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Welcome To Rockville Recap: Day Three – Rain and Thunderstorms

Faced with a brutal war of attrition with the forces of nature, the Florida-based hard rock faithful pressed on for a moral victory.

John 5

This is the third in our daily recaps for the festival events written and photographed by Joel Barrios. In case you missed the article for day one, you can read it here, and read day two here.

The winds of fortune might well have been blowing in the wrong direction for part of Welcome To Rockville’s second day, but in spite of no headliner to close off a solid afternoon showing and the promise of more foul weather to come, the festival continued into its third day. From the early afternoon commencement of the event, an ominous cloud cover hung above the throngs as they filtered towards the four stages, anticipating another day of eclectic expressions of hard-hitting rock and metal, and praying that the weather would hold long enough for the headliners to complete their sets. Casual fans of the art may well have taken their ball and gone home after the failure of Korn, Breaking Benjamin and Megadeth to take the stage the previous night, but with the nightmare of the Covid 19 lockdowns still in everyone’s rearview mirror, everyone present behaved with the commitment and tenacity of a hardcore entourage.

For all the billowing swords of Damocles overhead that were threatening to rain on this extravagant parade, the opening of day three commenced without much issue a little after 1:00 pm. Manning the Rockvillian stage would be the intriguing newcomer quintet S8NT ELEKTRIC, donning a sound reminiscent of the unique blend of classic rock and punk that typified the early 90s Seattle scene and some solid blues-based guitar chops comparable to Mike McCreedy’s early contributions to Pearl Jam. The ultimate charm of their half hour set, however, would manifest in the vocal performance of Briana Carbajal, whose flamboyant yet calculated style recalls the eccentricity of Gwen Stefani and the poise of Kay Hanley. Following closely behind over on the Octane stage, The Violent, a new outfit built out of the demise of Red Sun Rising, brought a Gothic-tinged brand of modern rock in a monochromatic ensemble and animated fashion to a positive audience reaction.

Sadly the smooth goings on that defined the first couple hours of music gave way to another wave of cancellations throughout the afternoon. The famed super group Saint Asonia was riding high during the first couple songs, with Three Days Grace vocalist Adam Gontier working the crowd masterfully and Staind axe-slinger Mike Mushok banged his head as hard as his riffs wowed every onlooker, only to have things grind to a halt following their 3rd offering “Bite The Bullet” as the weather began to turn. Yet prior to the defeated warriors in the audience being routed and scattered to take shelter from the lightning-filled sky, Gontier assured everyone that their set was shortened for reasons other than them sucking, injecting some much-needed humor into a tense predicament that would end up robbing the festival of several hours of activity.

It would not be until 5:30 pm that things would resume, and the continual threat of the weather putting things out of commission yet again hung above the rain-soaked crowd. Octane stage occupants Nothing More brought a truly animated performance and managed to field an entire set of fist-pumping, intricate and infectious rock anthems to get things back on track. Later grunge icon Jerry Cantrell would ride the Space Zebra stage and bang out seven solid performances, including such classic Alice In Chains cuts as “Them Bones”, “No Excuses” and “Man In The Box” that time-warped every spectator back to when said band was a household name, at least until Father Sky decided to interrupt the magic for a second time. Meanwhile on the Rockvillian stage, White Zombie guitarist and virtuoso after the spirit of Joe Satriani and Buckethead, John 5 wowed the masses with his combination of quirky appearance, technical wizardry and oddball instrumental anthems before having the rug pulled out from under him, though in a gesture of good faith to the audience after dropping to his knees and miming an apology he proceeded to pass out all of his guitar picks to try and satiate the angst of the audience.

To state that enthusiasm was rapidly giving way to frustration would have been putting it lightly, but another attempt to restart things would arrive at around 9 pm. Crown The Empire would make their attempt at bringing a little brutality meshed with melody as only metalcore can muster at the DWPresents stage, while Swedish melodic death metal icons turned metalcore trustees In Flames would take to the Rockvillian stage and attempt the same to some measure of success despite the lack of time. However, the de facto apex of this valiant last stand would fall upon post-grunge stalwarts Shinedown at 9:30 on the Octane stage, and though they would only manage to field four songs before the weather put the final nail in the coffin of day three, they raged against the dying of the light with pyrotechnics and rocking riffs ablaze in a commendable final act of defiance. Unfortunately the original billed headliner Guns N’ Roses never took the Space Zebra stage despite hundreds waiting for the opportunity to catch the band that likely made most of the other ones that played today possible.

Though for most this day amounted to yet another defeat by forces beyond anyone’s control, the analogy of a grand conflict against a personal opponent or army is arguably the best way to look at what transpired. Every war is bound to see setbacks and even battles lost before an ultimate victory is achieved, and one can’t help but feel that a fight is still ongoing to reclaim that part of our musical lives that was stolen from us for most of the 2020s so far. Perhaps a comparison to The Lord Of The Rings would be a fitting one, with day two’s disappointing results being likened to Gandalf’s fall in Moria to the Balrog just after seeing some early victories against the goblin hordes, and day three’s being the gallant yet ultimately futile last stand of Boromir. Our heads may hang low as an opportunity to see some of the most impressive elders of the rock and metal pantheon has seemingly passed us by, but day four may yet see the end of Mordor and the triumphant conclusion of The Third Age.

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