By Wesley Wilcox | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are events that occur annually that have the capability of uniting a community desperate to express themselves. The last weekend of April for Jacksonville natives and fans of rock and roll is the opening weekend to what is known as the World’s Loudest Month with the first music festival, Welcome to Rockville. The festival has been at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, Florida, since 2011 and the event has catapulted into one of the nation’s premier destinations for rock and roll. In 2011, the event was a one-day event that saw a small setup with only a handful of artists. In 2016, the event not only increased to a two-day extravaganza, but also became a symbol for something much bigger.
One of the things that most don’t grasp about festivals is the power they have to allow those struggling with issues and problems to enjoy themselves, if just for a weekend. The disease known as depression is one that plagues our society and is an inner struggle people fight that can lead to suicide and self inflicted injuries. One of the organizations that helps raise awareness for this is To Write Love On Her Arms, which was at Welcome to Rockville to show support for those suffering from depression.
“Everyone’s here for a reason,” said Chad Moses, the TWLOHA Music and Entertainment Coordinator. “Music is a place called home. We want celebrate that with you. We want to be where people naturally come together.” This struggle that people go through on a daily basis was one of Moses biggest talking points on Rockville’s impact. “People feel free to express whatever they want to express,” said Moses. “The hope is that the spirit of the music festival will live on.”
With artists ranging from all over the genre of rock and roll, Welcome to Rockville allowed fans from every walk of life to come together for one weekend with one common bond: music. Sunday saw newer bands given the chance to make an impression on a worn-down crowd from Saturday. One of those bands was From Ashes to New, and singers Matt Brandyberry and Chris Musser spoke on how much a festival like Welcome to Rockville means to rock and roll: “These festivals prove it. (Rock) is not dead. We are seeing it take off again,” said Brandyberry. Unlike most bands, From Ashes to New formed in Pennsylvania where they were posting music on the Internet. “We get out there and do it. We didn’t have any anticipation of making it to this,” said Brandyberry.
Welcome to Rockville, and music as a whole, are intended to be a safe haven to those who are struggling with depression and mental diseases. The songwriting for From Ashes to News’ Chris Musser deals with depression and fighting the battle that comes with it. “I’ve suffered from that,” said Musser. “I write about depression. That’s what our music’s about. Take the bumps in the road to make you stronger.” The disease is one that doesn’t get enough recognition and it can be plaguing even the most unlikely person, which makes the festival all the more important to those looking to enjoy a glimmer of happiness.
Welcome to Rockville has become a stomping ground for upwards of 50,000 rock fans, which makes it Florida’s largest rock destination. This year’s event saw the return of hometown sensation Shinedown, and the return of one of rock’s most iconic bands from a five year hiatus: Disturbed. Saturday saw the event scorch in 90-degree weather, but fans fought through it all with the iconic horns. From the morning acts of Monster Truck and Wilson to the mid-afternoon acts of Asking Alexandra and Candlebox, Welcome to Rockville shined through the heat. With the last three bands to go on to close Saturday, the pressure was on for 3 Doors Down, Disturbed and Shinedown to blow the roof off the place, and they did not disappoint.
3 Doors Down set the tone with a mixture of old and new tunes such as hits “Kryptonite” and “Not My Time,” while Disturbed shocked the crowd with covers of The Who, U2 and Rage Against the Machine. It was up to Shinedown to capitalize on the energy created by their predecessors, and lead singer Brent Smith fired up the crowd with hits “Cut the Cord” and a tribute to Prince in a classic cover of “Simple Man.”
Sunday’s lineup differed from Saturday’s as heavier bands of the genre took center stage with From Ashes to New kicking things off on the main stage. The mid-afternoon acts saw Grammy Award-winning band Ghost and long-time rock veterans Sevendust tear the roof off Metropolitan Park with thunderous guitar solos and vocals. Unlike Saturday, Sunday saw the acts of metal legends Megadeth, Anthrax and Lamb of God take on Welcome to Rockville. Ocala, Florida, native A Day To Remember took the main stage as one of the final acts to play this year’s event before metal sensations Five Finger Death Punch and Rob Zombie capped off an unbelievable weekend. The events that unfolded during the set of Five Finger Death Punch could only be seen from being toward the front of the crowd as bodies were thrown everywhere from crowd surfing and the infamous mosh pits that erupted as the band played hits “Coming Down” and “Under and Over it.”
Welcome to Rockville not only succeeded in its sixth year, but also thrived. The event saw tens of thousands of rock hungry fans come together in downtown Jacksonville to kick off the World’s Loudest Month. One of the beautiful things of the event is the brother and sisterhood that was promoted throughout the weekend. Fans from all over, no matter the disability, struggle or appearance, were embraced by one another through the power of community and music, and isn’t that all anyone wants to do at a festival: express yourself?