Welcome to Rockville kicked off the festival season on Friday night and it was an adrenaline rush to say the least. Each day was a Godly pick of bands that have one thing on their mind: take Florida to the extreme and I’m not just talking about the heat. Bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch, Godsmack, Halestorm, and The Used are just a few names that performed Friday and we’re only on day one!! Before we tackle day two’s review lets break down the artists sets, performances, and the ooh’s and aahhh’s for day one.
Beginning their set with more of an audience than most opening bands can draw on a good day was Them Evils who kicked off the River Stage around mid-afternoon and made a name for themselves in front of the audience and neighboring bands without a doubt. This southern rock band hailing from Huntington Beach, California is made up of three long-haired members that are on stage with one goal: execute the most killer rock show you’ve ever seen or heard. Jordan Griffin masterfully balances and controls guitars and vocals meanwhile Jake Massanari head bangs and trickles in with his hard hitting bass and David Delaney leaves no drum untouched by the end of his set as he thrashes his drum kit to no end. The vocals and guitar from Griffin allow this band to stand out from your average rock band; however, the band does remind me of a few hits from the Arctic Monkeys that have the rockabilly/distortion guitar sound. The audience dug their hits such as Untold and She Got Nothin’ and couldn’t help but love them all the more when Massanari hopped into the audience during their performance. Griffin hyped up the crowd when he asked them “Jacksonville, Florida you like rock n’ roll? Wanna hear some rock n roll?” while using enticing guitar sounds in pace with his questions. Griffin also took some time to let the new found fans know about Them Evils upcoming EP “Rollin’ Stoned and Livin’ Free” before playing the track Got Me Rockin’ from the EP. Shortly before closing out the set Griffin asked “Jacksonville, wanna have some fun?” and the band followed up by playing Dirty Deeds (AC/DC song) before wrapping up and thanking the crowd to which the crowd applauded. Them Evils put on a truly killer set and I would definitely purchase a ticket to one of their upcoming shows too. They are on tour with The Wild so make sure you keep an eye out for nearby dates.
Bad Wolves followed up on the River Stage with just as much energy and passion as Them Evils (but with a heavier sound) and boy did they blow me away with how riveting this band is to see live. Bad Wolves isn’t just an onstage success either with music videos and big hits on Youtube such as Hear Me Now, Learn To Live, and Better The Devil the imagery this Los Angeles metal band produces to their audience is not something easily looked over. Instead, the entire performance is captivating by both sound and sight and draws the viewer into the story that is being told. The Florida audience felt no different than I did as those walking to the main stage to see acts such as Trivium and Underoath were quickly redirected to the River Stage to see what Bad Wolves were all about. And the answer to what they were all about was simply energy. Burning through heavy track after heavy track lead singer Tommy Vext made his presence known as he danced his way around the stage while screaming nearly every lyric to his song while making sure the audience was with him every step of the way. Doc Coyle just about shredded everything he could on stage meanwhile the rest of Bad Wolves consisting of Chris Cain on rhythm guitar, Kyle Konkiel on bass guitar and John Boecklin drums each individually held up the rest of Bad Wolves without overshadowing one another and making this group look to be the next headlining act to take on Welcome To Rockville 2019.
ToothGrinder brought the progressive metal from New Jersey to their Florida audience and just about put a hole through the stage with all their movement and enthusiasm. With music so quick and diverse it’s almost like a flurry of MMA punches and kicks coming in from multiple directions and you don’t know where to start only for the song to die down briefly and build itself back up to that heavy sound that was on display seconds ago. This five-piece band has never been strangers to keep different genres off the table and that’s what makes them so special. The diversity they open themselves to allows them to have a melting pot of genres stirred up to make one cohesive song and soon to be one beautifully written album that is more successful than your local garage band stealing riffs from the 80’s. Their live performance was definitely heavy and came with melodies and hard-hitting vocals. Each of their songs had a good build before leading up to a strong release of all instruments which was really exciting to witness live and of course be in the mosh pit too as well. Lead vocalist Justin Matthews did an excelling job on tracks such as The Shadow, Let It Ride and Blue because of his vocal style being so alike but diverse at the same time it fits perfectly with what the Jacksonville crowd loves to hear.
The Used brought out every middle and high school memory from their Jacksonville audience when they hit the stage on Friday night and we couldn’t have been more thankful to see such a wonderful live band. Looking better than he ever has lead singer Bert McCracken did a phenomenal job on vocals for the group and getting the audience hyped up for the next artists. Musicians Jeph Howard on bass, Dan Whitesides on drums, and Joey Bradford on the guitar made up the remaining members of The Used and did fantastically. This was my first time seeing The Used and as a fan of their classic albums such as In Love and Death and Lies for the Liars and listening to the group since the age of 15 or so I was really stoked to see what tracks would be presented to Rockville so that I too could sing my heart out. Blood On My Hands, A Box Full of Sharp Objects, The Taste of Ink were just a handful of the classic tracks we got to hear and I felt so blessed to share that with the thousands of people singing next to me. We also got to hear the new track Cry from the band’s album Imaginary Enemy. In addition to the fun times we had McCracken wasn’t afraid to show his sense of humor when he asked the crowd to put their arm around the person next to them sneakily (like their on their first date) as The Used led into I Caught Fire McCracken said “Awh, what a good memory for me to keep” and everyone chuckled. Ending their set with Pretty Handsome Awkward the group received a large round of applause for the throwback set. If you haven’t heard Imaginary Enemy’s tracks I would highly suggest giving those a whirl before you see them on their upcoming shows. The Used do an amazing job capturing the tracked album elements and bringing them full force to the live stage.
The first time I saw the next group was at the Livewire Music awards last year with the dual purpose: to witness a live performance and to see the group accept their nomination for the Best Heavy Metal Song for their track Executioners Tax which couldn’t have been better deserved. That group was none other than Power Trip. Upon witnessing Power Trip for the first time I was unsure how anyone could not be attracted to the energy this band brings to the table as well as live performance. Now to catch up with the band a year since then has been nothing short of a grand ol’ time and a true declaration that this band has no slow bone nor spirit in their body. The audience was met with a mixture of thrash metal tracks from the bands two critically acclaimed albums and the roar from the fans couldn’t have been hushed down by even God himself as the band tore apart this stage from edge to edge leaving no stone unturned, no part of the stage untouched, and no fan left hungry. Lead vocalist for Power Trip Riley Gale wanted the energy and voices louder as he asked the crowd “If you’re feeling the Power Trip gimme a hell yeah!” and “That’s pretty good Jacksonville, but not enough!” Each member of the audience played a major part in driving each track from the ground to the sky with chants, applause and of course a wider than life circle pit. The audience heard only the best of the best when it came to the tracks Power Trip performed with songs like Crucifixation and Murderer’s Row everyone was loving the trip.
Five Finger Death Punch has received backlash in recent years due to Ivan Moody’s onstage breakdowns and rehab visits, but as of Friday Moody appeared to be in pretty good shape and we hope he stays that way for the foreseeable future. As drummer Jeremy Spencer took the stage in full skeleton makeup the band followed in and began with Under & Over It followed by Wash It All Away, Jekyll and Hyde, Never Enough, Lift Me Up and Bad Company. With a couple classics and a couple new songs, Moody seemed impressed by the audience as he mentioned: “Man, I’ve missed you guys, you guys are fucking crazy.” To finish up the set Five Finger Death Punch played Trouble, I Apologize, Wrong Side Of Heaven, Coming Down (which the crowd had a solid clap going for), Fake and The Bleeding. The live show was pretty solid overall Chris Kael was doing a killer job as always on bass guitar, meanwhile, Zoltan Bathory seemed to be enjoying his time on guitar as he headbanged his locks alongside guitarist Jason Hook who was nailed the solo on Coming Down for the Florida audience. I personally was impressed by Moody’s vocals who seemed more aggressive on the mic then he has in the past whether it be due to added personal experiences or a step up in live performance it was a better fit for the band (in particular when he sang Under and Over It).
My personal favorites by heavily biased opinion were the legends themselves Atreyu of course! I’ve had the opportunity to check out these guys multiple times over the years and man, they do not disappoint. Vocalist Alex Varkatzas who splits his time between the band and the tattoo world can’t help but stay away from the stage and it’s clear to see. His bright smile and vibrant tattoos are all a whirlwind to the fans who can’t help but close their eyes as they reach out in both physical and emotional levels to Atreyu singing every verse and chorus without hesitation. And the love. The love the fans have for this band makes it seem as if they’ve known all five members since birth. I even saw a few tears shed during one or two of the bands slower songs which go to show the depth of the love is forever untouchable between every genre of bands and their fans. We often hear “we wouldn’t be anything without you” but we rarely see that connection first hand as we did when Atreyu took the stage Friday night. And for that we thank you and we love you Atreyu. The band’s setlist contained tracks such as Becoming The Bull and Exe’s and Oh’s which led Atreyu off to a white-hot start. However, Atreyu threw in a curve ball when they played Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, but absolutely nailed the song. Varkatzas took advantage of not being held back from asking the audience to engage in regular metal festivities by telling the fans “this is the time in the show when the circle pit is opened big and wide” then the band led into Bleeding Mascara from the album The Curse. Atreyu pressed on with When Two Are One, Doomsday, and a new favorite of mine after hearing it live The Crimson before closing out their set with Blow.
With many shows and festivals under their belt and their live show being solidified into a perfect T Godsmack is officially the festival kings as of 2018. Bringing the fire to their set with the live premiere of When Legends Rise & Eye Of The Storm and literal fire cannons there was nowhere else the audience wanted to be. Following up with their classics Awake and 1000hp the audience kept getting rowdier and rowdier and it didn’t stop there either. Sully Erna took a moment to ask Jax how they were and said it’s been awhile, how ya’ll been? Then Erna followed up by asking if they were getting cocktails because the band sounds better when you’re all fucked up (which received a mix of positive responses). Erna also mentioned their new album dropped today and told the audience he would hand deliver the album to their door if he has to which was received with a loud cheer. Godsmack kept the live premiere’s coming with Unforgettable followed by a regular setlist track Something Different which Erna said it’s a favorite live because everyone started to treat that song like they would at classic rock shows by hoisting their girlfriends on their shoulders and asked for the same thing to happen Friday night. Erna and the rest of Godsmack must’ve been pleased because Erna said “nice fuckin’ job!” as the song came to a close. Godsmack continued to raise hell by playing Cryin’ Like A Bitch, and Voodoo as they led up to their fan highlight of the night when Godsmack plays Batalla de los tambores (battle of the drums). Finishing up their set with Whatever, Bullet Proof (live premiere), and I Stand Alone it was needless to say this was a flawless performance by Godsmack and they are a band of a different breed that anyone would be honored to share the same room, stage, and urinal with these guys!
Closing out the first evening of Welcome To Rockville was the legendary metal god himself Ozzy Osbourne who began his Final World Tour Friday night. However, Ozzy couldn’t be brought to the stage without the proper introduction from metal advocate Jose Mangin (from SiriusXM Octane). As Mangin questions the crowd about who has enjoyed their time so far and who plans on attending the next two days of Rockville a slow but steady Ozzy chant begins to form throughout the packed audience. Mangin encourages those in the audience to spread the word about his favorite genre (metal) so that it will continue to live on for generations to come. Then Mangin wrapped up by asking for everyone to bow their heads for our lord and savior the prince of darkness and after asking for the biggest and loudest Ozzy chant which the crowd happily complied. After a brief moment, a projector showed a transformation video which was compiled of a mixture of photos and video of Ozzy over the years leading up to the name Ozzy being shown on both screens and the prince’s entrance. Then the moment everyone was finally waiting for came: “Are you ready to go crazy?” followed by “Let the madness begin” boomed through the speakers and all hell had officially broken loose. Opening with Bark At The Moon followed by Mr. Crowley, I Don’t Know, and Suicide Solution Mr. Osbourne had the crowd in the palm of his hand and the fans were not only shown by the numbers, but their voices raising loud enough that they truly could’ve barked at the moon and the moon would be scared of the princes disciples. After playing music for fifty years Mr. Osbourne made it physically clear during his set that he would not let his career die until he did as he went to each side of the stage and jumped up and down with his mic stand and verbally when he said “I ain’t going no fucking where”, “I’ll never retire”, and he also mentioned he will be going until he drops (which didn’t seem appearant that he would) so the audience has some more time to catch the Ozz master live!
The audience contained a mixture of ages and fans from all walks of life as some of the audience were as young as children and some adults were fans from the early stages of the Ozz but were rocking Black Sabbath and Ozzy tour shirts from different years to show dedication and support for the prince. Ozzy returned the favor by playing more classics such as No More Tears, War Pigs, Crazy Train, Mama I’m Coming Home, and Paranoid. The performance that Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Blasko, Adam Wakeman and Tommy Clufetos put together for Welcome To Rockville was top notch although their setlist was semi underwhelming as it was almost identical to The Ozzfest/Knotfest 2017 setlist. Nonetheless, Ozzy and friends could be playing the bongos for hours on end and the audience still would’ve eaten it up. And it’s not because of the fame that the members have obtained overtime but rather the effort, passion, and love that goes into this groups live set becomes personal for each member of the audience and the fans couldn’t have asked for much more. Especially to see Mr. Osbourne still putting on a vocal performance of a lifetime is truly a spectacle to see. There were two highlights from the night which the first one I must give to Zakk Wylde for consistently impressing anyone he comes into contact with by showing his insane guitar solos from behind his head to just himself onstage doing his thing is truly a set of memorable moments I will not forget for some time to come. The second highlight is tied between hearing The Road To Nowhere and Clufetos lengthy drum solo which was both mesmerizing to watch live.
If you have the money and the time (if you don’t you better find some of both quick) Ozzy will be returning to the states (he is going overseas first) late August as apart of his No More Tours 2 run. This is something you will not want to miss and will be one of the last few times you will be able to catch the man himself on the road. Rock on gentlemen \m/ !