Breaking Benjamin kicked off their set on Saturday night with Red Cold River and my first thought was their lead singer Benjamin Burnley has lost a ton of weight. And according to online reports he was dieting with band member Aaron Bruch and also is a recovering alcoholic so it’s good to see him getting back in to shape and bringing some respect back to himself and to recovering musicians. Burnley seemed pretty impressed with the crowd despite the heat and long day of bands that was soon coming to a close when he said: “You guys are doing so incredible”. Fans were just as impressed with Breaking Benjamin as they were with the fans. Playing through songs such as Blow Me Away, The Diary of Jane, and Breath the audience was jamming through the entire set list but had the most fun during The Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk / and the drum solo (performed by drummer Shaun Foist). Keith Wallen performed an amazing vocal cover of Sad but True (Metallica song) which blew me and surrounding audience members away who packed the crowd from the front barrier to the fences in the back. Overall their live performance has spoken volumes for years and even more so this year with their release Ember in April this band continues to show how they’re the band that keeps on giving and like our friend Ozzy has no intention of slowing down soon and we look forward to the future tours to come from the BB boys!
Black Veil Brides played to an older crowd at Welcome To Rockville but still pulled out all the stops as the solid rock band performers they are. The boys in Black Veil have always said their intention was never to target a younger demographic, but the fact that they have and have found success in doing so they have rolled with the tide. For the first time in a few years that I’ve seen Black Veil, they’re in front of a wider audience of young adults to older adults but next to no teenagers or pre-teens. Nonetheless, BVB brought out their classic hits such as Rebel Love Song, The Legacy, Knives and Pens, and some new hits such as Faithless and In The End which won over fans with songs from each time period. During Knives and Pens, the entire audience was clapping to the beat meanwhile crowd surfers made their way across the audience. The band themselves have definitely progressed over the years in terms of musical, stage performance, and image. As time has gone on the band has changed their lyrics and sound, their stage performance has improved drastically (Andy’s scream is much deeper and clean, Jake and Jinxx guitar solos have become tight, and CC’s drumming skills have only gone up) and their make up and clothing have become simple and modern with slight hints at the emo/goth rock such as all black clothing. Hearing Rebel Love Song and The Legacy live were just an example of how far the band has come since those short years ago and I look forward to seeing how they will progress in time.
Hollywood Undead brought their masks and their game faces as they put on an energetic set for the fans. Playing a short but impactful set Hollywood Undead let the crowd know they were not an afterthought, but were instead one of the largest rock groups (in terms of numbers and popularity) and came to a party. Packing a larger crowd then we’ve seen in recent years the group brought out their fan-favorite hits such as Been To Hell, Bullet, and Everywhere I Go, but that’s not what got the highlight of the evening from fans. The cool thing that Hollywood Undead did during their set on Saturday night (besides just being an awesome group of dudes) was pull up eight-year-old Brandon from out of the audience to introduce the next song Comin’ In Hot and dance alongside Brandon on stage for the rest of the song. Not sure how an eight-year-old knows Hollywood Undead lyrics or if he should, but I guess we all have to start somewhere! Hollywood Undead flawlessly electrified their stage set up with palm trees and green LED’s which reminded the fans of their nearby beach scene and gave it that California Dreamin’ vibe I’m sure they were aiming for. With Hollywood Undead’s fifth album release in 2017 entitled Five it will be interesting to see what happens with the band’s members and their music in the next two years as we have seen the loss of a couple members, but a consistency in music in terms of their new album.
Avatar had their makeup and their King on point and on hand for the Welcome To Rockville festival and the audience wanted more than the short set they received. Opening the set to trumpets was the king himself being rolled out on a chair with an electric guitar sitting in front of him to which he picked up and began strumming to the song A Statue of The King. Then the rest of Avatar took the stage and lead vocalist Johannes Eckerström unique voice reigned over the crowd. This was my first time witnessing the festivities of Avatar and it was quite intriguing to say the least. Similar to the band Ghost Avatar has their own story to tell as they have their king and their citizens (the audience) and some of their lyrics relate to the storyline that they portray. Eckerström’s appearance and personality are very convincing onstage that many people probably would not think twice about what is being sold to them. From the clean and screamed lyrics, to the well dressed members of Avatar this is the perfect set up for a band that all audience members can get into regardless of age. Eckerström told the audience “Hail to Rockville, hail to the king, hail to its citizens, and hail to you all!” which the audience applauded to. This was followed up by Hail the Apocalypse and The Eagle Has Landed. Eckerström then asked the crowd if they were ready to pledge their allegiance to the king to which the audience returned with an answer consisting of metal horns and short screams of joy. And again in accordance with the question came the song The King Wants You followed by Eckerström saying that they like it hot here in Rockville and played Let It Burn. Before closing out the set Eckerström said: “Well done, citizens.” And told the audience a story of how when people see the band on the street the opposing traffic moves to the other side of the street because Avatar looks, sounds, and smells like a freak show which led to Avatar playing the song Smells Like A Freakshow. Overall the production value and onstage performance that each member brings to the table ties together a very interesting live show that does not allow you to take your eyes away from it.
Andrew W.K. brought the party power to the Florida crowd on the River stage and the fans dug it more than I would have expected. Over the years Andrew W.K. has become a polarizing figure in both the television and music world and has quickly risen ranks to make his set one of the most unique and vibrant live shows to date. Growing up watching more Nickelodeon that I should have I first discovered W.K. on Destroy Rebuild Destroy as the host and never knew what happened to him after. The reality was that Andrew W.K. did a lot of things during those years that were outside of music and more toward television and motivational speaking. However, W.K. couldn’t stay away from making another album so he took some time and created his 2018 album entitled You’re Not Alone. W.K. said the following about the album: “I’m going for the sound of pure, unadulterated power; every emotion, every thought, every experience, every sensation, every fear, every joy, every clarity, every confusion, every up, every down… all extruded and concentrated into one thick syrup of super life-force feeling, and then psychically amplified by the celebratory spirit of glorious partying.” Chanting “party, party” before W.K. hit the stage I knew we were in for a sure treat. From a guitar taco to listening to W.K. dedicate She Is Beautiful to all the beautiful women in the crowd we were already having a blast after just a few short songs in. One of my favorite live songs the group played was Tear It Up which W.K. said was about tearing up all your fears and throwing them into the abyss. Followed by W.K. saying “we won’t soon forget the power of party” as the band led into You Will Remember tonight. Shortly later came a guitar solo and keyboard solo and then things slowed down with the track Break The Curse. With Gregg Roberts on bass, Erik Payne, Amanda Lepre, and Dave Pino on guitar it’s impossible to not have a party. Each member had their own energy and way of expressing their “party” feelings which had the fans rocking out even harder and really drew the crowd into their live set as opposed to any other band who took the stage that day.
The Butcher Babies came to Rockville and not only dominated the show but also showed the female fronted bands they are here to stay. Since releasing the band’s first EP nearly seven years ago the Butcher Babies have only grown as a band and in popularity. After the Butcher Babies returned from their tour with Marilyn Manson in 2012 the band got together to record their first album, Goliath. As we fast forward through each impactful year for the band we see plenty of milestone along the way such as landing at No. 112 on The Billboard 200 chart (for Goliath), touring with metal royalty like Megadeth, releasing two new albums, and producing the heaviest music possible! After Goliath, we saw the release of Take It Like A Man in 2015 which showed a diverse range of thrash metal sounds and with the release of Lilith (Butcher Babies newest album) being released last August we have even more thrash metal and core grooves to jam to live with the Butcher Babies. Opening their Rockville set with Monsters Ball from the album Take It Like A Man the audience was falling in love at first sight with the ladies and gentlemen who took the stage. Playing every metal hit that was sure to excite the crowd into a fury we saw crowd surfers flow in from every different angle and some of the wildest mosh pits during Lilith and Headspin. As enjoyable as the new tracks and intense mosh pits are there’s such an enjoyable, interesting, and different dynamic when it comes to having two lead singers but multiple bands have seen a great success by doing so and Butcher Babies is one of the newest testaments to that. If the Butcher Babies stop in your city but you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy the show watch a live performance of Pomona and come back to tell me you still don’t feel differently so I can slap you upside your head.
If you’re apart of the hardcore scene then you’re probably familiar with Stick To Your Guns. These soon to be veterans have been building their name for years and have continually grown their fan base with their relatable lyrics, unique style and of course their endless contributions to their scene. These Orange County locals have put out some remarkable albums like The Hope Division, Disobedient, their most recent album True View and most notably their 2012 release titled Diamond. Jacksonville, Florida received a quick taste of what Stick To Your Guns has to offer with songs including Married To The Noise, The Reach For Me: Forgiveness of Self, and Doomed By You before closing out their set with Against Them All. But does a good setlist make for an amazing Stick To Your Guns show? Yes and no. Without some solid headbangers and mosh pit throw down tracks many fans would find themselves uninterested and bored; therefore, lead vocalist Jesse Barnett, guitarists Josh James and Chris Rawson as well as George Schmitz on drums put on an exuberant and enthusiastic set filled with jumps and high kicks alongside their unforgettable set and for those reasons I can’t wait to catch them again!
Avenged Sevenfold closed out Saturday night with an extensive set and I couldn’t get enough. After checking out Avenged Sevenfold for the first time at Las Rageous not too long ago I was really stoked to see they were announced for Welcome To Rockville and they did not disappoint by a long shot. Between the fireworks that shot off and Synyster Gates opening the show with a solo leading into The Stage, I wasn’t sure what to be more excited to see. Lead vocalist M. Shadows asked Jacksonville how they were doing before letting them know that he was under the weather as he has been sick all week. He asked the audience if they would rather have Avenged play (but have the audience sing louder) or have Avenged come back at a different time. As expected the fans opted to singer louder and the fans did just that as the group led into After Life. To spice up the song Avenged had fire cannons similar to the ones Godsmack had firing in tune with the beat of the song. Before leading into the next track Shadows dedicated the song to whoever traveled from far away to see the show on Saturday night and the band led into Hail To The King which was received a loud cheer from the crowd. Before going any further Shadows told the audience he wanted to see them fuck shit up and after Shadows finished the band took on the track God Damn. Shadows felt fearful after though because he said: “I don’t know how we’re going to get through this next one” as the band led into Buried Alive.
Then the set took a dark turn as an interview with James Sullivan better known as “The Rev” was displayed on the screen and turned into the band playing So Far Away. Afterward, Shadows seemed a little shaken up by the video and song because afterward he heavily emphasized how the audience should enjoy their family and friends because you never know when their last day is. Followed by Shadows saying “Miss you Jimmy”. There was then a crowd emergency that prompted the show to stop and had an ambulance come through the crowd which in most cases would have caused a chaotic situation; however, Shadows talked the crowd through the situation and helped everyone remain calm while the EMS did what they needed to do. The band continued on after the situation was taken care of with Shepherd of Fire but afterward had to let the crowd know that due to the emergency prior to the song they would have to cut down some songs. So the fans had the chance to vote on the remainder of the setlist and they chose Critical Acclaim (which was dedicated to The Rev) and Bat Country and one more before finishing off Saturday night.