Despite multiple inclement weather delays, 2019’s Welcome to Rockville powered through with great production, great artists and few problems. Friday morning stated well, but had a smaller than typical crowd. As usual, Danny Wimmer quietly watched as the crowds lined up waiting to enter the front gates. This is one detail I always find heart warming about this production. He cares enough to come out and view his handy work. Often times he can be seen throughout the venue either on foot or on a bicycle interacting with many people and just verifying his vision is what everyone else sees.
The eclectic blend of the various artists throughout the day had a little something for everyone. Amigo the Devil opened the show with a high energy fun set. It’s not everyone who can get away with playing a banjo at a rock show. Wilson, on the River Stage were a delight to watch. They were very engaging and kept the crowd happy with their positive energy. I expect some even bigger things for them if they continue at this pace. Light the Torch took over the Metropolitan stage to a terrific crowd and a sudden torrential down pour. They played through. A few photographers reported camera issues after being caught in the deluge. Hyro the Hero, turned in a solid set with many people pleasantly surprised. Beartooth, a fan favorite double timed to and from an acoustic Zippo Session to the Metropolitan stage. Seeing them in this form was a definite treat and quite a contrast musically. Killswitch Engage managed to turn in their most of their set just prior to a mandatory evacuation of the festival, which shut down the show for expected dangerous conditions. Fortunately, in this case it was not as bad as expected but lightning was in the area. The venue reopened as Flogging Molly gave an uplifting performance, perfect for getting the crowd hyped back up. Many fans were upset over the delay and when additional weather threatened, the venue management elected to stay open. For the first time, the City of Jacksonville extended the curfew so the remainder of the bands could perform and the fans could get the full experience. The Crystal Method on the Metropolitan Stage was an odd addition to the line up, but was definitely a mood booster. Evanescence, and in particular, Amy Lee returned to the stage after their orchestral tour with a new attitude and energy. Ms. Lee owned every inch of the stage. Her voice and confidence was unparalleled. Korn finished the night strong. The sparse early group gave way to an elbow to elbow crowd rocked once again by these Welcome to Rockville veterans.
Saturday was a hot one, not just on the stage. The previous day’s showers left the kind of sticky humidity that made beverage vendors very happy. There were several instances where fans passed out from the heat, lack of hydration, intoxication or a combination of the three. This is typical for many festivals, unfortunately. Crobot, and charismatic lead singer, Brandon Yeagley jumped out to a strong opening. Dead Girls Academy rocked the Monster Energy Stage and had a tight set. Their stage presence gets progressively better, and they have been getting more engaging every day. Black Label Society sounded better than ever and very few rip like the man himself, Zakk Wylde. There was also a beautiful tribute to Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul. In This Moment, typically a crowd favorite, as well as mine, drew a massive mid afternoon following. Continuing with the varied line up, Yelawolf rocked the River Stage, and he was an interesting variable. There are several fests dabbling in the fluidity of artists, and given the size of the venue, Welcome to Rockville allows for some variations. The big three from Saturday night , may have been one of the largest crowds I have seen for Welcome to Rockville in quite some time. Shinedown, playing their hometown show, really brought the energy. One sweet moment was singing their cover of Simple Man, with Ronnie Van Zant’s daughter on stage. (Melody is married to Jasin Todd.) Judas Priest brought a strong performance, the only thing making if a little odd was the over obvious use of a teleprompter for some lyrics, but honestly I could over look that as I could not remember half of what Rob Halford is expected to remember and his vocals were still phenomenal. We can only hope to have half of his energy. As always Rob Zombie puts on one of the most energetic, entertaining and visually enticing show. He can move like a twenty year old, and does not miss a note. The theatrical elements never tries to compensate for the music. This seems to be something that is becoming a bit less the norm.
… And then there was Sunday. Before the venue opened, it was completely evacuated for severe weather. Having arrived prior to the evacuation, I rode out the storm with a view of everything. Even staff was evacuated, and rumored winds of sixty miles per hour roared through the venue. Surprisingly the visual damage was not as extensive as anticipated and a big pat on the back to the crew for getting it back up and running. It may have seemed like it took too long, but to me I was surprised they got it back together at all. Again, the city worked with DWP to extend the curfew and sound ordinances to allow the show to finish. Unfortunately, Dorothy and While She Sleeps had to be taken off the schedule to make it work. Hopefully, I will be able to catch them soon. Fever 333 performed both their first-ever, acoustic set for Zippo Sessions (claiming the practiced in the bathroom), and their crowd satisfying high energy performance on the Monster Energy Stage was terrific. Meshuggah had less crowd surfing and moshing than usual, but not because they failed in anyway to excited their audience. It was a rather sedate, almost chilly day, and most likely this was a symptom of technically being one of the first acts due to the late start. As the sun went down, Bring Me The Horizon, lit up the stage with second song pyro worthy of any headliner, and was just plain fun to watch Incubus is one of my favorites. Brandon Boyd is one of the more lyric and vocal-style focused singers of the day. He does not physically connect as much with the audience, but he is in a different class and really does not have to. The soul in his vocals seem to connect even when his eyes do not. Tool finished up the night. As is typical, there was no use of the large video screens other than to broadcast canned graphics and videos. For anyone not close to the front, the show consisted of a view of some pretty lights and music. Other venues that have slanted seating might have been a better choice.
In regards to the festival as a whole, there were some noteworthy problems. One is the Monster Stage’s location. It is at its second year on the pavement, and for rainy days it is perfect. On the flip side, it is positioned on dark pavement, in hot Florida weather. It raises the temperatures even hotter in the crowd. There is limited access to free water and bottles of water were priced at $4. With the need of people to consume six to ten bottles a day to stay hydrated in the heat, it became an issue for people to consume enough to prevent physical problems. There was more than one time I felt very dizzy. The VIP section was near the Monster Stage and was quite nice, but the positioning to the left did not provide as much visibility as it could have with just a slightly more angled position. Parking in the area is always a challenge and perhaps a reliable shuttle system through JTA would be useful. I have not yet experienced the camping so I can not speak to its successes or failures. Communication in regards to the use of the app, Facebook and Instagram did not seem to sync up well, and word of the reopening of the venue on Friday after the evacuation was slow to get to everyone who obeyed the order to go to the cars.
For the price, it is still a reasonable value. There is a ton of music on this ticket. I can not hold the festival responsible for the weather issues. I can only recall one other year the venue was evacuated. I am not sure if the later date made the events more likely. Being a native of Florida, it is hard to judge. Lightning and sometimes tornadoes, are typical. The site clean up people were on top of their game. Many times I saw people sweeping the pavement. In general, staff, bartenders, and security were as cordial as possible given the pressure of serving or caring for that many people. The availability and quality of food was on point. Overall, the positives out weighed the negatives, a solid nine out of ten.