and chords. We made our way to hydrate before Bullet For My Valentine. They brought in a heavy metal crowd with lots of drumming. Wolf Alice was an angry pixie on stage with a voice of a rock angel at The River Stage. “Your Loves Whore” was a crowd favorite. It was nice to finally see a woman rocker killing it around all of these dudes.
Billy Idol gave the crowd heat with "Dancing with Myself." The crowd only began to grow for the rest of the night. Of course his guitarist, Steve Stevens, was playing his guitar backward. Empty bud lights flew in the air, and Billy Idol stripped off his jacket. He held out his tongue and flicked it around as the Rockvillians got weirder. A man in a camo hat took shots between a stilt woman's legs as she made him grab his hat back from between her legs with his teeth.
Billy Idol got sentimental as he drifted along with "Eyes Without A Face." He grabbed a tambourine when the guitar riff began to flow into the crowd, swaying with the moms and dads. He threw out not only drumsticks but also frisbees. Every rock freak sang along to "Rebel Yell" as he threw his shirt into the crowd. The crowd surfing was endless, and he did not disappoint. He came back for an encore and thanked us for making his life great with “White Wedding.” Toilet paper streamers flew all around the crowd.
I chilled to some Queens Of The Stone Age, the pre-game before Foo Fighters. They gave us words of wisdom with “This is a big group of individuals. We don’t need no domesticated animals”.
Now for the big guns. Foo Fighters made every living being scream their lungs out. They started with their single "Run" off of Concrete and Gold. We were ready and aimed for a two-hour jam set. Tie-dye visuals of Dave Grohl, the lead singer, filled the stage TV's as he stood out and yelled, “Here's the thing. They gave us two hours to play tonight. That’s not fucking enough. Are you ready for us to play until we can’t fucking play anymore?” The crowd went full on nuts. Grohl then said, “Who needs Coachella when we got a rock n roll show?”
"Pretender" turned into a 5-minute jam sesh that ended with Grohl pouring water all over his body. Underneath the full moon, we witnessed a two-hour Foo Fighters jam. If that wasn’t enough, Billy Idol was called to the stage by Grohl. Then we were stunned to another planet when John Travolta walks on stage as they quickly strummed Grease's “You're The One That I Want.”
Dave Grohl is an entertainer of many genres. Both a comedian and a rocker, here a few of his memorable statements throughout the night:
“We make Slipknot look like Simon and Garfunkel”
“You crowd surfers look like a bunch of hot dogs rolling at a gas station”
Later, Taylor Hawkins, the drummer, hopped on the microphone as Grohl played drums. A man of not only several entertainment genres but also of multiple instruments. He left us by saying, “We never leave on goodbyes. We leave on this...” as "Everlong" was played loud and proud to end the festival.
Rockville 2018, my first Rockville, blew my mind. I am interested to see the change of Jacksonville's downtown culture as well as how Rockville's lineup shapes through the years to come. I have faith in music and faith in this city. As a fresh college grad, Welcome to Rockville gave me the best gift I could have ever asked for: A weekend of rock n roll.
Photos by Sarah Htun for Bullet Music