JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Welcome to Rockville was my first rock festival. I expected to bounce from stage to stage, hearing some of my favorite bands play their songs, but I realized quickly why the organizers label Rockville as an experience.
With its picturesque setting along the St. Johns River, you couldn't help but immerse yourself in all the fun and knowledge to be gained between the stages.
Other than the many food options at your fingertips, there were games to be played and artists showing off their work in a row of tents. That's where I ran into Chad Moses, who works with the nonprofit organization To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA).
Moses said the TWLOHA movement has been around for 13 years and is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. They are not counselors, but act as a bridge between people needing help and people who can help them. TWLOHA invests directly into treatment and recovery.
Along with festivals, the group also visit schools to talk with students to let them know that it's OK to not be OK.
Up and coming rock star Grandson agrees.
"It's really incredible when you get to meet people that are dedicating their lives to trying to make it a little easier for somebody else and they stand for the kinds of things that music needs right now, and America needs right now," he said.
Anyone who would like to help or needs help from the Melbourne, Florida-based organization can find them at TWLOHA.com.
The one place that seemed to always have a crowd was the Caduceus Wine Garden. Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards Wine Garden, owned by Maynard James Keenan, co-founder of international recording acts Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. A fan told me that Keenan's wine was just as good as his music. This is also the place I caught up with the winners of the News 6 contest who received two VIP passes to the event.
Angela and Joshua said it would have been hard make it to the festival to see their favorite bands, Rob Zombie, and Korn, because their grandmother recently passed away. Angela said they were really stoked and grateful when they won and would be rocking out for grandma.
Speaking of rocking out, I got experience the very talented Grandson perform. His music reaches across multiple genres. He gave us some insight about his music and how he came up with his name.
He said he was looking for a name that would be nostalgic and familiar to people, without them necessarily knowing the music. He said when he started this project in 2015, his grandfather had just passed away. His manager had a dream that he was called Grandson, and that's what he became. His fans call themselves Grandkids.
Although his favorite instrument is the guitar, his passion is writing and singing his songs.
"I realize in my music career a lot of people are able to do things on their own. So for me, I love playing guitar and other instruments, but I like to enable other people around me who love what they do with the same passion, and I lean on them for the other instruments and that allows me to focus on my writing," he said.
Grandson said playing Rockville was cool.
"You know, Florida has a lot of passionate rock fans and I think it's really a well-kept secret here in America. Florida is one of our favorite places to play," he said.
While the younger generation of rock stars seems to be in good hands, the more seasoned groups were still able to hold their own. Incubus drew big numbers and did not disappoint.
Carreen Krapf, who made the trip from Orlando just to see them, said she loves the guys and added that their songs are "so hot."
Tool, the headliner of the event, was clearly the most anticipated group. I witnessed grown men giddy and bursting with excitement. I chatted with them before and after the show to try to put their emotions into words. Some, like Alejandro Muriel, came from as far away as Columbia, saying, "I came here to see Tool. It's been 13 years since their last album release and I wanted to be the first to hear some new music."
Other fans had a much shorter trip. Local resident Andrew Sprenkel said he was looking forward to Tool's consistency and sound.
"I am absolutely 100% excited about hearing new Tool music," fan Jarrod Cady said. "There is nothing better after 13 years. You couldn't have a better experience than Tool coming on stage and playing a new song for us."
Tool did not disappoint their fans, playing a 10-song set that included two new songs: Descending and Invincible.
The energy in the crowd when they took the stage was undeniable.
I caught up with Andrew and Jarrod after the show to see if Tool lived up to their expectations.
"Great show. Different in festival setting, as opposed to arena, for example," Andrew Sprenkel said. "Both have the positives. Really liked the energy of the crowd. Probably the best of all the shows from the whole weekend, in my opinion. Tool never had to try to inspire the crowd; the crowd was always at top energy in anticipation."
"The opening of the show was my favorite part because of the excitement of the fans and the unmistakable sound of the band that hits you squarely in the chest when they start playing," Cady said.
I can tell you that Welcome to Rockville was truly an experience. One that I will not be missing next year.