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The Bottlerock Napa Valley Festival - Day 1

Napa Valley music festival offers yet another boost to Northern California's already thriving music scene.

Bottlerock Napa Valley Festival

City: Napa, CA
Venue: Napa Expo
Date: 2013-05-09

It was a beautiful sun-drenched Thursday afternoon in the Napa Valley, as music fans poured into the area for the first day of the inaugural Bottlerock Festival. There was an eclectic music lineup along with a comedy stage and local food and beverage options, including an array of Napa Valley wine vendors. It all appears to have Bottlerock poised to become California’s next great festival.

Controversy popped up in the previous week when local heroes Furthur (featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead) had to back out of the evening’s main stage headliner slot due to Weir’s recent health problems. Rumors swirled throughout the week as to who might replace the band. The Rolling Stones were oft mentioned since they were in the Bay Area for shows in Oakland and San Jose. Pearl Jam was rumored as well since bassist Jeff Ament’s side project RNDM would play the festival on Saturday, while many felt the best solution would be for Lesh to to simply fill the slot with one of his ever popular Phil Lesh & Friends lineups.

Why the latter did not occur remains a mystery. In the end, Bottlerock merely moved the Avett Brothers from another stage into the main stage headliner slot following the Black Crowes. This was a somewhat puzzling and anti-climactic move to many. But there was still plenty of anticipated music to catch, especially with the Black Crowes making their first California appearance in two years.


The Bay Area’s own Moonalice got things going on the main stage with an early afternoon set of their bluesy psychedelic jams that sounded great in the warm Napa sunshine. Ace drummer John Molo was the anchor for Phil Lesh & Friends for many years, and guitarist Barry Sless also toured with Lesh’s band. Bassist Pete Sears is a longtime Bay Area music scenester, while guitarist/vocalist Roger McNamee came from the Flying Other Brothers. And how many bands have Jerry Garcia’s former personal roadie, Steve Parish, as an MC/storyteller? Moonalice brings decades of classic rock cred to the stage and it was readily apparent here, such as on tunes like “Summer Rain” with chords that recalled “Tangled Up in Blue” before a melodic jam. The band closed out their set with an extended jam where Sears was really tearing it up on a great sounding bass that he had apparently just re-acquired after some 35 years.


There was still one more longtime Bay Area favorite to go and that was Les Claypool’s Primus with their 8 o’clock set. Claypool and company brought some far out psychedelic imagery to the stage on the screens behind them, as well as inflatable astronauts, which enhanced their freakout jams in fine fashion. The temperature dropped dramatically after the sun went down and the plentiful selection of red wine available made for a fine beverage choice here. Claypool was crushing the bass as usual, as well as entertaining the crowd with his traditionally wry sense of humor. He commented on how the Napa Valley has a reputation for sophistication due to the wine industry and asked guitarist Larry LaLonde to play his most sophisticated riff. LaLonde responded with an impressively sophisticated riff indeed, one that could keep guitar students busy for some time.

In the end, the first day of the first Bottlerock Festival was able to overcome the challenges presented and a fine time seemed to be had by all. Festival organizers wasted no time in announcing dates for the 2014 Bottlerock Festival in the following week, so it looks like the Northern California music scene’s many riches will only continue to grow.

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