Once again the indomitable spirit of the rock family couldn't be held back by Mother Nature's fury as all three days of Welcome To Rockville were filled with hard hitting music, family reunions and familiar faces. While Brian and Shoeless Joe were out and about in the festival, they experienced a few extras that our team hasn't had the chance to enjoy in past years; a pleasant bonus to our usual interviews and photos of the madness in Metro Park. Check out the sections below to catch Brian's reviews of the Zippo Sessions we attended, which were amazing! Our thanks to Zippo for the invitation to get an intimate look at two rising stars in the rock scene. We also experienced a taste of Metallica's "Enter Night" beer and learned about Blackened Whiskey with whom they have been collaborating. As it turns out, this is not your average celebrity beverage project and the band has been active in the process from brewing to bottling. We'd like to thank Blackened for inviting Brian to join them for their Sensory Tasting Experience and hope to see them again very soon.
Weather was once again a factor in this year's festival, which unfortunately is always the case in late spring/early summer here in Florida. But despite the storms, the rock endured into the late evening on Friday and again on Sunday. It's worth pointing out that Danny Wimmer's team and the City of Jacksonville, specifically Mayor Lenny Curry, did an outstanding job working together and allow the festivities to continue despite the (somewhat annoying) local noise ordinances which keep the festival ending at a certain time. With two days of rain and a solid Saturday with temperatures in the 90's, the World's Loudest Month got a send off for the ages at Rockville. Of course, it wouldn't be Florida without weather complicating things, right?
A little rain and heat couldn't keep away the massive crowds at what looked to be another near record-breaking weekend for Welcome To Rockville this year. We were out and about the most on Saturday and what we saw was another clear representation of the fact that the rock music genre is alive and kicking. We still disagree with most of the mainstream music media that rock is suffering a general decline in listeners and overall sales. This year's festival once again proved that you can't keep a good crowd down.
The elephant in the room however was the lineup. What we kept hearing from fans we encountered at Metro Park and even from folks we spoke to in the scene months prior was that this was the weakest lineup in Rockville history. How many trips has Rob Zombie made it to Jacksonville for WTR? Incubus hasn't released anything new since 2017, but they've been around almost 30 years. Seeing Judas Priest was a marvel in and of itself, but how much longer will it last before they have to hang it up? Shinedown was high energy and stoked to be in Jacksonville but again, a throwback to the golden age of rock radio (commercially speaking...we're in the digital age and we like it that way!). And let's not get started on Fever 333; Rage Against The Machine did all of that already. Next please.
So what about the new kids on the scene? Dirty Honey slayed it on stage. Badflower was amazing acoustic and electric. But where was the buzz about them? In This Moment had more costume changes than a Broadway musical and yet the crowd flocked over to the Monster Energy stage like moths to flame. Perhaps we're a bit biased because we see the next generation of talent right in front of us and yet the big wigs and corporate types are still milking the cash cows. But we remember when festival season was about discovery mixed with the familiar, emphasis on discovery. We've seen a lot of this before. Show us what we haven't seen yet. Rock isn't dead, but lineups like these aren't doing it any favors by re-injecting the old instead of pushing the new into our veins.
We know how to help there, though. We'll be over here when you're ready.
So what's a festival without beer, right? We had the chance to enjoy a Sensory Tasting courtesy of Blackened and it was just brilliant! Enter Night is a brew created by and in the spirit of Metallica, who we're told has been involved in the process more deeply than your average celebrity beverage fad. In fact, the tasting experience alone was a reflection of their vision. With some citrus notes from orange and grapefruit with plenty of hops like a traditional IPA, Enter Night gives you all you want in a craft beer but with a much cleaner taste than typical IPAs.
For our tasting, we were asked to put headphones on (as shown to the left) and were played a classical music selection and then tasted the brew. We noticed the refined and clean taste, the bright citrus accents, and the overall delight of a craft beer. From there the music shifted to classic Metallica and all we wanted to do was headbang and shot gun a six pack. Needless to say, the environment affects enjoyment and Enter Night is a beer that can be enjoyed by craft enthusiasts and rockers alike!
In a first for the Rock 98.9 team, Shoeless Joe and I along with our guest photographer Chris Marsh got a look off the beaten path at two bands that have been making waves already in the scene but for many were a first-time experience. Zippo's treat to some lucky fans and some of the press was an acoustic set from Dirty Honey and Badflower that raised eyebrows and touched hearts.
Dirty Honey comes from Los Angeles and at first listen they have one critical element that Greta Van Fleet doesn't: respect for influences without being a direct copy of the original. Even stripped down they bring a soulful sound that combines elements of funk, blues and classic rock that sends the older generations into nostalgia but shows the young folks what they missed out on. The highlight of their set for me was "Heartbreaker" which is a song we recently featured on Sonic Assault. The full version of this song is an amazing groove on its own, but acoustic it's a totally different track. It's almost as if when the band unplugs the amps a much "dirtier" version of Dirty Honey comes out, but it's the dirt that you don't mind playing in. In fact, you start to revel in it as you grab your girl and dance around all Patrick Swayze-like. Marc really wowed me with his vocals and although the delivery sounds like he could be straining to an untrained ear, it's clear that there is little effort involved. One of the sticking points for me when I review any band is the vocals; weak vocals make a great band a mediocre one and a mediocre band just plain bad. These guys are neither...they're absolutely worth the attention and praise they're getting.
Badflower also comes from L.A. and at first I thought them a group that would end up getting over played on corporate radio and then fade into the shadows much like Plain White T's did once "Hey There Delilah" ended up on Hot AC stations only because they don't truly fit the "Active Rock" genre but also don't fit into "Alternative Rock" either. I do enjoy these guys and have played "Ghost" in and out of rotation on our show. But as always, the acoustic set again proves to be the most effective litmus test for the more melodic bands. They have a late 90's era feel to them at first glance, with some elements of The Goo Goo Dolls (see 1998's Dizzy Up The Girl) and the emotive vocals of My Chemical Romance, but with less angst and more raw feelings. "Ghost" as an acoustic number was just breathtaking and brought up feelings of struggle and loneliness but in a deeper way than in the full version. The song tells a sorrowful tale of someone who lost their fight with the darkness, despite their own desire to live right up until the end. However the delivery in this particular setting was so very real and the imagery it conveyed was bone chilling. It completely moved me and I mentioned as much to Josh during our brief visit in the media tent. His surprise was genuine and evident; almost as if he'd never really been told that before. Listening to "Heroin" toned down was pure passion, romance, and sex all at once. Hearing the line "I breathe her perfume in/and it burns like heroin" but in that particular setting made the hopeless romantic in me want to fall in love with that one girl that got away all over again. After walking away from the secret alcove Zippo set aside, I made it a point to check out Badflower's music a little more when I got back to the studio.
My special thanks to Alex Cano from Zippo's marketing team in New York for reaching out to us and extending the invitation. It was an experience to remember and it made my Rockville this year!