BottleRock Napa Valley Carves Out a Unique Space in the Festival Community
BottleRock Napa Valley is nothing like what we’ve come to expect from large-scale music festivals. It’s not “indie” at all, it’s certainly not a transformational fest and in fact, BottleRock is just as much about the food, wine and beer as it is about the music. All its stages are named after local wineries and there's even a vibrant Culinary Stage which sees a lineup blending world-famous chefs with world-famous musicians. But this is what gives rise to the space BottleRock occupies in the festival circuit – namely, that it caters to a crowd that might not have otherwise have gone to a large-scale music festival. And that’s totally okay. Because who are we to judge how people want to celebrate the festival experience? By its very nature, festival culture is all-inclusive. In an ideal festival ecosystem, there should be an event for every type of audience and BottleRock has carved out a unique and successful niche for itself and its 40,000 daily attendees.
Everywhere I turned this past weekend, I couldn’t escape the fact that families attending the festival weren’t an anomaly, but rather a norm. Shady areas were occupied by couples with strollers, or grandparents relaxing in canvas-lined chairs in the VIP section. Mothers and daughters danced to Stevie Wonder, fathers and sons smiled as they watched the Red Hot Chili Peppers, young couples basked in the grass for The Lumineers, while teenagers locked arms and jumped up and down to Grouplove. I reminisced with The Pharcyde, Death Cab For Cutie and Ozomatli and de-compressed in the Silent Disco, whether my headphones were on, or I was just catching good vibes from the marvelous illusion of watching other headphone-clad peeps dance their faces off to no music at all.
BottleRock even managed to book a spectacular female headlining act in Florence + The Machine, who was nothing short of amazing. And while I’m more of a fan of Florence when Jamie XX is remixing her music, dammit if she didn’t totally bring it and show how commanding a female-fronted headlining act can be. Here’s hoping more large-scale music festivals follow suit.
But I digress...cause I’ve barely even talked about the food. When I rolled in on Sunday, it was hotter than sin and I couldn’t think of anything more refreshing than sushi, so I ordered two hand rolls, just because I could. When I felt gluttonous later in the day, I ordered a juicy burger with a side of bone marrow...because I could. And why the heck not? You can keep paying $10-15 for the same corn dogs and chow mein with chicken skewers we’ve been eating at music festivals for the past decade, or you can drop about the same amount for something special (Full disclosure, I paid $8 per hand roll and my burger was $16, plus an extra $5 for the bone marrow.... Same as it is in San Francisco or New York, amiright?) And look...I love Spicy Pie as much as the next guy (proof) , but how can you not get excited for pizza coming out of a massive brick oven that was towed into the festival behind a truck?!
To wash it all down, craft beer options were plentiful. There was more wine than anyone in their right mind knew what to do with, but hey...it is Napa. Refillable water stations were everywhere and there was even free sunscreen in the First Aid tent if you needed it.
The BottleRock promoters at Latitude 38 have done a fine job of resurrecting a festival property that almost went under a few years ago. They’ve done it by expanding VIP options that offer plush amenities for thousands of dollars, but they’ve blazed a trail for the type of experience that Goldenvoice is building upon with Coachella and most notably, Desert Trip later this year . This is the future of large-scaled music festivals' fiscal viability, and as long as the GA experience remains an accessible and enjoyable one, power to ‘em.
If there’s one knock on BottleRock, it’s that its array of attendees wasn’t the most diverse. But we have a saying in the festival community: PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. And every single person who came through the gates at BottleRock this past weekend, was treated with PLUR, no matter who they were or where they came from. Enjoy some additional photos from the fest below: