A Manic Kind of Monster-Welcome to Rockville Day 1

By on April 30, 2015

 

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Al Jorgenson Ministry ( Photo:Travis Failey RSEN)

The 2015 Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville Festival was truly an unforgettable experience. You can probably say this about a lot of music festivals that you have attended due to the bands’ performances, but this year’s Rockville at Metropolitan Park was an extreme case of Ying and Yang. Highlights from the day include a tornado taking down houses in the area, which led to two evacuations, a surprise performance by Nothing More on Sunday, and Slipknot destroying the main stage to conclude the weekend. This year’s lineup included 43 bands headlined by Korn on Saturday night and Slipknot on Sunday.

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Johannes Eckerström Avatar (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Friday night kicked off the World’s Loudest Month (http://worldsloudestmonth.com/) with a free show at The Landing in downtown Jacksonville. The Landing is an outdoor courtyard and entertainment complex in the round on the St. Johns River. It has multiple restaurants and bars with a stage area with its back to the river. According to the locals I spoke to, the multiple story facility usually has country acts and “horrible cover bands.” But Friday would be very different as the Welcome to Rockville’s Free Pre-Show party’s lineup would include World Gone, 36 Crazyfists, Avatar, Nonpoint and California’s Hollywood Undead.

This was our first time seeing Avatar. They put on an unforgettable performance for a few different reasons. The first was the dramatic stage performance by all of Avatar’s members, but especially their charismatic and made-up front man, Johannes Eckerström. The second being the real people Freak show that they put on during their hit song, “Smells like a Freak show.” The freaks included a woman who was able to swallow a pool cue and a man who was riding a skateboard with only his torso and arms to push with. It was a scene right out of this season’s American Horror Story. To say I recommend seeing them would be a huge understatement.

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Johannes Eckerström Avatar (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Florida’s own Nonpoint would be up next and they gave the crowd their hits and their heart. Elias and the guys are the most active band on stage and the crowd feeds off of them. They are also one of the hardest working bands in the industry as they played Rockville the next day at 1:00. This was a very quick turnaround and Nonpoint’s performance on Saturday was top notch. You’ve got to give credit to Nonpoint’s crew for making it all happen without a glitch. Nonpoint is always on the road and it pays off for them with packed rooms of loyal fans. Will they ever reach the next level? I know that they want to as all bands do, but from my experiences with them, I believe that they would be content playing to twenty people or 20,000. Nonpoint closed out their set with “Breaking Skin,” then their crowd-chanting anthem, and their biggest hit to date, “Bullet With A Name.”

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Rasheed Thomas Nonpoint (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Closing out the Welcome to Rockville’s Free Pre-Show would be Hollywood Undead. Rock meets Hip Hop which leads to a bouncing mix of bodies and beats. Hollywood Undead would come out with their trademark masks and the party was on. In support of their much anticipated release in Day of the Dead, they too would be asked to do a quick double duty on Saturday at Rockville. Opening with the title track and their current single, “Day of the Dead,” it was obvious that they have a huge following of young fans and that they are adding others even if they don’t get Hollywood Undead the first time they see or hear them. With four different and diverse vocalists taking the lead at any point in the songs, they never get bogged down in redundancy, all the while keeping the audience engaged and bouncing. Their grooves and beats are contagious and when they played “War Child,” which hasn’t been heard live before, the crowd picked up the song quickly and the band didn’t miss a beat. I anticipate that “War Child” will be Hollywood Undead’s next hit single and SiriusXM Octane will have it in regular rotation.

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Hollywood Undead (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Hollywood Undead has a lot going for them. From the partial use of the masks, the great stage show, the diversity in their music and probably most important, is that women of all ages love them. Women like their sound and men like women. It’s a profitable combination and Hollywood Undead could be on their way up to a much larger stage in a much larger venue. Hollywood Undead is another band that I highly suggest that you see if they come to your town. It was unfortunate for those who did not make it to The Landing for Friday’s performance, as Hollywood Undead, as well as several other bands on Saturday’s schedule, would not perform at Rockville due to the severe weather.

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Todd La Torre (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Saturday April 25th would be the official kickoff for this year’s Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville Festival, or should I say a Monster Energy Monsoon? Upon arriving at the entrance gate, the park’s security told us that they weren’t letting any more people into the park. The area was under a “Code Blue” due to a weather system that was forming in the area. We eventually were let into the venue after talking to a supervisor, and were lucky enough to catch the tail end of Nonpoint’s set. Once again they didn’t disappoint and looked no worse for wear after doing two shows in 14 hours. We spoke with vocalist Elias Soriano about them being one of the hardest working bands on the circuit and he smiled and stated, “ Well, you gotta make the donuts.”

We didn’t know that the couple of songs by Nonpoint would be the last time that music was played on any stage for about three hours. The sky went dark grey and a huge storm system came through rolling through and blanketed Jacksonville and Metropolitan Park. The crowd and many of the staff were evacuated via security, all the while a loud speaker message continuously looped. Everyone was told to leave the park and to go to their cars.

The rain was coming in thunderous sideways sheets and the wind was whipping like I can remember from my days in Downtown Chicago. During both evacuations, we were located behind the stage under a large tent where the artists dine. It was a pretty calm environment considering what was happening in the sky. Artists and others continued to eat and network amongst themselves while we figured out our exit strategy for indoor shelter in case the tornado came over us. Thankfully for everyone, the storm subsided around 3:30 and the fans were let back into the park. Promoter Danny Whimmer came backstage and said that the show would start back up and the rest of the schedule would continue.

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Michael Wilton Queensryche (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

This meant that Queensryche would be the first band back up after the break with Fozzy, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, Exodus and others having to cancel their sets to keep to the music festival’s tight schedule.

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Todd La Torre Queensryche (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

The renewed, revived, reinvigorated Queensryche with Todd La Torre taking center stage as their front man got the crowd back into the festival mood after the first evacuation. Opening with “Nightrider,” and featuring a short set of hits including “Jet City Woman,” “Empire” and going back to their 4 song EP from 1983, “Queen of the Ryche,” Queensryche proved once again that they are back and are at the top of their game. Even though the younger fans may not have been familiar with their music, they appreciated the tightness of the band and the vocal range of La Torre. Talking to La Torre before the set, he mentioned that he wasn’t feeling great, but you would never have known it by his performance on Saturday. The band made a great choice in La Torre to lead them back to relevance and with a second album on the way, all points lead back up the pike.

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Alex Skolnick Testament (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Testament  officially got “Thrash Saturday” started after Exodus got tornado’d out. Alex Skolnick, Chuck Billy and the boys had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the get go. Testament opened up with “Over The Wall,” and played a shortened set that included “The Preacher,” and “The New Order.” With the sun now shining bright over Metropolitan Park and the Reverb Nation Side Stage, Testament sounded like the band hadn’t aged since the eighties. Skolnick is a virtuoso on guitar and one of the most under-appreciated players in the business, and I don’t know how Chuck Billy does it on vocals. With raspy, aggressive vocals and screams that most vocalists half his age can’t perform, Chuck and Testament clearly have found the fountain of youth.

Chuck Billy Testament

Chuck Billy Testament (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

After Testament, Halestorm was next on Saturday’s schedule in support of their third full length release “Into The Wild” but a different kind of storm rolled in. With aggression, the blue skies became angry again and just as Halestorm was to take the stage at 5:15, the voice from the loud speaker struck again and The Welcome to Rockville Festival would be evacuated once more. The storm was shorter in length but more intense than the one earlier. After an hour or so the crowd was let back in. Some fans were frustrated with the delays and evacuations but talking to some of them, they understood that it is all about safety for everyone involved. Promoter Danny Whimmer and his team did a nice job informing every one of the schedule changes and storm updates via social media, but Halestorm would surprise even the promoters, apparently, by playing to a small main stage crowd. Halestorm played a seven-song set that included three songs from their new album: “Scream,” “Amen,” and their hit “Apocalyptic.”

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Al Jorgenson Ministry (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

While Halestorm performed on the Monster Energy main stage, the “Godfather of Industrial,” Al Jorgenson, and Ministry performed on the opposite end of the park. Jorgenson is an interesting looking character and his stage theatrics took precedent over the music. Many in the crowd were not familiar with Ministry’s music, but it didn’t matter as long as Al was up there. “Just One Fix” from their 1992 release Psalm 69 got the most reaction from the crowd. Massive moshing in the pit would lead to fans covered in mud, but they didn’t seem to mind.

When Ministry was announced in the lineup, I thought they would be a little out of place, but they gained some new fans on Saturday from a younger generation and The Welcome to Rockville Festival afforded them that opportunity. Many bands including Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein wouldn’t exist without Ministry and it’s great to see them get their due in 2015.

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Mike Muir Suicidal Tendencies (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

When we arrived at the side stages for Suicidal Tendencies, the amount of fans waiting to see Mike Muir and the band was growing exponentially by the minute. They stole the show on Saturday. Opening up with the anthem “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” and finishing their set with “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow….,” Vocalist Mike Muir, bassist Mike Morgan, and the rest of Suicidal Tendencies moved the crowd like no other band except for Korn. In the photo pit you could feel the ground shaking around you. Like Testament, Suicidal Tendencies is a veteran band who knows what to play so there isn’t a lull except when Muir speaks, which pumps up the crowd even more.

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Michael Morgan Suicidal Tendencies (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

With Exodus, Testament, Slayer and Suicidal on the bill, the resurgence of old school thrash and metal, came full circle.

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(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Back on the other side of Metropolitan Park, Slayer closed out the “Thrash Saturday” portion of Rockville. If you’ve seen Slayer before, you know what you are getting: aggression, tons of reds, blacks and pyrotechnics. And don’t forget Kerry King and his trademark chains. It seems Slayer, like the other members of the Big Four, have been going non-stop since the 1980s. Even though the onset of grunge in the 90s had a huge effect on metal, Slayer stayed true, never changed, and kept their fan base fully intact.

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Kerry King Slayer (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

We could only stay for a few of Slayer’s songs due to Marilyn Manson being up next on the Monster Energy main stage. Slayer was late getting on and that caused a snafu in the schedule. They played a great set that included the classic Slayer trio of “Raining Blood,” South of Heaven,” and “Angel of Death.”

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Marilyn Manson (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Veterans Marilyn Manson and Korn would be the final two acts of Saturday’s lineup at Welcome To Rockville. Manson seemed a bit more subdued throughout his set of mostly hits including, “The Dope Show,” and “Beautiful People.” While on stage, often with his hand in his pockets, Manson was dressed all in black with face paint, but it looked to me and others that he was just going “through the motions.” Manson sounded great, but his stage performance seemed uninspired.

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Marilyn Manson (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Johnathan Davis Korn

Johnathan Davis Korn (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Korn closed Rockville Day 1 out in Metropolitan Park as they celebrated the20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album, which they played in its entirety. With the bagpipes in tow, Vocalist Jonathan Davis and Korn opened with “Blind,” and  played the controversial “Daddy,” which hadn’t been played live up until this tour. Korn played as a headliner last year on this same stage, but their energy level compared to last year’s performance seemed to be down.

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Brian “Head” Welsh Korn (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Korn played a three song encore of radio hits in “Falling Away From Me,” “Here to Stay,” and “Freak on a Leash,” completing an eventful first day of the 2015 version of the “Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville” music festival.

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James “Monkey” Schaeffer Korn (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Enduring the elements of torrential rain and a tornado touching down in the Jacksonville area, two evacuations, band set cancellations and mud everywhere, along with great sets by veteran bands, Day 1 will go down as one of my most memorable concert experiences ever.

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(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

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Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu Korn (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

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(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

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Alex Skolnick Testament (Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

 

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(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

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(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

 

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