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Road Reports

Who: Alter Bridge, Cathercist, Chiodos, Digital Summer, Fozzy, Ghost of War, Hell Yeah, Kyng, Lacuna Coil, Middle Class Rut, Monster Truck, Motionless In White, Rob Zombie, Seether, The Pretty Reckless, Theory Of A Deadman, Volbeat, World Gone
Where: Welcome to Rockville Fest @ Metropolitan Park, Jacksonville, FL, USA
Writer/Pics: EC

Gallery: Welcome to Rockville Pics!

"Over 2 full days the festival featured over 40 bands applying their craft for an audience that respected and appreciated the aggressive nature of heavier music and lifestyle."

Throughout the 90s and 00s hard music in America endured great penury. If heavy distortion was to be performed in a live setting it was often panhandled by on and off again festivals like Lollapalooza or the traveling Ozzfest entourage. While Europe basked in the glory of sheer dominance, exemplified by monoliths of rock like "Wacken", "Download" and "Bloodstock", domestic shores wallowed in the tight confines of civic auditoriums and clubs.

Now, in 2014, North America has finally found success in the hard music market. Festivals like "Gigantour", "Rockstar Energy Mayhem" and Jacksonville, Florida's "Welcome to Rockville" have become mainstays over the last four years. An abundant part of that triumph can be attributed to the prolific efforts of "Welcome to Rockville" founder Danny Wimmer and his "Danny Wimmer Presents" promotion. Wimmer and company have launched phenomenal festivals like "Monster Energy's Fort Rock", "Monster Energy's Carolina Rebellion" and "Rock on the Range" as all-star celebrations of music and artistic freedom.

Like the previous three years Welcome to Rockville descended on Jacksonville's Metropolitan Park in epic fashion. The showcase sold out for the third consecutive year, allowing over 25,000 fans to enjoy headline quality acts such as "Alter Bridge", "Rob Zombie", "Avenged Sevenfold" and "The Cult". Over 2 full days the festival featured over 40 bands applying their craft for an audience that respected and appreciated the aggressive nature of heavier music and lifestyle.

Maximum Metal was granted an opportunity to cover the full event and my day began with Saturday's mid-morning performances. On the Jagermeister stage was homegrown Jacksonville natives World Gone. Many fans may not have recognized former Cold guitarist Joe Bennett behind the gas mask. The band resembled Armageddon survivalists as they worked through a punishing set of hardcore. Across the park I was able to catch the last dwindling moments of Digital Summer, who chose "Welcome to Rockville" as a one off date from their nationwide tour with Volbeat and Trivium. The modern enthusiasts played to a large crowd on the west stage and finished with their 2010 charting single "Just Run".

I had prioritized my schedule around alternative rockers Middle Class Rut and their slated performance on the east stage at 1:15. The furious two-piece found the most efficacious remedy for the afternoon heat was to provide a stunning display of stripped down power rock that demanded observation. Drummer Sean Stockham took a moment to compare their hometown of Sacramento to Jacksonville and applauded the crowd for enduring the hot sun. The duo chose a great selection of songs culled from their two albums "No Name No Color" and last year's "Pick Up Your Head". I was elated to hear high energy cuts like "Busy Bein' Born", "New Low", "Born Too Late" and personal favorite "Aunt Betty". After the set I walked backstage and congratulated Stockham and guitarist/vocalist Zack Lopez on their showmanship and they were both kind enough to pose for photos.

After lunch I returned to the east stage to watch Razor & Tie recording artist Chiodos. The Michigan band took a break from their national "Devil's Dance" tour to play six songs for "Rockville". The act opened with current single "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" from their new album "Devil". Vocalist Craig Owens proved that even sharing the largest stage in the park proved too small. He quickly bolted for the floor and performed most of "The Words Best Friend Become Redefined" from the front row of the crowd. The roar of the audience reached a fevered pitch when the sextet delivered new fan favorite "3 AM" before closing out with "If I Cut My Hair, Hawaii Will Sink".

Hell Yeah was another band on the day's must see list but unfortunately I only caught the group's opener, new single "Sangre por Sangre". The band are on a string of dates through early August in support of their much anticipated new album "Blood for Blood" on Eleven Seven Music. The show was on the west stage and I had just enough time to race to the media pit for Alter Bridge's 4:15 appearance. The Floridians launched with one of the most puissant songs of their catalogue in "Addicted to Pain", followed by long time staple "Come To Life". Myles Kennedy exhibited a remarkable vocal display albeit often I was mesmerized by his guitar playing even more so than virtuoso Mark Tremonti. The talented front man issued a brief apologia explanation of choosing epic songs for festival appearances before launching into one of their very own with "Blackbird". Judging from the crowd's reaction the group's inclusion of "Metalingus" was obligatory, the addictive cut slides into the set list repeatedly and continues to be a success ever since its debut in 2007. Backstage Tremonti talked at length with Monster Truck, a band that are currently in the support slot for Alter Bridge's "Fortress" tour this spring.

The day wound down at 6:15 for two final performances. Denmark's metal/rockabilly hybrid Volbeat took the east stage with the opening chords of "Doc Holliday". The track comes off the group's latest release "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies". I had originally questioned Volbeat's billing over Alter Bridge but the audience clearly had no objections. Singer and founder Michael Poulsen announced the next song and the group swayed into greaser rocker "Radio Girl". Unfortunately at this point the band's management sent word that media and photo pass holders had to exit the media pit. With the thousands of fans already securing their respectable spots, I exited stage left and missed the rest of the band's appearance.

My night came to a close at the Ernie Ball stage with the last two songs of Fozzy's set. Chris Jericho was electrifying through "Enemy" and closer "Sin and Bones". I've always respected and admired the passion and energy from Jericho and founder/lead guitarist Rich Ward and the duo were running rampant on stage. The band's kith screamed "Y2J" and "one more song" before Jericho and company bowed and departed.

Sunday festivities began on the Jagermeister stage with a band directly sponsored by the German 70 proof liquor. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania's Ghost of War were perhaps the most unique act of the weekend simply because they played traditional straight laced heavy metal. I could hear influences ranging from Metal Church to Exodus during the band's deliverance. Guitarist Thane Farace appreared extremely comfortable in shred mode and attracted flocks of viewers as the crowd began to appear. Lead singer Ronnie Peterson displayed an operatic tone on the performance and gained much respect by rallying US troops on "Absolute Nothing". In talking with Farace after the festival he explained that he has played guitar live since 1981 and takes pride in Ghost of War's old school denim and leather philosophy.

The east stage was heating up for the midday appearance of The Pretty Reckless. As the sounds of love making was piped through the speakers the New York City act made their way to the stage to show off opener "Follow Me Down". The band also chose other songs from their Razor & Tie debut "Go to Hell" including the title track, "Sweet Things" and hit single "Heaven Knows". Sensuous singer Taylor Momsen teased the crowd with a prepossessing sex kitten aura and a mature approach at storytelling. These hard rockers climbed into my handful of top performances of the weekend.

I returned to the Jagermeister stage briefly to photograph another Razor & Tie act in Kyng. The southern California trio played selections from their new album "Burn the Serum" and seemed at home with their combination of stoner and hard rock. After lunch I returned to the Jagermeister stage to see Italy's gothic sensation Lacuna Coil. This was only the band's second stop on the national "Dead & Rising" tour with support acts Kyng and Eve to Adam. Vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro were in perfect harmony throughout as the audience was mesmerized. Scabbia's on stage demeanor and presence is captivating, highlighted by the rigid strong "Spellbound" staple that the band often includes. The veterans also included new single "Nothing Stands In Our Way" from the newest album "Broken Crown Halo". The group was delightful backstage and both Scabbia and Ferro took the time for some photos.

I walked around and killed some time watching the Seether and Theory Of A Deadman sets. I'm not terribly familiar with either but both bands went over extremely well with an already exhausted and scorched audience. At 6:30 Fearless Records recording artists Motionless In White took over the Jagermeister stage and delivered a frenzied performance that profoundly made a fan out of me. I would go as far as adding them in my handful of top acts of the weekend. Guitarists Ricky Horror and Ryan Sitkowski combined on crushing and angry riffs that were made more venomous by the screams of singer/founder Chris Motionless. The band is often described as horror metal and that label is hammered home by the band's unwavering creepy tendencies. Backstage bassist Devin "Ghost" Sola remained in ghoulish character for my photos. Overall the band delivered most of their set list from the 2012 album "Infamous".

I made my way to the east stage around 6:30 to settle in for my last show of the night, Rob Zombie. The band opened up with the cover of Sly & The Family Stones' "We're An American Band". The veteran spectacle hit all of the favorites including "Superbeast", "Dragula", "Thunder Kiss ‘65", "Sick Bubble Gum", "More Human Than A Human" and "Living Dead Girl". At this point in his illustrious career Rob Zombie proves that he is an entertainer first and foremost. He repeatedly jumped from stage to floor to enter the crowd carrying a bullhorn. I was surprised when he asked if there were any gray haired oldies in the crowd that remembered "Am I Evil". During the Diamond Head cover Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia came on to lend her vocals to the band's rendition. The familiar Zombie cover of KISS's "God of Thunder" was well received as well. My suspicions were confirmed that Rob Zombie would ultimately steal the show. Devil music or simply audience know-how the charistmatic group always delivers the proverbial goods in grand style. That night was certainly no exception.

Many thanks go out to the "Danny Wimmer Presents" team for organizing such a wonderful event not only for the artists and fans but also the community of Jacksonville. An exceptional thanks to sponsors like Budweiser, Monster Energy, Coke, FYE, Jagermeister, and Ernie Ball Music Man for their support. This was a triumphant success and we hope "Welcome To Rockville" returns again in 2015.

Welcome to Rockville Pics!

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