Welcome to Rockville
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, FL
November 11 – 14, 2021
Words and Photographs by Kaelin Darcy
Well, folks, it’s Monday morning, and while I sit here icing most of my body, I wanted to give you all a recap of Daytona Beach’s first ever Welcome to Rockville. So buckle up, here’s my brutally honest day-by-day breakdown:
Thursday, November 11, 2021:
While I was walking into the speedway the first day, I didn’t know what to expect. I have photographed and worked dozens of events inside this track over the last few years and (being born a mile down the road), it has just always been something I’ve taken for granted. However, I quickly realized this festival was on a completely different level than anything I’ve seen here before.
The second you made it through security, each concert goer was met with a caution tape clad walkway that took you onto the track and over turn one. Rockville wastes no time or money on fancy entrance ways (like similar events such as EDC), and instead, the minute you enter, you are greeted with a stage hosting bands ready to set the mood for the day. The four stages for the weekend were named the “Rockvillian stage”, the first you saw as you walked in, the “Twitch stage”, which was a smaller stage smack dead in the middle surrounded by two main stages, the “Space Zebra stage” and the “SiriusXM Octane stage”. An additional mini stage was set up ,which hosted a live talk show that streamed interviews on Twitch throughout the entirety of Rockville.
As You Were opened up on the Twitch stage followed by Shadow The Earth. Crowds stayed small as people trickled in throughout the day. The first crowd formed at Spiritbox who put on a great show, and lead singer Courtney LaPlante did not disappoint with her vocals that sounded like they were produced in a studio.
Continuing with another phenomenal female-fronted band, Dead Sara kept the crowd moving with their energetic set.
After watching Dead Sara, I regrettably went to watch a guy called Nascar Aloe on the Rockvillian stage. I, with all honesty, cannot even put into words what went on during this set, but they played from 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm, and it is thirty minutes of my life I wish I could get back. There’s just something about a grown man running around stage in his boxer briefs that didn’t really sit well with me. I also didn’t enjoy him throwing up on stage and only playing for ten minutes, reserving the rest of the time slot to talk shit to the few people watching, letting everyone know how big of a garbage human he is. I’m not really sure what he was trying to accomplish, but one would think that if you were given the opportunity to perform at such a large scale event alongside rock-n-roll hall of famers, you wouldn’t want to make a fool of yourself.
Continuing with the “what the hell did I just watch” mindset, I guarantee there isn’t a single one of you reading this who hasn’t heard about Brass Against‘s uhh .. interesting .. set. Basically, lead singer Sophia Urista pulled a very willing fan on stage and proceeded to pull her pants down and urinate on his face. The fan then fist-bumped the air several times and stood up, spitting out the urine while continuing to celebrate what looked like the best moment of his life. There was some speculation on whether criminal charges for indecent exposure would be filed; however, after speaking with local law enforcement, it seems like no reports have been made at this time. Luckily, Brass Against were the last band to play the Rockvillian stage for the day. I hope the production crew got paid a little extra for their efforts since they basically had to clean up biohazard mess between Urista and Nascar Aloe.
Moving on, Gojira drew a decent crowd but was quickly overshadowed by A Day To Remember. Following original bassist Josh Woodward’s departure from the band after sexual misconduct allegations, ADTR did not seem to miss him on stage at all as a new bass player was seen on stage bringing all, if not more, energy to the mix of original members. Jeremy McKinnon, frontman and lead vocalist, once again put on an insane performance. Confetti cannons went off as the beat dropped, and as the red and white paper rained down on the screaming crowd, it seemed like in that moment there wasn’t a single worry in anyone’s heads. Beachballs then began to fill the space the confetti had previously been and stayed afloat until the very end bouncing from hand to hand. T-shirts were shot into the sea of people meaning a few lucky fans left with a free piece of merchandise they can be proud to say was a part of the show.
Closing out the main stages for the night were Cyprus Hill on the Space Zebra stage and Slipknot on the SiriusXM Octane stage. Both sounded great, but Slipknot really put on objectively the best show of the weekend. The stage setup was nothing less than impressive, and everywhere you looked was a small detail that brought the whole thing together. Lit up at every angle with huge screens and band members in full costume from head to toe. With the history lead singer Corey Taylor has had with his vocal cords being damaged from years of “improper” screaming, I was very impressed with just how good he sounded live. Even when performing songs from Slipknot‘s formative years, Taylor was able to keep the same level of quality throughout the entire set. The only thing missing to make their set a perfect 10/10 was drummer, Clown, who had to sit out due to a torn bicep.
Friday, November 12, 2021:
What a day to get your steps in! The time slots for Friday couldn’t have been better spaced out if they tried, but this meant that you better have had on good walking shoes. I walked almost 6 miles this day alone simply from running back and forth between all the stages to try and catch at least five minutes of each band. Shocker, I wasn’t able to. Starting the day was Eva Under Fire, Whit3 Collr, Austin Meade, Tallah, Zero 9:36, Ayron Jones, and Bad Omens on the main three stages.
Starset then took to the SiriusXM Octane stage in all white/gray matching sweatsuits, which immediately caught my attention. The way they had their headsets and microphones set up along with their funky sunglasses gave extreme space vibes. As someone who had never listened to Starset before, it was also interesting to hear the sounds of a violin and cello at a rock concert.
After Starset was Ice Nine Kills followed by Beartooth. Now, let me just say I am very happy it was much cooler outside than previous Rockville’s due to the event being pushed back to November from May. This made Beartooth‘s insane usage of pyrotechnics even more enjoyable because the heat from the fire didn’t have to mix with Florida’a already brutally high summer temperatures. Everyone was up and jumping for the entire set which was a perfect mix of new and old songs.
Butcher Babies and Pennywise had the same set times on different stages, and sorry to say for Butcher Babies, but my little punk heart would NOT let me miss a Pennywise set for anyone. Of course, they did not disappoint one bit and put on a show to remember. Everyone of all ages was singing along, including a four-year-old kid on his dad’s shoulders whose eyes were glued to the stage.
Next up was Chevelle followed by Social Distortion and Wage War who had the same issue as Pennywise and Butcher Babies, had the same set times on different stages. Remember that little punk heart I mentioned? Yeah, it was at the Social Distortion set living its best life.
After Social Distortion, it was time for one of the most anticipated returning headliners, Rob Zombie. Coming out to the stage, he started singing almost instantly and had the crowd in his grasp. All of the living dead girls rushed to the front and could almost be heard over top of Zombie himself. The outfit choices of Zombie‘s bandmates were glittery and purple which directly contradicted Zombie‘s signature look.
Metallica then took to the stage for their first set of the weekend and rocked playing an assortment of classics.
Saturday, November 13, 2021:
Starting the day out was Reach NYC, Joyus Wolf, Brkn Love, Fame on Fire, Dead Poet Society, and All Good Things, in addition to Higher Ground and As You Were on the the Twitch stage.
Keeping with the girl power for the weekend, Sick Puppies rocked out with their female bassist, Emma Anzai, who had a group of fans there just to see her.
After the Sick Puppies played their mildly calm set, I guess Fever 333 decided the festival needed a bit more crazy energy. Having seen Fever 333 play several times before, I knew what I was walking into when I opted to watch them perform. Singer Jason Butler, guitarist Stephen Harrison, and drummer Aric Improta all seem to feed off one another’s insanity which really makes for a unique and wild experience. Right off the bat, Butler came out swinging both literally and figuratively when he threw his entire microphone stand across the stage, just barely missing one of the cameramen. From there it just got more and more insane to the point I actually felt bad for their stagehand who had to continuously run back and forth fixing all of the equipment Butler and Improta were haphazardly throwing and moving around the stage. It even got to the point where Butler moved the entire platform the drum kit and Improta were on top of. Harrison could be seen several times putting the tensile strength of his guitar strap to the test as he swung it high above his head. Improta ripped one of his cymbals from his kit along with its stand and began playing it as he ran around the stage. The cymbal then met the same fate as Butler’s microphone stand as he tossed it across the stage. Butler, towards the end of their set, disappeared only to reemerge on the roof of a vehicle that was parked off to the side near some vendors. Meanwhile, one of the production managers could be seen on stage with his head in his hands almost as if he had asked the band to take it easy for once. All in all, as long as you aren’t responsible for the safety of any of the equipment, it was a really great show.
Feeding off of Fever 333‘s energy was 3Teeth and Atreyu who played just after them. Needing a break from the chaos, I made my way to Badflower on the Space Zebra stage as Crown The Empire played the same time slot on the Rockvillian stage. Badflower as always sounded phenomenal and of course had everyone in attendance of their set singing along to their radio hit ‘Ghost’.
Next was Asking Alexandria, followed by The Offspring and Gwar. Although Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara played earlier in the festival, it came as a huge disappointment to many Offspring fans that she did not join Dexter Holland on stage to perform “Gone Away”. Nonetheless, The Offspring put on the show of a lifetime once again reminding me why they will always be one of the greatest punk bands of all time.
Lamb of God, Staind, and Disturbed ended the night, hardly being able to compare to The Offspring‘s setlist of almost all hits.
Sunday, November 14, 2021:
Sunday was bittersweet since it was the last day, but I also had a feeling of relief for my now extremely aching bones. Finishing up on the Rockvillian stage for the event was As You Were, Hero the Band, Avoid, The Warning, Jelly Roll, and Code Orange. They are all smaller bands who managed to draw a decent crowd for each of their respective time slots. Alternating between the SiriusXM Octane stage and the Space Zebra stage were Survive the Sun, Goodbye June, Fire From the Gods, and Alien Weaponry.
Dance Gavin Dance really started the moshing for the day with a fanbase that was ready and willing to mosh no matter what. Even during the less heavy points of the songs, the crowd surfers kept coming.
Next up, Sleeping With Sirens and Kellin Quinn sounded amazing. I was slightly disappointed they didn’t play more of their older songs, but it could just be that I’m super stuck in 2010.
After Anthrax was Falling In Reverse back on the Space Zebra stage and I bee-lined directly to the pit followed by Mastodon and Mudvane.
The highlight of Sunday night, and who really stole the show was Lynyrd Skynyrd and how they pulled off one of the most convincing pre-encore walk offs I’ve ever seen. 9:15 pm quickly came and marked the end of their set on the SiriusXM Octane stage with Metallica set to start at 9:25 pm on the Space Zebra stage. All members said their goodbyes and exited the stage. The crew members replaced them and began breaking down the drums, moving the piano, and removing the microphone stands. Some of the crowd began migrating towards the Space Zebra stage but many also stood their ground. A very familiar chant could be heard, “Play Freebird!”, but the stage lights stayed on and people began to give up hope. I heard one woman telling her husband that she was hoping they would at least play a shortened version. Minutes seemed like hours, and after what seemed like an eternity to some, one by one the band returned and that very familiar first riff caused the crowd to roar with excitement. Lynyrd Skynyrd then proceeded to play for another fifteen minutes or so, piano solo and all. Current lead singer, Johnny Van Zant, stepped aside from the microphone towards the end of the song, and his vocals were seamlessly replaced by those of Ronnie Van Zant as footage from one of his last performances played in the background. I looked over to the same woman I mentioned previously who was embraced by her husband, crying with every word.
Lynyrd Skynyrd completed their set around 9:28 pm, but no one seemed to mind the lapse in time slots. Metallica was on stage and ready to go for their second performance of the weekend. Playing the entirety of the Black Album backwards, the crowd was double that of their turnout for Friday night.
- From a safety perspective, the speedway is the best place to hold an event of this nature. Not only are the employees used to handling crowds of this size, but the track is also locked down and secured 24/7 with roaming security guards. This directly opposes years past in Jacksonville, Florida where the event was held in a usually unsecured park under a highway overpass.
- There was a guy who had a sign that said “PIT” with an arrow so no matter where you were in the crowd you could always find exactly where the moshpit was. I personally think this needs to become common practice at all shows.
- Parking, compared to other years, was so much smoother. This once again goes back to the Speedway being more prepared for large crowds and high volume events such as the Daytona 500. Not only are there parking lots able to fit hundreds of cars, but the employees are used to directing hectic traffic. It was nice not having to park in some random person’s front yard for $20 like in Jacksonville.
- TONS of places to eat and drink along with roaming drink carts and vendors (for a pretty penny). Plus, there were several free water fill up stations scattered around the venue so even if you couldn’t afford to purchase drinks, you were still able to stay hydrated.
- The venue was on grass. Now, this may not seem like a huge selling point, but hear me out. The last few years I’ve gone to Rockville, and the main stage was on a parking lot i.e. asphalt. This meant that if you went down, you went down HARD. I left so many sets bloody because even the slightest trip, and you were scraping your hands and knees. I think having the main stages on grass made for a better concert experience for everyone even if you don’t mosh or crowd surf. Grass is just nicer to sit on versus hard concrete.
- Back to the safety aspect, unfortunately, it seemed like the event hired all extremely inexperienced and unprofessional high schoolers and college kids to run security for 90% of the venue. Not only did this cause issues with attentiveness to crowd surfers, but also they also got in the way of emergency service personnel several times that I could see. Overall, I only saw one girl get really injured from being dropped on the railing during Slipknots set, but I can’t for sure say that was security’s fault. The other issue I had with the group they hired to man the front, was that the unprofessionalism really showed the most when it came to providing a good experience for the fans. Specifically at the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s set where a guitar tech threw a hand full of guitar picks at fans who, at this point, had been standing and waiting for 20 minutes just to get the chance at a souvenir from the band. The guitar picks inevitably ended up landing short and before they even hit the ground 10 security guards swarmed over grabbing up each and every pick, swiftly shoving them in their pockets. Later, it was found they were selling them to fans for upwards of $400. I can’t say all the security staff was like this, one man in particular was extremely helpful and spent an hour finding a Slipknot bass pick which had fallen behind a speaker, immediately turning it over to a girl who had been standing barricade all day. It made her whole weekend, for sure. The problem was that the majority of the security guards were too busy Snapchatting or trying to make a quick dollar that they seemed to have forgotten why they were even employed in the first place.
- Another issue was the lack of internet and cellular service available to not only the fans but the vendors as well. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “large crowds mean you should know the service is going to suck”, the only problem is that I’ve been at the Daytona 500 which has double the people and still had perfect reception. This only became a real issue when families and friends got separated. The real irony of me complaining about bad WiFi is that as I’m typing this up, the internet in my house went out meaning you probably won’t be seeing this until mid-Tuesday, but what can you do?
Overall, I have to say this weekend was a great success. Everyone seemed to have a blast, including myself of course, and no one got seriously injured. Welcome to Rockville has once again been an exceptional example of why I’m so proud of the punk / alt / metal / rock communities. We look out for one another, and if someone goes down you pick them up. Every single band preached this and ensured everyone went home to their families.
If you missed out this year don’t worry because in only a few months Welcome to Rockville will be back at the Daytona International Speedway. Dates are set (May 19 – May 22, 2022) and tickets are already becoming available. It was announced Friday that the headliners will Kiss, Korn, Guns N Roses, and the Foo Fighters. For more information on the upcoming event please visit https://welcometorockvillefestival.com/ .