Welcome to Rockville hosted in Jacksonville, Florida was such an incredible experience and journey, especially hailing from Toronto. I’m already excited to embark on it again next year.
The atmosphere of the festival itself was that of peace and passion at the same time. The mosh pits were packed with fellow fans who love the music a little bit more than everyone else, yet they were always looking out for each other, and helping a fellow mosher if they fell (as they should).
This was the first year that they offered their patrons a campsite close to the festival, and I was lucky enough to be one of the guinea pigs for this new development. I have to say that it definitely made the experience that much better and resulted in making friends from across the US.
Even though there were well over 90,000 attendees to this event, everything was spread out and organized so well that the only way you really noticed the size was to simply look around (or get the aerial view from the ferris wheel). The lineups were never huge for the many vendors on site, nor were they outrageously long for the washrooms (my bladder thanks the festival for that).
I’ve had my fair share of festival experiences; whether attending similar ones such as Amnesia Rockfest, or working behind the scenes of some more local festivals such as the Electric Island series. Out of any of my own experiences, I have to say that WTRV is a top dog in terms of the background and logistics of putting something this massive together. This festival has been running for 8 years and they’re continually working at making it better for the years to come.
And now, onto the music:
This festival had such a diverse and killer lineup, that it doesn’t matter what realm of music you consider yourself from. There were artists whose names I’ve heard and known since I was a child, including Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Idol. Other names on the bill were ones that I’ve never taken the time to listen to. The band in the latter category that sticks out for me from this festival would have to be Quicksand. They were a specific request from Addicted’s music editor to cover, and I am incredibly happy that I did. The amazing energy and chemistry shared between the 3-piece band was enough to get me nearly moshing in the barricade.
Friday was jammed packed with some heavy and great artists. Texas Hippie Coalition started the day off right. Their mix of heavy riffs, and Southern bluesy feels got the crowd (and myself) amped up for the rest of the day, with a slight hint of feeling like a badass on top of it all.
Trivium is a band that I have had the opportunity to catch in our hometown at The Danforth Music Hall, but didn’t compare to the energy they put out to this festival. Never missing a beat, and always having fun, Matt Heafy captivated the crowd and kept them moving.
Underoath was an incredibly fun performance to witness so close from the barricade, and they never stopped moving. The crowd was unable to turn away from the stage as vocalist Spencer Chamberlain kept everyone’s focus and attention as he rocked out with his fellow bandmates on stage.
Halestorm came next and they did not let down. As one of the few (and if I’m not mistaken, the only) female in this sausage-fest lineup, Lzzy Hale absolutely slayed their set and everyone loved every second of it. Halestorm isn’t a band that I would go out of my way to listen to, however watching their performance has given me a much greater respect for these incredible musicians and I’ve found myself listening to their music more and more. The crowd was chanting along to all of the songs, and it was really this set that I started to see the bulk of crowd surfers starting to arise.
Five Finger Death Punch is a band that I get a lot of slack from fellow metal-heads for liking because they’ve gone a bit too “mainstream” and aren’t quite “metal”, or considered “douche-metal”. After watching their performance at WTRV, I would say all of those comments are absolute crap, and this band deserves a lot more respect than they are sometimes given. 5FDP puts on one hell of a performance, and they genuinely care about their fans. In the pit, I witnessed a crowd surfer squirming with the guard as they were trying to help them over the barricade (PSA, if you’re crowd surfing, let the guards handle you and trust them. They’ve been trained for these exact situations). Singer Ivan L. Moody made sure that the surfer was A-OK before continuing to rock out. The somewhat aggressive nature of their riffs and vocals made everyone feel ten feet taller and helped everyone let out any left over angst in our systems, and brought the crowd closer together in the end.
Ozzy Osbourne was the first major headliner of the weekend, and my God, did he crush it. He may be pushing 70, but you would never have guessed it, especially after making the announcement to his fans that he’s “never fucking retiring”. He kept the crowd captivated through every and all ages.
It was an even greater treat to see Zakk Wylde alongside Ozzy shredding away. I was lucky enough to catch some of the set from the tip-top of this gigantic ferris wheel and I was completely taken back by the sheer volume of people gathered to sing and worship one of the main men of darkness.
Day 2 started off with the absolutely-incredible-never-able-to-disappoint-even-if-they-wanted-to band, Avatar. I’ve had the opportunity to see Avatar perform at The Opera House in Toronto, and the only issue I had with their performance at this festival was that their set was simply not long enough. Johannes Eckerstrom is one of the greatest and most interesting frontmen to grace the music scene, and genuinely one of my favourite entertainers to photograph. Their fun energy and feeling of community within their fan-base was touching and I am happy to have been part of it.
Stick To Your Guns was one of the next bands that I caught and they were a treat to keep the heavy juices flowing into the night. Even though they did not have the opportunity to hit the main stage of the festival, they crushed the side stage as if this festival was in their hands. The atmosphere and the feelings generated from the fans throughout the pits and sidelines was such an intoxicating feeling, that I didn’t need an energy drink to get through the rest of the night.
Stone Sour took this festival by storm later in the evening, and frontman Corey Taylor was as fun (and gorgeous) as ever. The way the band played to the crowd was an amazing sight to see. It was almost as if they would have liked to have been in the crowd with them all to share these incredible experiences and moments.
Avenged Sevenfold hit the stage on night 2 of this festival, and their live shows have only gotten better since the last time that I was able to catch them opening for Judas Priest in Toronto. They played through all the hits their fans wanted to hear, although half-way through their set, something devastating occurred. A fan who was crowd surfing was launched in the air and got a wicked blow to the head when hitting the concrete. The music stopped as vocalist Matt Shadows tried to spread the sea of fans apart in order to let the EMS truck in to take care of the injured. They had an amazing pyro show to go along with the dual shredding of Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance. Even though their set got interrupted, it didn’t stop the rest of the show from reigning on. I think it’s magical to note that the injured party from their set is alive and managed to raise money from fellow patrons of this festival to help with medical bills. It just goes to show how much this scene looks at complete strangers almost as family, and is incredibly heart-warming.
Day 3 rolled around, and between the face-melting performances, and excessive fun in the campgrounds, my body started to feel the downwards spiral of aches and bruises. That did not stop me from taking in and enjoying every single mesmerizing moment of the rest of the performances.
My day started with the heavy and groovy riffs of the mighty Red Fang. This was my first experience of catching Red Fang live, and again, my only complaint is that their set was too short. They got the day started out in the right fashion, and left everyone ready to party and tackle the rest of the day, even though I got a little sunburnt. The risk of burns and skin disease was totally worth rocking out to this incredible 4-piece band in the hot Florida sun.
Thrice is a band that I’ve missed a few times on past tour runs, and I’m excited to say I now have this band under my belt and have had the chance to experience. They had one hell of a day to follow up with, and they completely ruled. The stage presence and energy was transferred well to the rest of the crowd and moshers, and they never stopped moving.
Clutch has been active and playing shows since I was born nearly 30 years ago, and it shows. Front man Neil Fallon proves it by his amazing stage presence, and the way he was able to keep the crowd moving throughout the entirety of their set with utter ease. As mentioned earlier that Halestorm started the rising of surfers, Clutch had a very close second to the amount of fans swimming through the crowd. Dedicated fans of theirs for years, and newcomers to see them for the first time were all blown away by their energy.
Foo Fighters graced us with their presence on the final night, and they never fail to disappoint. Dave Grohl always entertains, even when he isn’t performing their hits. Halfway through the set, Dave paid homage to the great Billy Idol, who performed just a few hours before they hit the stage. Next thing you know, Billy Idol and Dave Grohl were covering John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth together and had enough chemistry to make one believe that they’ve known each other for years. After playing to the crowd for a little bit, the beginning to the hit song You’re The One That I Want from Grease started up. After hearing the intro for a couple of minutes, the mighty John Travolta comes out on stage to say hi to everyone at the festival. As a major Grease fan myself, I was a little disappointed when he didn’t grab a microphone and start belting out the words, although the crowd ended up doing the job for him, and it was an incredibly special moment.
After three full days of head-banging, four full nights of drinks and good times, and two long days of driving and flying to and from this festival, it felt bittersweet to be back home in Toronto. As nice as it is to be sleeping in my own bed and not in a tent, this festival was an incredibly fulfilling event to be a part of. I would thoroughly suggest anyone who is into rock n’ roll to consider attending this festival, and showing more Canadian pride and our support of live music, and the music industry in general. I know I’m already saving some money in my piggy bank for the years to come.