BottleRock 2014 Eclectic Ecstasy

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

You drive by and see that sign on the front door of a local long-time favorite restaurant, and you start thinking, “Ah well, that’s the end of that!” You see it on the wall of the diviest bar in town, and you start thinking, “Hey, this might turn out to be my new local!” That sign can be the kiss of death, or the promise of great things…

So we come to BottleRock 2014. The event is in its second year, and already there is a checkered history of troubled operations through its short lifespan. The event headlined some big names in 2013 and saw great attendance. But by the end of its first three-day run, the festival’s organizers, BR Festivals, found themselves forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the $10 million debt they had accrued. The future looked bleak for thousands of BottleRock fans expecting its return in 2014 and even worse to the potential business folk contemplating whether to take on its tarnished reputation and rescue the foundering event. In  January 2014, on the verge of its final breath, Napa Valley-based Latitude 38 Entertainment stepped in to assume the “new management” role and breathe new life back into the event. Together with 360Media and the help of many others, the production process was engaged with full force. In just five short months, the lineup was assembled, and the event was staged to welcome the masses.

So how did BottleRock 2014 roll out? Is it the popular restaurant going downhill, or the dive bar looking up? With a less star-studded but far more eclectic mix of performers in 2014, the event broadened its appeal to cover almost all bases for concert-goers through the three-day event schedule. Our time at the Napa event, starting on Friday, May 30, proved that BottleRock is resoundingly on the upswing.

The Napa venue, in the heart of the Northern California Wine Country, played host to the large event with a casual vibe. Music, wine, and food…what better combination for a successful weekend for any self-respecting concert-goer? There were so many bands to choose from–some with a huge following, some that were not quite discovered yet–it was impossible for one person to see and hear them all. But we gave it a good shot!

Getting to the grounds on Friday, Matayashu was our first band. The Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn came on stage and rocked the crowd with a true reggae vibe…cool, rhythmic and rocking. Then we moved on to the Mayer Hawthorne stage, with pop overtones and grooving tunes–a real crowd-pleaser. For me, Friday’s highlight was definitely The Cure. I had been looking forward to their performance since I first heard the BottleRock lineup announcement. Robert Smith had requested that all photographers wait until the 11th song to enter the pit, by which time the temperature had dipped and the chill had begun. The Cure came through and performed a two-and-a-half hour set, including most of their eagerly awaited popular songs. I noticed that most of the crowd knew a good portion of the lyrics to sing along with. And sing they did…they sang, they danced, and The Cure performance left the crowd in awe.

Over on the Sprint Stage, only yards away, Sublime With Rome was playing, and they did not disappoint, playing their hits to a very appreciative audience.

Saturday brought a mix of music, both the well-known and the not so famous: Weezer, Outkast, Smash Mouth, Heart, Kingsborough.

No doubt that Smash Mouth rocked the afternoon, and then Weezer took the Toshiba stage with a vengeance. Weezer played well to the afternoon crowd (but apparently, according to my partner, it was different from how they played to a late-night crowd when he saw them not long ago in Arizona). And then Outkast! Among the many factors responsible for saving BottleRock, scoring Outkast during their long-awaited reunion tour to headline Saturday’s festivities topped the list! Andre 3000 and Big Boi reunited in 2014 to play 40 festivals worldwide in honor of the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Their set ran the gamut of their catalog, starting with “B.O.B.” (“Bombs Over Baghdad”), then onto other greats, including “Ms. Jackson,” “Hootie Hoo,” “The Way You Move,” and “Hey Ya.” Besides the bassist, horn players and the mix master on stage, there were two background singers, both in sexy black jumpsuits, one adorned with black wings the other with a fro wig from hell! On the opposite side of the stage up high on the massive speakers a dancer of sorts was positioned;  a biker-ish looking woman in jeans and a black T-shirt that read “METAL.” Oh yeah, the war of the genres, livin’ large!

We walked over to the small stage, where about 100 people were watching a phenomenon called Kingsborough. The band was already halfway into their 45-minute set, and they were rocking it like the big boys used to. Lead singer Billy Kingsborough played the small local stage at BottleRock like it was his last. Kingsborough gave 110 percent, ending in a sweaty, heated energy that connected with his audience, in the same way that Springsteen has always done.

Then over at the Sprint Stage, it was time for Heart. The Wilson sisters rocked it. Nancy Wilson was sportin’ a particularly Jimmy Page-like vibe and swagger that night, and as always, Annie was on her game, singing to the angels with her heavenly voice. BAM writers have had the opportunity to see Heart a few times in the past few years, and the consensus was that there is  a much more vibrant energy from them these days.They looked great, and sounded like the seasoned pro musicians that they are.

We didn’t make it to Day Three, but we heard it through the grapevine that The Fray was one of the highlights of the day.

BottleRock 2014 rocked it, bringing together eclectic bands, good organization, and a large number of wine and music lovers to enjoy a truly Northern California music festival experience. We are definitely looking forward to BottleRock 2015!