Thousands of music fans got together at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville on May 3-5 for Welcome to Rockville. Even the rain on Friday and Sunday could not stop the bands and fans from having a great time. There was a wide variety of acts this year. Most music lovers were able to find something they like.
Tool, who closed the last night, introduced two new songs, “Descending” and “Invincible.” Fans have been anxious for years for Tool to release a new record. Their reaction to the songs was good, and only strengthens their anticipation.
The Crystal Method, an electronic band from Las Vegas, put on an elaborate light show during their Friday night. Although they are not like most bands that play at the festival, there were a lot of people watching and dancing during the show.
Zeal and Ardor fuse old Negro Spirituals with Black Metal. Manuel Gagneux created the band when he was playing other music and asked people on the 4Chan website to create an unlikely music combination. He says he is happy to be able to play in the United States right now, as the band had been playing for a few months in Europe at smaller venues. Zeal and Ardor have an upcoming U.S. tour with Deafhaven and Baroness, and Gagneux says he would like to play with Bjork because “she has a very open approach to music and it seems like she’s very playful with everything she does.”
Wilson is a fun-loving band that is currently on tour with Motionless in White and Atreyu and will soon tour with Steel Panther. Bassist James Lascu says they are about being happy and encouraging people to do the same. Their new album is called “Tasty Nasty,” and Lascu encourages people “to take a listen and see if you dig it.”
Dead Girls Academy is a punk/post-hardcore/goth band that is working a new record to hopefully come out in early 2020. They are in the process of writing and plan to continue during the summer. They are very energetic on stage, and vocalist Michael Orlando had stage moves reminiscent of Roger Daltry in his prime. Alex (bass) and Craig (guitar) say they would set up a real Dead Girls Academy in Belvidere, Illinois, because they had “a really weird experience there.”
Mike D’Antonio from Killswitch Engage says their new album is completed and will be released soon, but are not currently playing any new songs live. An avid horror movie fan, D’Antonio has recently had the opportunity to see the 1951 classic “The Thing from Another World.” It is the original movie that was remade in 1982 as “The Thing,” which is D’Antonio’s favorite movie. He is conscious of health and pays attention to what he puts into and on his body. He says he sometimes loses weight while on tour, whereas most people gain weight due to what is available to them on tour.
Former Killswitch Engage and current Light the Torch vocalist Howard Jones loves creating music and does not feel right when he is not creating. The aforementioned rain started with full force while Light the Torch was on stage, performing the song “Calm Before the Storm.” While most touring bands spend time in the cities they play, Jones likes to fish, hike and camp while on the road.
Another band with a new album coming soon is Ocala’s Wage War. Their latest single, “Low,” was released in January. Although they play metalcore, the band members say they are inspired by good music in general, not matter what the genre. They say they aren’t huge in the party aspect of touring and are happy to be making music. One of the most interesting events was when they played in Japan. They flew out, played and came back. It was interesting to just be there for such a brief time.
There is much more to Welcome to Rockville than just the music on the three stages. Fans have the opportunity to meet and get autographs from some of their favorite acts in various locations. There are booths from various food and drink vendors, clothing companies, artists, activist groups and lifestyle companies.
One company that is always there is Zippo. Zippo offers something unique. They have a small stage where they hold acoustic performances in an intimate setting for a few people during the three days. José Mangin of Sirius XM hosts the shows. He says he is not always familiar with the bands himself, but sometimes the shows are special, like when Korn did a VERY rare acoustic set. He also says Fever 333 is a great band at the Zippo sessions. Sometimes the bands play songs completely different than the ones they play on the festival stage.
According to Mangin, “They do this really cool activation where fans buy a lighter and get a cool pass to come backstage for an acoustic performance. They don’t know what band is going to perform; they only know it’s a band that’s on the stages that day.”
Mangin also drives a Zippo-owned Jeep around the festival where he talks to bands about whatever.
A perennial booth at Welcome to Rockville and other festivals is To Write Love on Her Arms. This year, they are at 50(!) festivals talking about addiction and mental health. They also recently hosted a 5K Run with 900 runners at Satellite Beach and 1600 runners worldwide. They were able to raise $85,000 from the run. Chad Moses of TWLOHA says they are also participating in Mental Health Month. They have four slogans, one for each week. The slogans are, “I am worthy of hope,” “We need you here,” “Your story is important” and “It’s OK to ask for help.” Moses loves talking to people at festivals and enjoys hearing people’s stories. A piece he wrote is even on one of the shirts TWLOHA sells.
Go to www.welcometorockvillefestival.com for information about next year’s festival. They usually post who is playing around November. Make sure to buy your tickets early because there is a price discount for those who do.