Concert promotor Danny Wimmer Presents wrapped the 2019 spring festival season, with record-breaking total attendance of nearly 350,000 during three consecutive weekends in May. Fans from around the world came together at the ninth annual Welcome to Rockville (May 3 to 5 in Jacksonville, Florida), and new events, Epicenter (May 10 to 12 in Rockingham, North Carolina, and Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival (May 17 to 19 in Columbus, Ohio), as well as Chicago Open Air Presents (May 18 and 19 in Bridgeview, Illinois).
Here are some highlights from each festival:
Welcome to Rockville had its biggest year ever in 2019 with 99,000 in attendance over a sold-out weekend at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, Florida. The festival featured some of the biggest names in rock, with Tool, Korn, Rob Zombie, Judas Priest, Incubus, Evanescence, Shinedown, Bring Me the Horizon and Chevelle leading a lineup of over 50 music artists.
The weekend began with a Thursday night pre-party headlined by Amigo the Devil, and concluded with a set from Tool, which featured the debut of a pair of new songs, “Invincible” and “Descending,” the band’s first new music in 13 years. In between, Korn (Friday) and Rob Zombie (Saturday) closed out the festival’s first two nights with sets that covered the span of each act’s enduring careers. Judas Priest delivered performances of rare tracks like “Out in the Cold” that it had’t played live in 33 years. Papa Roach paid tribute to The Prodigy—originally slated to kick off its first U.S. tour in a decade at Welcome to Rockville before the passing of frontman Keith Flint—with a cover of “Firestarter,” and Zakk Wylde offered a piano-led tribute to the late Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell during Black Label Society’s set. Evanescence played its first rock festival in two years, and The Damned Things reunited for its first performance since 2011. Up-and-coming acts Boston Manor, Badflower and Yungblud delivered high-energy sets that showcased the best of music’s emerging talent, as well.
Epicenter entered its first year with an audience of 80,000 converging on the purpose-built Rockingham Festival Grounds in Rockingham, North Carolina over the course of May 10 to 12. The new three-day destination festival provided a unique experience, with after-hours programming plus various camping options and amenities.
The weekend kicked off with a special Campers’ Pre-Party on Thursday featuring tribute acts Nightrain and Thunderstruck, as well as the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow and local Charlotte band Killakoi. The main event featured a finale from chart-topping rock act Foo Fighters, which offered a two-and-a-half hour set including a special rendition of “My Hero” dedicated to frontman Dave Grohl’s mom on Mother’s Day. Korn closed out night one with a packed set list of hits after a tribute to late young rock fan Ally, who lost her battle with cancer in late 2018 after attending previous Danny Wimmer Presents festivals through the partner organization Fxck Cancer/Dyin 2 Live Dreams Program.
Some of the other highlights of the weekend included guitar phenomenon Nita Strauss joining Evanescence for a surprise collaboration on the song “Disappear,” The Crystal Method’s special tribute to Keith Flint, the late frontman of fellow electronica act The Prodigy, the reunion of Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine from “That Metal Show” during two rare sets, and after-hours performances from Wilson, Hyro the Hero and Arrested Youth.
At both Welcome to Rockville and Epicenter, guests were able to experience the Boilermaker pop-up featuring Metallica’s Blackened Whiskey and Enter Night Pilsner. Blackened, a super-premium American whiskey blend, crafted by the late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell and finished in the music of Metallica, and Enter Night Pilsner, a collaboration with Stone Brewing Company, came together under one roof to offer guests a one-of-kind musical festival experience.
The inaugural Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival capped off the Danny Wimmer Presents 2019 spring festival season with sold-out crowds totaling 120,000 at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, May 17 to 19. In addition to performances from Foo Fighters, System of a Down, Disturbed, Ghost, Papa Roach and Lamb of God, the weekend offered one-of-a-kind art experiences, including legendary street artist RISK, art installations, live mural painting, live screen-printing and the popular Art Tent. The SiriusXM Comedy & Spoken Word Tent presented sets from Andrew Dice Clay, Henry Rollins, Tom Morello, Craig Gass, Nadya of Pussy Riot and more.
Foo Fighters capped off the festival with an extended seat featuring surprises including The Struts’ frontman Luke Spiller appearing alongside Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins for a cover of the Queen/David Bowie song “Under Pressure” and Pauly Shore contributing to a rendition of the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” (dedicated to the comedian’s father who had passed away over the weekend). The Cult performed several tracks from its same-named album “Sonic Temple,” System of a Down’s Serj Tankian joined Tom Morello on stage for a performance of Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” (dedicated to the late Chris Cornell on the anniversary of his passing), and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe made a guest appearance during Gojira’s set.
Throughout all three festival weekends, lucky fans also enjoyed exclusive acoustic performances from bands including Beartooth, Fever 333, Grandson, Shvpes, Wilson and Dirty Honey during the Zippo Sessions. Attendees 21 and old had their thirst quenched by a variety of beverages, including selections from theCaduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards Wine Garden (owned by Maynard James Keenan, co-founder of international recording acts Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer), cocktails at the Heavy Tiki Bar oasis and local craft beer. Fans also were able to meet their favorite bands and get autographs at the Monster and f.y.e. Fan Experience tents, try out the latest gear at the Music Experience tent and learn more about animal rescue Take Me Home and the Fxck Cancer/Dyin 2 Live Dreams Program.
Chicago Open Air Presents brought a two-day stadium show to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illnois, just outside downtown Chicago during the weekend of May 18 and 19, with crowds of 50,000 taking in the performances. Tool closed out the event with performances of new songs “Invincible” and “Descending,” the band’s first new material in 13 years. System of a Down topped things off Saturday with a headlining set, while Ghost, The Cult, Gojira, Meshuggah and In This Moment delivered captivating performances. Buzzworthy up-and-comers Alien Weaponry and Fever 333 also gaver attention-grabbing appearances.