Welcome To Rockville – Day One – Thursday, May 19. Oxymorrons, Plush, Tetrarch, Gemini Syndrome, Mammoth WVH, Black Label Society, In This Moment, Papa Roach, Five Finger Death Punch, KISS.
Welcome to Rockville returns to the Daytona Speedway in Florida, and, as by tradition, officially opens the Danny Wimmer Presents chain of festivals that, throughout the year, ‘earmark’ several strategic spots of the United States to deliver the ultimate experience in terms of the best Rock and Metal on the planet.
19 – 22 May 2022 Daytona Speedway, Florida – USA
Words: Dany Jones
With a record attendance of over 160,000 in 2021, Welcome to Rockville rivals its biggest contender Louder Than Life, as the biggest Rock and Metal festival in the United States.
The gathering has historically taken place in Jacksonville. However, it recently found a new home in the iconic Daytona Speedway, the famed racetrack that every year hosts an array of events, including, of course, the prestigious Daytona 500.
It feels somewhat surreal to be allowed to drive on the very track the biggest stars in racing have paved. The temptation to just bolt the car and take a lap or two is admittedly strong, however, reason prevails, and one must re-address the focus on what one came for in the first place: getting your face melted by some fine Metallers.
Once on the grounds, you can tell that no expense has been spared. DWP take health and safety very seriously, and they literally prepared for all eventualities between the expected extreme heat and the possible lightning and thunderstorms typical of this season.
On-site, they have sophisticated equipment to detect any change in weather conditions. They have also added a super fun water slide, free water dispensing stations, a misting tent and water jet canons located in the pits to cool people down when watching their favourite bands.
Of course, there are plenty more amenities, including the Whiskey bar, the swing rides, the Music Experience, the stalls and the iconic Ferris Wheel, to name a few.
The day has officially started. There are four stages at Rockville, and running from one to the other does prove tricky. There are so many artists on the bill that painful choices have to be made, and, inevitably, some will have to be left behind.
While pacing the grounds towards a strategic spot by the main stage, one can’t help but be swayed by the infectious energy coming from the adjacent Rockvillian Stage and conveyed by the Oxymorrons. Caught mid-air in plain action and literally tearing the place down, their set is solid, and the early risers seem to enjoy every minute of it.
One could not miss the all-girl new sensation everyone is talking about.
Plush have it all; image, talent and a ton of sass. There is a great juxtaposition between the quasi-innocent tenderness of bassist Ashley Suppa, who simply can’t stop smiling all throughout the set, and the sheer intensity of singing sensation Moriah Formica.
Standing tall and singing her heart out, she is living proof that music contests, on occasion, do reward real talent. The song Sober particularly stands out, and one can’t help but wonder that every woman in the audience is probably able to relate to such poignant lyrics. Chocked up is an understatement.
But who would have thought that the underdog would totally steal the show? Tetrarch are a hot band from Georgia, now relocated to LA, and certainly making waves on the underground Metal scene.
Despite some apparent Metalcore influences, including the likes of Korn and Linkin Park, their material is fresh and vibrant, where melody meets sheer brutality.
Never once losing momentum and being able to kick the energy up a further 30 notches, they totally blow the roof off in a live setting.
The band play a blistering five-song set, where ultimate anthems of the likes of I’m Not Right and You Never Listen have the whole place moshing, jumping and incessantly crowd surfing. This is the kind of mayhem you want to be a part of.
Despite the endless criticism, the rejection, and the bordering plain hostility this foursome have encountered over the years, as per the words of singer Josh Fore himself, the band have never surrendered.
It sure must feel good to know that not even the headliners manage to defuse your unrivalled performance.
Tetrarch prove to be the absolute highlight of the day and, for sure, the one to watch out for.
While catching the end of what seems a solid set delivered by the quirky Gemini Syndrome, one cannot help but notice the breeze lifting in the air. There is a bright aura of vitality all around. The barmaids have glittery face paint and will gladly pose for a selfie, while the punters are smiles all around. People are out to have a good time, and the joyful atmosphere is palpable.
When Mammoth WVH take to the stage, the cheer invades the entire perimeter of the area. After all, you only have a Van Halen about to perform; but this supergroup is so much more than a celebrity name.
Wolfgang’s incredible talent as lyricist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, guitarist and frontman precedes him. However, it is the entire group that renders Mammoth WVH the sheer driving force that we see before our eyes.
Sultry vocals, blinding solos, and a ton of groove, all beautifully rounded up by the powerful yet tastefully musical percussive barrage provided by drum extraordinaire and old bandmate Garrett Whitlock.
Every musician in the band shines in their own right yet beautifully comes together as a unit when delivering a classy execution of favourite numbers, including the dreamy Mammoth, the syncopated Don’t Back Down, the rockstastic Mr Ed and, of course, the stadium chanting You’re To Blame.
The stage at the opposite side of the field lights up with a yellow kilted Zakk Wylde and his mighty Black Label Society, and it does not take long before one must seek cover. The crowd have literally exploded along to the notes of heavyweights of the likes of Destroy And Conquer and Bleed For Me, and the pit literally turns into carnage.
We are then pondering on how many costume changes Maria Brink will have on this round. The theatrics for In This Moment are nothing short of impressive. No expense has been spared for this massive production, and there is even a labelled podium for the self-titled Whore.
Maria delivers a rather inspired, impassioned speech about rising above prejudice and building each other up with love, just as she introduces the song; then it is until the next time.
This is the perfect moment for a quick rest stop at the inviting and comfortable Press area, a peaceful haven equipped with plenty of cool spots and complimentary refreshments to combat the intense heat, courtesy of the DWP production.
Greeted with a big smile by Butcher Baby Heidi Shepherd, who casually lurks in the area despite not performing, we spot Phil Anselmo shooting a promo just as he is about to take to the stage for his set with Down. This only means one thing, that it is time to go back out in the trenches.
After a solid performance from the ex-Pantera icon and co, we are presented with a surprise appearance when Zakk Wylde crashes the stage for an explosive solo on the exit song of the set. By this point, people are quite literally in a frenzy.
The sun goes down, and the stage lights for Papa Roach married to the pink sunset greeting us from behind are truly magical.
Absolute veterans of the stage, and despite the obstacles, the trials and tribulations, not only are they still standing, but they pull an absolute first-class performance worthy of a headliner.
With a perfectly balanced blend between the old classics and the new material, Papa Roach do not skip a beat and, throughout, the entire house is head-bobbing, jumping around and, once again, crowd surfing en masse, just like the Americans love to do.
Singer and frontman Jacobi Shaddix makes an announcement that Papa Roach have launched their own label and how appreciative they are of every fan supporting because, from now on, they will be directly supporting the band.
Just like good wine, the California rockers only improve as the years go by.
One cannot come to a festival in the USA and not stop by the stand of the ever-so-celebrated Island Noodles, deemed as the ultimate gastronomic experience in the pit, and they certainly do not disappoint.
But, once on a full stomach, it is now the turn of the headliners, and Five Finger Death Punch certainly close the Octane stage with a bang. The tunes keep on coming, and not even the rain that has now started dampens the spirits of the fans watching.
Lasers follow an acoustic appearance by internet sensation Andy James, pyrotechnics spitting every which way, riffs unleashed in great succession and chants that lift in the air, especially on the anthemic Welcome To The Circus and Inside Out.
Renowned for being close to the military cause, vocalist Ivan Moody couldn’t miss paying respect to war veterans, and he promised a signed flag as a thank you to a soldier in the audience.
He follows with, “I thank you, not for your service but for your sacrifices.”
When a band announce their farewell tour, the expectation is one to excess. When that band happens to be KISS, one does wonder about what the next level might look like. Will Paul Stanley be spat out of a spitfire? Or ejected with a parachute by a helicopter? Will Gene Simmons be shot out from a cannon?
But when it comes to KISS, crazy expectations aren’t that far from reality. The band have literally pulled all the stops, and this couldn’t get any bigger.
In a somewhat nostalgic vein, projecting a younger version of themselves at the apex of their career onto the big screen while performing live on the stage underneath as they are today, it is almost as if time stood still.
The ever-so-familiar gimmicks, the face paint, the glitter, the iconic space rocker suits, the fireworks; it is all still there. KISS leave the stage just as they started, minus Criss and Frehley and a few more greys.
By this point, every single Rockvillian is watching in awe, nodding to the familiar tunes unleashed over the timeline. Even if you are not a fan, you can’t help but stop and enjoy this show till its very bombastic ending.
Space Zebra Stage
10:30 PM – KISS
8:10 PM – Papa Roach
6:35 PM – Black Label Society
5:10 PM – Mammoth WVH
3:55 PM – Fuel
2:50 PM – Plush
9:15 PM – Five Finger Death Punch
7:20 PM – In This Moment
5:50 PM – Clutch
4:30 PM – Bad Wolves
3:20 PM – Tetrarch
2:20 PM – Widow7
8:15 PM – Down
6:45 PM – Ill Nino
5:15 PM – Shaman’s Harvest
3:55 PM – Gemini Syndrome
2:45 PM – Oxymorrons
1:45 PM – Moodring
7:25 PM – The Sword
5:50 PM – Bad Omens
4:30 PM – Redlight King
3:20 PM – Devil’s Cut
2:20 PM – Post Profit
1:15 PM – As You Were