The 2023 edition of Welcome to Rockville took place over four days from Thursday (May 18th) to Sunday (May 21st) in Daytona Beach, Florida. The massive rock fest was led by headliners Tool, Pantera, Slipknot, and Avenged Sevenfold, while also featuring dozens more notable acts.
The festival closed out on Sunday with Tool’s first show of the year. The performance was particularly notable in that singer Maynard James Keenan dressed in drag just days after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new anti-drag bill into law. As for the music, the band played a brief 10-song set that included classics like “Forty Six & 2” and “Stinkfist” alongside newer tracks like “Fear Inoculum” and “Invincible.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Incubus paused their set for a moment to help a distressed fan. The band performed with new touring bassist Nicole Row, filling in for Ben Kenney after he underwent surgery for a brain tumor. Other highlights included sets from Deftones, The Mars Volta, Coheed and Cambria, and more. Earlier in the day, politically-minded punkers Anti-Flag used their performance to rail against DeSantis’ anti-gay and anti-trans policies in Florida.
Saturday proved to be the heaviest of the four days, with the reunited and revamped Pantera topping the bill. Following a video tribute to late brothers Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, the lineup of classic members Philip Anslemo and Rex Brown alongside guitarist Zakk Wylde and drummer Charlie Benante ripped through a 14-song set that included favorites like “A New Level,” “Mouth for War,” “Walk,” and “Cowboys From Hell.”
Prior to Pantera’s set, Godsmack rocked the crowd with hits like “Awake,” “Whatever,” and “I Stand Alone,” while Alice Cooper looked re-energized with guitarist Nita Strauss back in his band, delivering classics like “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out.” Unfortunately, Alter Bridge had to cancel as singer Myles Kennedy was experiencing respiratory issues that affected his voice. That ended up giving Sepultura a huge crowd, as fans flocked over to see the thrash veterans’ set that was slated at the same time as Alter Bridge. Saturday also featured walls of death during sets from Kreator and Suicide Silence, and a massive circle pit as Knocked Loose brought the hardcore to Rockville.
On Friday, Avenged Sevenfold headlined, appearing a bit rusty after five years off the road. While the band did play a “surprise” show last week in Las Vegas, their Welcome to Rockville gig essentially marked their first proper concert since 2018. Singer M. Shadows admitted from the stage that Avenged needed more practice to get up to speed, as the band performed three songs from their upcoming album, Life Is But a Dream, as well as hits like “Nightmare,” “Bat Country,” and “Hail to the King.”
Earlier in the evening, country singer Hardy played his first rock show at Welcome to Rockville, covering Stone Temple Pilots’ “Big Empty” and welcoming A Day to Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon onstage for “Radio Song.” Evanescence brought favorites like “Going Under,” “Call Me When You’re Sober,” and “Bring Me to Life” to their 14-song performance. And just prior to I Prevail’s set, a couple in the crowd exchanged marriage vows. Friday also saw the sons of Metallica play in the bands OTTTO (Tye Trujillo) and Bastardane (Castor Hetfield).
Slipknot had the honor of being the fest’s first headliner on Thursday, breaking out the pyro and playing beyond curfew to accommodate for an earlier weather delay. The masked band’s 15-song set was bookmarked by opener “Disasterpiece” and closer “Surfacing.”
Rob Zombie whipped the crowd into a frenzy even as he was plagued by some issues with his backdrop of wall panels, while storms in the area forced the cancellation of Trivium’s set and an abrupt end to Avatar’s gig. Also on Thursday, Indian metal band Bloodywood played a high-energy set while also speaking their mind on a number of topics, including lambasting “sensationalism” in journalism. Meanwhile, Maynard James Keenan made his first appearance of this year’s Rockville fest with Puscifer, this time wearing his special agent outfit in conjunction with the band’s latest album, Existential Reckoning.
Overall, it was a successful Welcome to Rockville festival, with only one weather delay in the always unpredictable Florida. A number of the same bands will be back at it again, along with a host of other acts, this coming weekend at the Sonic Temple festival in Columbus, Ohio (tickets available here).
See our extensive gallery of photos from the 2023 Welcome to Rockville festival below.
Photo Gallery – Welcome to Rockville 2023 (click to expand and scroll through):