BOTTLE ROCK NAPA (http://www.bottlerocknapavalley.com)
Just returning from my second year at Bottle Rock in Napa, I thought I’d share what this festival has to offer from my perspective. But, if you want to read complaints and negativity about the event, you won’t see them here…cuz I tend to prefer things with a positive spin. Taking place at the Napa Fairgrounds in Northern California’s gorgeous wine country, this event is awesome, to say the least…but, it comes with some challenges. The lineup was phenomenal considering that this festival is all of two years old! The frustrating issue with festivals is that there are more than one stage, and the bands tend to overlap. So, you run into the problem of having two great bands (sometimes more)
performing at the same time and having to make the decision of which ones to see. It can be a tough challenge deciding whether to watch one band and miss the other, or to catch a little bit of each band, missing a portion of both shows (and usually some of their best songs.)
My two experiences (2013 & 2014) were very different from each other, but both kicked ass. But, unfortunately, due to my busy schedule, I was only able to spend one day out of three at this festival each year. Oh well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s better than not going at all.
In it’s debut year, my friends and I chose to plant ourselves at the main stage and stay there for the majority of the time. This was, according to us, the best choice, because three great bands were performing here, one right after the other. First was Michael Franti and Spearhead, who was followed by Train, and the grand finale was the Zac Brown Band. And, though the other stages featured bands we wanted to see, we felt that it was better to watch three bands in their entirety, than to catch partial shows at different stages, spending valuable listening time walking from one stage to another. This year, however, we did the opposite by mapping out our schedule and trekking from one stage (and one band) to another.
Bottle Rock 2013 was very warm, with temperatures feeling in the high 80s/low 90s. The fairground was dirt-filled and dusty, mingling with sweaty bodies, it was grimy. But, having spent what seems like a lifetime at concerts (I’m from the Day on the Green generation,) as well as experiencing festivals of many varieties (New Orleans Jazz Fest, South By Southwest, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, etc,) you know that anything can happen here, so you’d better be adaptable! It can be a scorcher, it can rain, it can be cold, it can be dirty, it can be crowded, it can be irritating, but if you truly love music, it is an experience, and usually a good one, if you ask me! As I mentioned earlier, we decided to stay put at one stage (there were four)…the Main Stage. First on was Michael Franti & Spearhead…but, I’m not going to critique or review their show here, as I’m no professional…and, that’s not what I really do on this blog. I will, however, mention that this was my first time seeing these guys and I really enjoyed them. With his hair wrapped up in a beanie, and strumming a beautiful acoustic guitar with a wooden inlaid design reminiscent of a Peter Max poster, Franti and the band hit the stage. They were high energy, with Michael commanding the stage (and the audience’s attention) from one far end to the other. At one point, he came out into the crowd to entertain us, up close and personal. Before long, the beanie was gone and his long dreadlocks hung freely in the warm breeze. I was impressed by the sharing of his personal path with the crowd, mentioning that he had been adopted by a family in Oakland, California and was so grateful for his life. He makes sure to pay it forward and is involved in a number of foundations, organizations, fundraising events, and raising awareness for those in need. Towards the end of their show, the band invited a whole bunch of kids onstage to join them for a song or two. Michael Franti embraces mankind and seems really in touch with who he is (an adopted child with French, German, Irish, Native American and African American) and where he came from (Oakland, CA.) Whereas, I really liked the music, which is a complimentary blend of reggae, hip-hop, funk and rock, I was more impressed with the man. Any way you look at it, though, it was a show worth watching…and a band worth seeing again! Check them out here: https://www.michaelfranti.com