BottleRock - The New Coachella? One Reporter's Account

May 17, 2013 By:

This past weekend the inagueral BottleRock Napa Valley played out and, for the most part, went off without a hitch. The event attracted an impressive lineup, with such acts as The Black Keys, Violent Femmes, Kings of Leon, Alabama ShakesThe Avett BrothersThe Wallflowers, and Cake. To cover the event, which bears striking similarities to the beginnings of Coachella, we sent Heath Cooley, a recent Napa transplant, writer and musician, to the scene for three days. He promptly presented us with a testament of the festivities that read like a musical version of the Old Testament, both in length and enthusiasm. We just finished going through the bastard. Here are some of our favorite exerpts. 

Bottle shock: A temporary condition immediately affecting wines due to bottling or being shaken during travel. Usually characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors leaving the wine to taste flat or off. The condition usually disappears in about two or three weeks. (Wikipedia)

BottleRock: A five-day festival in the heart of Napa Valley, Calf., consisting of live music, comedy, wine, beer, and food.

None of the artists seemed to be “…shaken during travel.” Taking the stage, they all seemed very happy to be in Napa Valley and couldn’t believe just how “f*cking” beautiful it is.

Thursday, May 9:

"I knew the floodgates would open around noon and people would start pouring in. The grounds themselves were vast. The layout was not like anything I had expected. To my surprise, it was very well organized but, a pretty good schlep between the three stages. The stages were in an L shape from each other with a large food court in the middle containing a variety of the best local food vendors. In that area were many picnic tables and umbrellas. There was also a large screen TV that cycled through the current performances, so that you knew who was playing at any time during the festival."

"It was starting to get warm so I headed to the press tent to give my iPhone some juice, cool down and drink some water. To my surprise John Doe and Exene from the band, X already arrived to do some press. After the interviews and press shots I walked over to reintroduce myself to John. He and I have bumped into each other on a few occasions over the years in Los Angeles at one of the local studios. We caught up a bit, talked of touring as opposed to one off dates... I asked John what he thought of the festival and said he thought it was a great idea and surprised something like this hasn’t happened sooner."

"I made another pass by the Citi stage and watched Joan Jett & The BlackHearts. I don’t know what it is about Joan Jett, but she seems to have obtained a magical elixir or the fountain of youth itself. She looked and sounded fantastic! Her voice still as sharp as razor blades with a face as sultry and soft as it was in the '80s."

"...The majority of food and drink is that it was simply overpriced. A glass of wine started as low as $8.00 and up to $16.00 for not even a full glass. Beer started at $8.00 and up, but was at least a full cup. Food was roughly $10.00 a plate. $5.00 for one fish taco and $10.00 for two. I suppose these are typical festival prices but, perhaps BottleRock can break this mold and correct it for next year’s event."

Friday, May 10:

"It was almost noon and I figured it was time for a drink. I grabbed myself a glass of sweet white wine and sauntered over to the Miner stage for The Whiskey Sisters. This is primarily a female duo with a very good backing band. They had a country, blue-grassy vibe packed with plenty of double harmonies and up tempo stomp."

"I walked over to the Citi stage to catch Flagship. This is a North Carolina five-piece band with elements of some Brit Pop bands... Echo & The Bunnymen, Star Sailor, etc. They deliver big anthem, U2-style hooks with soaring choruses. I enjoyed these guys."

"The fashion trends I’m seeing today are lots of print. Long flowing summer dresses on the women with big straw, floppy hats. You’d think they were heading to the Kentucky Derby."

"It was time to head back to the Willpower stage for Alabama Shakes. People here today are very excited to hear them play."

"The Shins take the stage and waste no time getting into it. What can I say? It’s another stellar band, with great songs who sound fantastic live."

"...Happy to rejoin my friends and enjoy The Flaming Lips ... Piles of chrome flashing balls are on the stage with fiber-optic ropes hanging from the ceiling that lead to the microphone stand. You almost expect a spaceship to rise from underneath the stage.  It was truly a spectacular sight." 

"The Black Keys take the stage and the first low bass note that is played nearly blows everyone over  ... The bass keeps coming. It’s so overwhelming. I can hardly get a breath."

Saturday, May 11:

"We grabbed a few drinks and headed for the Citi stage to watch, Allen Stone. I first heard of this kid from watching an episode of Daryl’s House. I was impressed and was curious to see him in his own element. ... His drummer was killing it."

"Jane’s Addiction finally hit the stage and right from the word go had the “shake your pants off” bass thumping. The crowd was instantly up and dancing. ... When the band launched into 'Jane Says,' Perry grabbed a bottle of Rambauer red wine from the stage, popped it open, raised it to the crowd and gave cheers to us all."

"Kings of Leon of course came out in all their larger than life rock star fashion with an incredible light show and video screens to boot. The visuals were spectacular. The sound so dialed-in you almost thought you were listening to the CD."

"The festivities were starting to slow down for the night; people were making their way toward the exits. Kids were asleep in their strollers or in their parent’s arms, and pretty much everyone yawning, including myself. ... The good news is, tickets are already on sale for next year’s BottleRock festival."