It was another gorgeous spring afternoon in Jacksonville on Saturday, April 28, the second day of 2018 Welcome to Rockville Music Festival. A bigger audience than the day before flowed into the festival early on. By the time the Swedish heavy metal band Avatar hit the main stage in the early afternoon, a large crowd had already formed. One of the only groups on the roster from Europe, these colorful musicians have been keeping Glam rock alive in their unique way, since 2001. As the band's guitarist Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby emerged on a throne, it was apparent that he was the king of the Avatar world. The band proceeded to bring a Heavy Metal Rock circus to the sweaty Florida fans. The audience responded with mass approval.
Meanwhile, California was well represented by Joyous Wolf on the smallest of the three stages. The stage featured some of the most exciting music of the day and was the most pleasant to hang around. Unlike the main stage venue, which was primarily a giant parking lot, the smaller stage featured a grassy hill, lined with trees and bordering a Jacksonville waterway. The area had it’s own underutilized food court and bars and simply was the most pleasant place to be at the festival. The young California band played some classic Blues-rock, helping to keep the genre alive and vital.
The smaller stage continued to rock throughout the day with some of the most inspiring sets for Saturday. The Butcher Babies from Los Angeles played one of the most intense hardcore metal sets of the day. With a welcome infusion of female vocals, the band is led by hair whipping singers Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey and features an ear-shattering trio of balls out rockers in the band, including guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein, and drummer Chase Brickenden. The group had the crowd screaming, jumping, crowd surfing and moshing all during their short 30-minute set. At one-point Shepard lunged into the crowd, during the song Pomona (Shit Happens), and made her way into the middle of the mosh pit, while Sheperd barked throaty lyrics and swung her long braids wildly.
Another Californian closed the stage Saturday night with a fiery set of party rock. Andrew WK led a fantastic group of musicians through an inspiring set full of great rock riffs. The performer has faced various legal troubles over the years and may be one of the most underappreciated rockers in the country. But an adoring crowd helped him close the small stage at Rockville in grand style.
The main stages featured a group of relatively new alternative metal bands. Black Veil Brides from Hollywood, California brought their toned down Glam rock set to Rockville in the early afternoon. The band still looked a bit goth but seems to have toned down their Glam image in favor of concentrating on their music. The group initially formed in 2006 in Ohio. But the band seems much more at home in Hollywood, continuing in the hard rock tradition of Motley Crue or Kiss.
Hollywood Undead, another California band from Los Angeles, garnered a massive audience in the afternoon. The group which formed in 2005, plays a rap metal that endears them to a millennial crowd raised on hip-hop. All of the band members have pseudonyms and wear their own unique hockey masks before unmasking halfway through their sets. Their set was the sweatiest at the main stage on Saturday.
Across the field on the other big stage, rock veterans Stone Temple Pilots were playing a riveting set about the same time. STP is a rock band from San Diego that was initially fronted by charismatic singer Scott Weiland, brothers Robert and Dean DeLeo on bass and guitar respectively, and drummer Eric Kretz. Since the band's formation in 1989, its line-up remained unchanged until the firing of Weiland in 2013. Chester Bennington of Linkin Park then joined the group as lead singer. In November 2015, Bennington left the band to return to work with Linkin Park. On December 3, 2015, Weiland was found dead on his tour bus before a performance with his band The Wildabouts. In 2016, the band launched an online audition for a new lead vocalist. On July 20, 2017, Bennington committed suicide by hanging. On November 14, 2017, Jeff Gutt became the new singer of the band. The history of adversity has seemed to cement the group as one of the tightest nit hard rock acts in the country. The band played an intense set full of their hit songs.
Stone Sour closed the same stage as evening began to set in with a nearly full moon. The band formed in Des Moines, Iowa in 1992, performing for five years, before disbanding in 1997. They reunited in 2000, and since 2006, the group has consisted of lead vocalist and guitarist Corey Taylor from Slipknot fame, Guitarist Josh Rand, and drummer Roy Mayorga. Stone Sour earned the group two Grammy nominations, both for Best Metal Performance, for the singles “Get Inside," in 2003, and "Inhale, in 2004. From their 2006 album, Come What(ever) May, the group received another Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal. Taylor led the band in an intense set that saw fans crowd surfing and moshing en masse.
As evening set in and fireworks lit the sky most of the vast crowd at the festival moved to the main stage parking lot for the final set of the day by Avenge Sevenfold. The band is an America heavy metal group from Southern California, formed in 1999. The band's current lineup includes lead vocalist M. Shadows, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Zacky Vengeance, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Synyster Gates, bassist and backing vocalist Johnny Christ, and drummer Brooks Wackerman. The band has gone through some hard rock musical phases creating a vast palette of music to choose from, including postpone, heavy metal, and most recently more traditional blues rock.
The band has a history of adversity including the tragic death of their original drummer. James The Rev Sullivan was found dead at his home at the age of 28, in 2010. The cause of death was revealed to have been an "acute polydrug intoxication due to combined effects of Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam/Nordiazepam and ethanol." The band considered disbanding, but with the help of drummer Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater regrouped and continued to make hit records.
Now with drummer Wackerman, the group has embarked on their End of the World tour, with a beautiful set designed by the creators of Cirque de Soliel. The show in Jacksonville was to be full of drama and diversity much like the band's history. The evening seemed to begin well with the group blasting two songs into the audience that whipped the adulate crowd into a mass crowd surfing mega mosh pit frenzy. But then singer Shadows announced that he had been ill for over a weak, and his voice was suffering badly. Instead of canceling the show he soldiered on but continued to struggle throughout the night, aided by other members of the band as backup singers. Just as things seem to be going okay, with a riveting performance musically by the group and fascinating visuals, the band had to pause for a medical emergency. Apparently, an elated crowd surfer was launched into the mosh pit by enthusiastic music fans, but nobody caught him, and he landed on the parking lot pavement. The show had to be stopped and a passageway cleared into the massive crowd to extract the severely injured man. The nearly 30-minute delay at into the bands allowed set time, and the group was only able to perform 11 of the 17 sings on their current tour set list. It was a bit of a sour ending to an otherwise action-packed day of phenomenal metal music.