The Welcome to Rockville experience was, as you may have already heard, full of ups and downs. Day one was fraught with inclement weather which saw the entire crowd of almost 70,000 people evacuated no less than twice. Everyone was ordered to either go back to their cars or huddle with the masses under a nearby overpass until the storm cleared. Chants of “rain or shine” could be heard throughout the crowd as social media blew up with complaints tagged #WelcometoRainville from people desperate to see their favorite bands and even demanding refunds. I personally experienced only the later of the two evacuations and, honestly, it was a bit frightening. Between the angry people and the ominous black clouds looming overhead, there were moments where I feared for our safety; but after about an hour, the storm passed and we were allowed back into the park which was, by now, more like a mud pit. The storm had whole areas washed out and moving from one part to the next required waders.
Despite the weather, only one band was forced to cancel due to damaged equipment and the show went on. Set times got a little goofed up as some bands went on earlier and others later than scheduled. It felt like they were simply cramming them all in as fast as they could in case they got rained out again. But, soggy weather be damned, the remaining bands rocked out to a seething crowd of dedicated metalheads, shaking their fists at the sky and declaring loudly, rock and roll is not dead.
Day two went much smoother. Not a cloud to be seen and the sun beat down furiously, as if determined to make up for its absence the day before. With the weather cooperating and bands grinding away in every corner of the park, planning and layout issues became more apparent. The masses were funneled into a giant bottleneck in the center as they migrated between the two main stages, prompting many festival goers to leave sets early in order to beat the crowd and make the next act. Concessions lined the main path, their queues adding to the effect as they competed with the stampede.
On the plus side, the lineup for this festival was absolutely amazing and every band I saw made me forget about the frustration, punctuating my discomfort with one hour intervals of pure bliss. My inner 90’s kid had a field day rocking out with Marilyn Manson and Korn and bands like Slayer and Slash appealed to my love of shred. And, let’s not forget the whole reason I was there, Japanese superstars, VAMPS, who rocked hard on that sunny Sunday afternoon.
The set kicked off with EVIL. Hyde pranced out onto the stage, hips swaying, bare chest painted with a black XIII. The wind picked up just as they started, making the jolly roger flag on his mic stand fly as he threw it over his shoulder. Bassist Ju-ken really kicked the energy up with his spirited performance, reaching over his monitors and screaming into the crowd as KAZ leaned into the heavy riffs of LIPS. Hyde flirted with the relatively small, but eager crowd, pursing his lips and rocking his hips, whipping them into a frenzy.
Fists pumped and voices raised at the familiar chanted intro to REVOLUTION. Hyde gave a pleased smirk when the crowd took over, taking a moment to just sit back and listen to their voices. Temperatures rose as they marched to the beat, KAZ and Ju-ken trading places on the stage to further tease the crowd. Donning a guitar, Hyde let loose a growling scream as they launched into WORLD’S END. Ju-ken pumped the crowd up once again, twisting like a tornado across the stage and banging his head. Losing the guitar, Hyde crouched low over his monitor and, with a vicious glare at the crowd screamed, “Are you BLOODSUCKERS!?” With a loud cheer, the song began, KAZ filling the air with his dark, aggressive riffs.
The show closed with the iconic SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL. All members took turns running from one corner of the stage to another, giving the crowd one final thrill as they threw all their remaining energy into the song. The audience responded in kind, whooping and shouting along with the chorus until our little corner of the festival was steaming.
It was all smiles as the band left the stage to the appreciative cheers of their fans, both old and new. For a short time, we were able to shake off the discomfort of a festival made too big for it’s own good and come together to enjoy the music we love. And, when it comes down to it, that’s what it’s all about. Despite a myriad of major and minor annoyances, Welcome to Rockville definitely got the most important part right: the Rock!