Article By Steve Garzoli
Upon entering the BottleRock grounds, we eased our way through the main gates and into the festival at the Napa Valley Expo. The Miner Family Winery Stage was on the left. To our right a massive sign constructed of letters big enough to climb on declaring LOVE. To the right of the love sculpture was the Samsung Stage. Past the Samsung stage was the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage. Further onward awaited the JaM Cellars Stage. Near to the beautifully laid out food court sat the Lagunitas Stage.
Our introduction to Friday’s day one festivities took place at the playful and entertaining Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage. We stopped there and found Ayesha Curry in the kitchen cooking with Vallejo rapper E-40. The combination of celebrity chefs and musicians would entertain many throughout the weekend. Ayesha was warm and fun while E-40 assisted her and entertained the crowd. However, the biggest reaction from the culinary crowd occurred when Ayesha announced that she had brought someone with her…Ayesha’s husband, Golden State Warrior great, Steph Curry, joined her on stage. The crowd erupted and began shouting “MVP!” “MVP!” Steph and Ayesha embraced warmly as he greeted the crowd and Ayesha playfully complained that the audience had not been that loud for her! Later that afternoon, at the same venue, we would witness the surreal pairing of Martha Stewart with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, as Martha nonchalantly asked Lewis if he smoked? Only at BottleRock!
Kicking off the weekend was Troubadour 77 with their noon set on Friday. They are comprised of two married couples, Kassie and Austin Wayand and Nathan Chappell (drummer). Grammy award-winning singer-songwriters, Monty Powell and his wife Anna Wilson started the band specifically wanting to cater to the likes of the middle aged music lovers. their music sounds like a combination of Indigo Girls meets the Eagles. Anna comes from Pennsylvania and Monty from Atlanta. Monty has collaborated with Keith Urban and the couples reside in Utah. I asked where the name Troubadour 77 originates from and Anna told me that it comes from where live music got its mojo…the famous venue in LA, the Troubadour…and 77 was a very rich year for music.
Then onto the ’80s inspired pop filled set of Fitz and the Tantrums. Singer Michael Fitzpatrick, dressed in a white denim jacket, complete with ’80s style pins, white pants and red shoes. He and co-lead singer Noelle Scaggs, in a dark green jumpsuit, treated fans to an energetic set of sing-alongs including Break the Walls, Get Right Back, and Run It, among others.
We next enjoyed a set at the Samsung stage by British rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen. The guitar driven rock band proceeded to lay out a fantastic set of hard driving instantly catchy songs, reminiscent of an Arctic Monkeys style sound. Already with a loyal following in the U.K., the band will look to build momentum in the U.S. joining Green Day for tour dates this summer.
Hungry for lunch we headed to the sprawling food court. Here choices ranged from corn dogs and tacos to duck confit and lobster, to everything imaginable in between. With drink options ranging from numerous local wines and beers to satisfy any palate or food pairing, complete with filling water bottle at one of the festivals convenient water stations.
The California Honey Drops filled the stage with their many members, including three horns, conga drums, and keys. As soon as they started their set it was impossible not to move to the music. While swaying in Napa one suddenly found themselves transported to a dance party in the heart of New Orleans. A short time later we re-entered Napa, over at the Samsung Stage, amidst a formidable crowd gathered for The Silversun Pickups.
The indie rockers from L.A. took the stage and immediately treated the venue to their signature sound of distorted guitars and the almost delicate, yet penetrating, voice of lead singer Brian Aubert. As their unique sound filled the air the band seemed to enjoy their time on stage as much as their fans. Bass player Nikki Monninger jumped up and down and smiled often during their set. Panic Switch and “Dots and Dashes” were among the fan favorites. Next was the headliner of the day, Maroon 5. As “whistle while you work” was played from the speakers the lighting changed and Maroon 5 took the stage. Facing his drummer lead singer Adam Levine stretched his arms high above his head with his fingers interlaced. At the first beat of the drum he dropped his left arm, striking a familiar disco pose, as the band broke into Moves Like Jagger. Maroon 5 continued their night with This Love, Animals, and Payphone among many more of their radio friendly hits. Levine, decked out in a black leather jacket , owned the crowd for the next nearly two hours, ending fifteen minutes before the 10pm cutoff.
Day two started with City of the Sun. The New York based trio is made up of two guitar players and a percussionist. Their instrumental songs seemed to bend space and time. The trio seem to harken back to another time and place, or perhaps forward to a time and place that has yet to be? The acoustic guitars were ethereal as players John Pita and Avi Snow blended together for a nearly transformative musical experience. Their haunting sound has still not left my consciousness.
Day 2 also brought the ever positive Michael Franti performing his blend of energetic and upbeat songs including The Sound Of Sunshine. Earlier in the day I interviewed Franti asking him if he would please consider running for president. With the idea that his positivity is the antidote for the present political climate.
Night two ended with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers taking the main stage. While Petty played many of his hits, one great song after the other. There were too many momentum killing breaks between each song, with the stage fading to black until the band fired up again. While it was a pleasure to hear the varied and storied catalog of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a band with such history and talent, I wish the set had a better flow.
Day three began for us with an energy filled set of old school punk from the Oakland based band SWMRS. The youthful band, led by lead singer Cole Becker, and his brother, with none other than Green Day’s, Billie Joe Armstrong’s son, Joey Armstrong on drums! Cole had the energy reminiscent of Iggy Pop and a sound possibly influenced by the likes of the Sex Pistols and The Ramones. SWMRS tore into several original punk songs, interacted with the audience, and were boundless in their energy and determination to inspire the large crowd gathered to see them.
Gavin DeGraw treated his audience to a polished performance of his catchy songs. The piano player, wearing a signature hat, opened with his hit song Chariot and included other sing-alongs as Sweeter and In Love With A Girl.
Recently reunited ’90s rockers Live performed a fan favorite set including Lightning Crashes, All Over You, and Selling The Drama. The venerable rock act also paid a fitting tribute to Chris Cornell, performing his beautiful song I am the Highway. It was a touching moment for many in the crowd who sung along with Ed Kowalczyk to Cornell’s soul-baring lyrics.
Zeik McCarter of San Francisco funk band Con Brio said that people could expect an “explosive” performance from them at BottleRock. As promised, Zeik and Con Brio were electric. McCarter is one of the most dynamic performers in music today, making Con Brio a must see live show for music lovers. Fans will be pleased to hear that McCarter also said the band was working on some new stuff. Ending the set by tearing his shirt off and delighting the females in the audience!
Then, Band Of Horses played on the main stage before festival closers, Foo Fighters. The indie rockers treated their audience to a one hour set including songs Is There a Ghost, Weed Party, and The Funeral. The crowd began to swell behind us as Band Of Horses finished their set.
The headliners, The Foo Fighters took the stage at just a little after 8pm to a roaring crowd. Lead singer Dave Grohl bounced back and forth across the stage, acknowledging the crowd while strumming his guitar. He settled in at his mic, gave a few primal rock screams, and announced that after a two year break from performing, it was on! The band burst into All My Life while the crowd screamed and sang along. Grohl interacted and joked with the crowd throughout the night. Several times he mentioned the Fighter’s two year hiatus and how glad he was to be back on stage, even informing the audience that he had the best job in the world. Grohl also suggested that the band, uneasy with time off, may have made a new album during the last two years? As the band kept the songs coming one after another, the crowd cheered and sang along with Learn To Fly, Monkey Wrench, and Best Of You, among so many others.
Before finishing the rolicking, loud, and hyper-energetic set, Grohl asked the crowd to sing happy birthday to his wife, Jordan. The Foo Fighters then capped off the night by getting unplugged at the 10pm curfew mid Everlong. As Grohl sang “The only thing I’ll ever ask of you, you’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when…” the sound went quiet. However, just as promised in the song, the crowd did not stop at “when” and instead finished the song in unison with the band, and in doing so, gave BottleRock ’17 a perfect ending.