On assignment for Chimera Magazine.
Welcome to Florida, the land to where many long to escape. For the perfect getaway some travel to spend time on the sunny beaches, and some drive all the way to the state’s center in Orlando for a visit to their favorite theme park. While basking in the sun on the sand or seeing an iconic Mouse may make some people grin ear-to-ear, there are others who seek a different kind of excitement for their vacation. Rather than trekking to tourism central, some realize that reaching Jacksonville brings them much closer to their fantasy land.
The Heavy Metal Magic Kingdom referred to as Welcome to Rockville is a three-day festival held annually. Three stages provide constant entertainment from a variety of acts, both old and new… including some of those bands, such as Stone Temple Pilots, which have been in existence for many years but who have changed their face with new lead man Jeff Gutt. Likewise, the Foo Fighters shared a stage with Billy Idol in a never before seen rendition of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”.
The Metropolitan Park transforms into its own Wonderland for metalheads and rockers alike by becoming an encampment for the celebration of musical talent. There are offerings of merchandise for every artist performing. Groups like Fuck Cancer and To Write Love on Her Arms join the ranks with plenty of unique items available for those wanting a special souvenir to commemorate the weekend. When it comes to the merchants that are part of the event, it cannot be forgotten that there is food…so much amazing food available! Perhaps the favorite of the attendees is Island Noodles, where a takeout style box packed full of noodles and other yummy ingredients is the perfect way to banish the hunger that arises from rocking out all day and night!
Vendors like FYE add to The Fan Experience, as does The Music Experience, by sponsoring signings from various artists during all three days, including Jose Mangin, the curator/host of Sirius XM's Liquid Metal and Ocatane channels. Such fantastic opportunities can make it difficult to imagine returning to reality. Speaking of escaping reality, some fans went next level with their attire and chose to adorn themselves in a variety of costumes for the event. Some noteworthy attendees include: Misty from Pokemon, the Red Power Ranger, Rockville Batman, Deadpool, and of course, Mosh Pit Jesus! But those are just a few of the participants in the subculture that creates the Rockville fan base.
One of the most incredible products of the camaraderie of the event is the group of fans who call themselves the Rockvillains. Their numbers have grown exponentially since the first event and continue to do so as they have gained the recognition of performing artists for their movement. The Butcher Babies even made sure to pay homage with a shout out to the group, leading in the famed fan chant “Rock!, Tits!...Sumbitch!” With such a strong subculture of diehard attendees it is no surprise that this year there was even a wedding ceremony held at the event. The bride and groom: Michelle and Jim Steelman, decided to exchange vows as a kickoff to an epic weekend...and an epic life together.
Although some think that true metalheads lack in the feelings department, that couple proves them wrong, as does the outpouring of generosity that came from so many when a crowdsurfer sustained a major injury on Saturday night. While crowd-surfing is discouraged and frowned upon by security and show organizers, some patrons believe it to be a sort of rite of passage. One attendee chose to try his luck at the activity and unfortunately did not fare well. He left the event on a stretcher after an entire sea of fans parted to make way for emergency medical technicians to come to his rescue. In the aftermath so many reached out to him offering donations to help pay medical expenses and allow him to survive during the medical treatment he will be receiving. It is truly a family event in the sense that this diverse crowd shares such common ground based on their love for rock. Only 2019 will tell who is the next to join the ranks of the Rockvillains!
- Darian Mosley