Napa, CA, is one of the most beautiful and picturesque locations in the country and is home to one of the finest food, wine, and music festivals – BottleRock.
Each year on Memorial Day weekend musicians, music fans, oenophiles, and foodies from all over the world descend on the sleepy town of Napa. Napa is the seat of a region well known for its world-class wine growing, gourmet food, and California lifestyle.
This weekend, the best of the best of music, wine, and food come together in a true multi-cultural California experience. BottleRock always has a wide variety of food, drink, and music to satisfy all music fans. This year was headlined by several heavyweights of the music industry. Each day, the festival starts at noon and ends at about 10-10:30 PM. Several restaurants and bars in town stay open after the festivities to cater to the late-night crowd. For the hardiest music fans, with the purchase of an extra ticket, each night offers after-festival shows/parties in town and the surrounding bay area with bands playing at the festival.
Ron Artis II And The Truth kicked off Saturday’s BottleRock experience. The ever-positive soul singer and blues guitarist from Hawaii brought his soulful message of love and inclusion to Napa. His set included his two young daughters singing along with their dad to his song “No Weight,” a positive counter to all the craziness of our day.While most of the older crowd (over 21) was sipping their first cocktail of the day and trying to recover from the senior Metallica party, and after-party (if you were lucky enough to hold a ticket to Wedding Band) the night before. Over at the Truly Stage, OTTTO, the second of the Metallica-family bands was getting the crowd whipped up with what’s been described as “snotty thrash” (the nickname given because of the members’ ages). OTTTO consists of bassist Tye Trujillo (17), the son of Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, drummer Patrick “Triko” Chavez, and fresh-faced frontman and guitarist Noah Ferretti round out the youthful power trio. OTTTO had the midday crowd of their youthful dedicated peers thrashing and moshing early in the day. The Houston, TX artist De’Wayne followed OTTTO’s thrash set on the Truly stage. His hip-hop-inspired alt-rock approach fit in well with the Truly crowd. According to his bio, De’Wayne showcases a raw blend of genres. The music combines elements of rock, industrial, and rap with a mission to show people we shouldn’t live in boxes and neither should their music. What is clear is that when De’Wayne ended his set with his cover of The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” he had the crowd bouncing and jumping around enthusiastically. When was the last time you saw a rock band with a cello player? And a cellist for a frontman to boot? The Happy Fits fit that description exactly. Never heard of The Happy Fits? The New Jersey indie-rock band has a large dedicated following. The band consists of lead vocalist and cellist Calvin Langman, guitarist Ross Monteith, and drummer Luke Davis. The Happy Fits create their distinctive and infectious sound by using cello, drums, and guitar with no bass. Their performance energy is youthful and highly contagious, as a result, they draw a large crowd to see them throw a Happy Fit. Classically trained musician Calvin Langman and The Happy Fits may take a different approach to rock n roll, but the results speak for themselves. People love their music and The Happy Fits are successfully bucking the norms of what live rock n roll is. performances.
BottleRock is a fun multi-cultural event, filled with gastro delights, and with the William Sonoma Culinary Institute of America based a block away from the festival, and with Napa Valley’s reputation for gourmet food, you could expect to find many of the artists performing at the festival applying their culinary skills, maybe to learn something or maybe to get a taste of the delicious fare BottleRock has to offer. So it was no surprise really to find that prior to headlining Saturday night, the afternoon saw Twenty One Pilots over at the Williams Sonoma Kitchen Stage learning the secrets of properly creating and layering a burrito from chef Aaròn Sánchez, using what else? But a huge 21″ tortilla.
Speaking of surprises, it was South Carolina’s Rainbow Kitten Surprise turn to hit the Jam Cellars main stage. RKS as they are known to their fans has a sound that is hard to define. Alt-rock-hip hop-electric-folk. RKS attacks the stage with extreme confidence and has a large “college radio” audience. In fact, RKS was formed in a dorm at Appalachian State University and has grown their popularity virally among that group of peers. You could easily just state the obvious about the gender-bending RKS. Their look says a lot about their confidence and the appeal they have to their audience. But their appeal is not based on looks but rooted in their musical sound and lyrics. Their songs are insightful, speaking to the issues many people grapple with today. RKS played a tight set and left a positive vibe as a precursor to what was to follow.
As the evening approached, The Black Crowes took to the Jam Cellars main stage and bought the music and performance to another level with the Robinson brothers Chris and Rich, along with Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke, burning the festival down with nearly every Black Crowes hit. Dirty slide guitar, filthy harmonica, and Chris Robinson’s southern dandy preening paired with his bluesy soulful southern vocal styling were the fuel used to power the southern rock n roll train that made a stop in Napa. The Black Crowes were back in full flight on this night.
One of Saturday’s featured headliners were Twenty One Pilots. Lockdown brought Twenty One Pilots back to the stage with an energy not seen in a long time and left fans raving about their performance. Twenty One Pilots started the show with two of their biggest hits “Heathens” and “Stressed Out.” With dual headliners on Saturday night, the competition for fans made for intense sets and was great for the audience. The downside of the situation is that competition forces fans to choose one act over the other.Just a couple hundred yards from the Jam Cellars Main stage, Mount Westmore closed out Saturday’s festivities. Four “dancer” poles on the Verizon stage were occupied most of the set with uniquely talented dancers. When it wasn’t his turn on the mic, Snoop Dogg prowled the stage with a money gun shooting out Snoop Dog bills at the dancers and the audience. E-40, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and Too Short took turns center stage and each showcased their take on the West Coast Hip Hop vibe, bringing home the cherished songs in a style only these four legends could. A massive crowd sang along to all the hits these four legends have churned out celebrating the longevity of their 30+ years of hip hop history. The audience for Mount Westmore was young and old with everyone having a great time, hip hop seemingly creating a connection to the older crowd for the younger generation who love these songs just much as their parents.
Diversity is what BottleRock is all about, and it’s what it delivers in spades. Food, drink, music, and most importantly humanity. There are many musical groups not mentioned here that are on their way up in the musical world, that have a large following that is worth paying attention to. The festival is geared to bringing a bucket list experience while maintaining an everyone is welcome atmosphere.
You can read all about day one here.