Bottle Rock Napa Valley: May 9th-12th
Mary, my favorite cashier at Safeway, told me in a completely rasped out voice how her and her girlfriends went to a George Strait concert a few nights prior and “screamed their asses off because he can still rock out”. Then she added, conspiratorially, “He’s such a stud”. She said it without any irony, and seemed totally happy to share her happiness with me, even though I doubt that I fit any identifiable stereotypes of the typical country fan.
There’s a lot less irony here in Sacramento than I expected. People just seem to like what they like, and are more focused on being decent to one another than they are fitting into any particular scene. The surrounding few hundred miles seems to have the same lack of pretension, at least until you get to the Bay Area and start experiencing shortness of breath from all the smug.
So what does a music festival look like for people that aren’t hipsters, have disposable income, and simply want to enjoy a couple of days with friends drinking incredible wine, craft beer, and eating delicious local foods? It looks like Bottle Rock Napa Valley.
Napa Valley, despite media portrayals to the contrary, is NOT a pretentious place. You are as likely to find a vineyard owner that knows soil and mineral compositions the way some of us know obscure bands, as you are to find wealthy technocrats from the Bay Area out for a drive in their sports cars. You’ll find that the vineyard owner is not just willing to, but is thrilled to have the chance to sit down with newcomers and explain to them how to turn grape juice into the kind of Zinfandel that will make you pause and appreciate the fact that you have a sensory system.
You will see some amazing small towns, quirky roadside attractions, gorgeous farms and vineyards, and in my experience so far, insanely great weather.
Most importantly, let’s not kid ourselves – music festivals weren’t all about free music for the masses even back when Woodstock and Altamont were things. The event promoters still had to find a way to attract top acts at reasonable enough prices to fill the venue, pay the power bill, and hopefully make a profit.
Don’t let the price point of Bottle Rock Napa turn you off. You’ll pay roughly the same amount for Bonnaroo, Coachella, Rock am Ring, Isle of Wight, or any of the big name festivals across the globe. You may get a wider spread of acts, but you can’t see everybody at once, and in the end, being worn out at the end of a long day of music and sunshine is a lot easier when you are in the Napa Valley and can likely retire to somewhere plush with a hot tub and a nice full wine cellar to get charged up for the next day.
The lineup ranges from some of my favorites that are well known (Bad Religion!) to favorites that really haven’t broken in the US yet (Rodrigo y Gabriella). Tift Merritt will be performing, ensuring some lovely, sun-drenched moments relaxing with your significant other and soaking up the happy vibes. The Shins will be on hand, playing predictably gorgeous tunes. I find Macklemore incredibly annoying, but I can’t fault what he’s doing at Bottle Rock – putting on a special show to raise money for individuals suffering from autism. Dirty Projectors and Flaming Lips are probably the oddest parts of the lineup, and for the now venerable members of the Decline of Western Civilization set, X will be playing, no doubt bringing back memories of the late 70’s and early 80’s Los Angeles alt-rock scene.
Oh. And Kings of Leon will be there. An Internet girlfriend I never actually met made me a tape (Yes. A tape) with some of KOL’s early songs on it, back in 2001. I didn’t own a Walkman so my obliging Internet love found one and mailed it to me. I have fond memories of sitting on my porch in Gaeta, Italy looking out at the ocean and listening to the beginning of what would later become one of my favorite albums of the 2000’s – Youth, and Young Manhood.
I’ve forgiven the Kings for a lot. The Revlon hair. The tight jeans. The odd video of Nathan kicking a soccer ball around with a bunch of little black kids (Southern Bono?!). Caleb’s voice.
But when you get right down to it, KOL make some of the best rock and roll around these days. In a world of pikey looking hipsters making sad auto-tuned songs about girls they used to date, I’m still kind of happy that KOL are riding out the wave, as they put it, and continuing to make music. Aside from Caleb getting wasted and puking, I haven’t heard much from KOL in the last year so I’m excited to see what kind of shape they are in.
And if you want predictable and accessible “Crate & Barrel” blues, the Black Keys will be on hand. I’m just kidding. I love them. Even if they are on every radio station these days.
If you actually make the trip from the South out here, let me know. I’m doing my best to represent Bibb County, way out here in Sacramento, and my brothers and sisters from the South are always welcome to drop in.
See you in Napa! Remember, if you’re tasting wine, don’t actually swallow it. – Jordan Pritchard
Bottle Rock Napa Valley takes place in Napa Valley, California from May 9th – 12th and features music, food, comedy, wine, and beer all in one place! Tickets are still available but are selling quickly, so jump to it!