Memorial Day Weekend was host to several festivals. Within three days, I saw tweets, snaps, and posts from Lightning in a Bottle, California Roots, and the Ship Show—I consider it a “festival” because it was longer than one day—but perhaps the most underrated festival that took place last weekend was BottleRock. In the always beautiful Napa Valley, over 120,000 people, over the course of three days came together for the biggest music, food, art, wine, and beer festival I have ever experienced.
Day 1: Off To A Late Start
The epic event began on Friday at noon. Many visitors probably still had work that day because the volumes of attendees multiplied as day turned night. There were four music stages, a culinary stage, a day spa (yeah—literally, a day spa), countless food trucks and restaurants, a family area with games for kids, beer and wine everywhere, vendors galore, and thousands of out-of-towners ready to party. Maroon 5 headlined Friday night on the JaM Cellars stage.
For me, this was one of those instances where you don’t really realize how many songs you know from one artist until your singing majority of the lyrics with the rest of the people, and you’re just like, “I must have heard this on the radio about 100 times,” then the next song comes on and you’re like, “this one too!” It was quite incredible, surprisingly, to sing and dance with so many people while the warm sun was setting behind us. I am a Hip-Hop head, but I didn’t feel out-of-place for one second. Maybe it was because I had a few brews, or maybe because it was a very well-orchestrated performance, or both.
It was expected, however, that I immediately rush from one stage to the next at the first sound of something other than mainstream pop/rock though. Warren G was playing close by on the Lagunitas stage. And like I said, I am a Hip-Hop head, so it was only natural I ended up here. In between songs, the DJ played mixed cuts from Mac Dre and Too Short, but it was for a seemingly small crowd compared to the those packed around the second-to-biggest, Samsung stage, for Modest Mouse.
First Day Wins
Drink: Lagunitas Day Time Ale, Petaluma, CA.
Food: Coca-Cola Braised Pork Baked Bao from The Chairman Truck, South San Francisco, CA.
Random Fact: On the William Sonoma Culinary stage, chef-musician mashups were taking place throughout the day. Martha Stewart teamed up with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, while Ayesha Curry and E-40 were cooking up a storm.
Day 2: Making Up For Day 1’s Lost Time
Saturday was the best day because we got there early and I got some great photos of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. I saw an upcoming Hip-Hop artist named Pell who I’ve been eager to see. And I was a part of the country’s largest silent disco. Pell put on an energetic 2 PM performance at the Miner Family Winery stage. The New Orleans artist, who has songs with the Bay’s own G-Eazy and Caleborate, said it was his first time visiting Napa, but the crowd cheered after every song like they had been fans for years.
After seeing Jump Around performed by House of Pain at the Samsung Stage, and catching Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers perform the harmonic tune, You Don’t Know How It Feels, I had to check out the silent disco. Big Boi from Outkast mixed alongside Chicago’s, The White Panda, for dance party battle. If you’ve never been to a silent disco—it’s cool—everyone gets a pair of headphones and essentially jams out to whatever is playing on their channel. This setup had two channels.
As The White Panda and Big Boi went in, they both were concurrently maintaining the energy with consistent bass lines and beat drops. While it was not entirely silent—a few people couldn’t help but sing along, or shout out “whooo” in between dance moves—it was certainly a disco. Everyone’s headphones lit up, in assorted colors, making it both an enticing visual and audial experience.
Drink: Blue Moon Blood Orange Pale Ale, Golden, CO.
Random Tip: The VIP Village was home to exclusive bathrooms, bars, food vendors, phone charging stations, and viewing areas; but the wristband hierarchy is costly as you move up in the ranks, so unless you know someone or are trying to impress someone, my advice is to go with GA and get yourself a t-shirt (it lasts longer anyway!)
Day 3: Foo Fighters Finale Fucked
Sunday was off to a relaxing start—I went to the Sutter Health Wellness Spa to check things out. Having never seen a spa at a festival before, I was curious. Not sure what to expect and much to my surprise, you could get anything from massages, to skin creams, shots of B12, to IV treatments with essential vitamins and minerals to promote hydration. I didn’t do any of it, although, it sounded incredibly refreshing. It was surely something different and a lovely addition to the traditional festival setting.
As far as music, Sunday had me pleasantly surprised. I discovered a band from San Francisco: Con Brio. Not sure if they are considered funk, soul, or both, but I was immediately drawn in by their new-age, Bay Area style and the eclectic energy. Knowing they are local, I am even more of a fan. Later, at the JaM Cellars stage, the Foo Fighters’ 2002 hit, All My Life, got people on their feet and kicked off some damn good vibes. My Hip-Hop subconscious didn’t want me to miss The Roots though, so I left after the first couple songs to ensure a good spot on the lawn at the Samsung stage. Which—I am glad I did—because I heard production got shut down during the final few minutes of the Foo Fighters’ set.
Unfortunately, these things happen, and thankfully, The Roots put on a mighty grand finale. They performed the legendary track, The Next Movement, along with the Grammy Award Winning song, You Got Me. The live band performed long original solos and jazzy instrumental covers to singles like that of The Weekend and Childish Gambino. It was indeed, one of the best performances I’ve seen all year—and trust me, I’ve seen quite a few.
Overall, BottleRock was one of the most elegantly organized festivals I have been to. The amount of cross-culture, cross-genre, and musical diversity encouraged by the people behind BottleRock Napa Valley will be what brings music lovers like me back again next year!
Last Day Wins
Drink: water from the CamelBak hydration stations, free.
Food: Superfood Breakfast Bowl from Southside, Napa, CA.
If you think you missed out on one of the best festivals of the year—you did—but BottleRock 2018 has already been confirmed for May 25-27 of next year. Check out BottleRockNapaValley.com for event updates!