For three days each May, the Northern California wine town of Napa adds “music destination” to its list of reasons to visit. Called BottleRock, the festival takes place a stone’s throw from downtown at the Napa Valley Expo and offers attendees not only listening opportunities from noon until 10 p.m., but also myriad foods and beverages, including, of course, wine.
With conifers rising overhead and the wood adorned booths, it feels akin to San Francisco’s Outside Lands, but smaller in scale and a with a less quirky crowd. Though only in its fifth year, BottleRock already has an impressive track record regarding the musicians who attend. This year’s headliners were Muse, The Killers, and Bruno Mars — all Grammy Award nominated/winning artists.
English alt rock group Muse capped off the first day of music with an incredible, captivating performance on the main stage. Matt Belamy was in fine form, his vocals soaring up and down scales. Tight and dynamic, the trio trotted out favorites such as “Supermassive Black Hole” with a Close Encounters of the Third Kind intro riff, “Psycho,” and “Mercy”, both from their latest record 2015’s Drones, much to the crowd’s delight. Muse was just the icing on the cake of a day that saw one band after another command the mainstage, including Trombone Shorty, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Incubus.
There was much delight to be found aurally throughout the day on the three other stages as well. The Beastie Boys Mike D rapped it up at the Midway stage, followed by Shakey Graves, Phantogram, and the Chainsmokers. Other musical highlights included Nahko and Medicine for the People, Bomba Estereo, and Alex Lahey, to name just a few.
The musical lineup for the next two days was equally as stellar, with excellent performances by The Killers, Matt Maeson, Billy Idol, Michael Franti, the Revivalists, Lake Street Drive, and up and comer, Australian singer/songwriter Dean Lewis.
The food and drink are another bounty at BottleRock. With some of the best vinos in the world harvested right in Napa, there were myriad wineries in attendance including Blackbird Vineyards, JaM Cellars, Miner Family Winery, Sterling Vineyards, and St. Supery Estate, among others. Food choices ranged from savory to sweet offerings cooked onsite by such area restaurants and bakeries as Mustards Grill, Danny’s Vegan, Cook Tavern, Sweetie Pies, Bouchon Bakery, and The Farmer’s Wife. Particularly memorable were the fried Reuben Croquettes (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, 1,000 Island dressing), which were mouth-watering delicious. Hendrick’s Gin served up imaginative summer cocktails, as did Milagro Tequila and Reyka Vodka. Beers flowed from Blue Moon and Hop Valley, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
Located in the heart of the festival space was a culinary stage sponsored by Williams Sonoma that brought celebrity chefs and celebrities together to cook on the spot. Olympic snowboarder Shaun White paired with TV’s Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman to make cotton candy and other snow-like confections; Laila Ali, Shakey Graves, St. Paul, and Tank and the Bangas took the stage with Chopped star Aaron Sanchez to cook up pasta; and Snoop Dog and Warren G. joined Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio in making the largest gin and juice ever recorded.