Reviews

Bottlerock Festival Battles For Long-term Viability

The middle day of the festival on Saturday featured a strong draw for the rock ‘n' roll crowd.

Bottlerock Napa Valley Festival

City: Napa, CA
Venue: Napa Expo
Date: 2014-05-31

Photo: Heart at the Bottlerock Festival by Wes Jones.

The second annual Bottlerock Festival returned to Napa Valley under new management, but featured an atmosphere similar to last year’s breakout event. Warm sunshine abounded and there’s certainly no other festival with as many wine vendors. Bottlerock also stepped up the beer selection this year with an Anchor Steam booth where the venerable San Francisco brewery offered up each of their various beer styles including their lager, IPA and new saison. The food court featured a plethora of regional selections as well, but of course festival value always boils down to the music lineup.

Bay Area music fans were in debate about the worthiness of the overall three-day lineup, but the middle day of the festival on Saturday featured a strong draw for the rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Jamrockers like Tea Leaf Green and Blues Traveler were on hand along with ‘90s alt-pop-rock icons Third Eye Blind and Weezer. The classic rock heroes of Heart headlined the second largest stage with a triumphant performance, opposite of OutKast, 2014’s apparent festival headliners du jour.

San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green kicked the party into gear with a mid-afternoon set of high octane rock ‘n roll featuring material from 2013’s adventurous In the Wake LP. Guest vocalist Lesley Grant joined the band on "Give Me One More Chance", as she does on the album, for a great duet with keyboardist Trevor Garrod on the infectious romantic number that probably would have been a huge hit if MTV still had the cultural reach it did 20 years ago. "Space Hero II" was another highlight, with guitarist Josh Clark melting face on a fiery psychedelic jam that won a huge cheer from the crowd.

It seemed like Bottlerock had everything dialed in just right until Third Eye Blind hit the main stage in front of a huge audience. Some consider the band a guilty pleasure, but singer Stephan Jenkins and his band flat out rock in the live setting. They’ve also got a catalog of hits to fill a set with sing-along faves. But the impact of the band’s guitar-driven sound was disappointingly diminished by the weak sound system at the main stage. A quest to find a sweet spot with appropriate volume ended unfulfilled, not even by the soundboard. Hence what should have been a killer set sounded kind of like listening to the band on the radio.

Classic tunes like "Semi-Charmed Life", "Graduate" and "How’s It Going to Be" still got the crowd going, and new material from the band’s upcoming album sounded promising. But it was rather mystifying to hear such soft sound coming from the main stage at what’s billed as a major league festival. Excuses about decibel restrictions in the town will not fly along side Bottlerock’s ticket prices and this issue could haunt the festival’s long-term viability. The sound was fine for last year’s main stage set from the Black Crowes, so what happened with the soundsystem this year warrants a full investigation.

All was well at the other stages however. Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen offered a vibrant Americana sound on the second stage, mixing blues, country and rock into a winning formula. Keen and his band even paid tribute to the region with a raucous jam on the Grateful Dead’s "New Speedway Boogie", before closing their set with a energetic bluegrassy number more along the lines of a "Cumberland Blues".

Weezer drew a massive throng to the main stage for their 6PM set, and tunes like "Island in the Sun" sounded great in the sunny, breezy atmosphere. But the Toshiba Stage was still plagued by insufficient volume levels. Blues Traveler came to the rescue with a 6:30 set on the second stage that found the New York jamrockers in fine form. Hit tunes like "The Hook" went over well with the festival crowd, with singer/harmonica virtuoso John Popper blowing full steam. The band’s full power was on display during "But Anyway", as Popper jammed out on harmonica while guitarist Chan Kinchla tore it up on the classic groove.

The masses were drawn back to the main stage at 8:00PM for Outkast, but there was a hidden gem of a set going on at the same time thanks to Jon Batiste and Stay Human. The New Orleans band delivered a funky dance party at the intimate Miner Family Winery Stage, with feel good vibes abounding. John Popper sat in for a hot jam and several band members came down into the crowd toward the end to perform second-line style, just like in the Big Easy.

The best was still to come as Heart hit the second stage at 8:45 with a sizzling "Barracuda" opener that set the tone for an incendiary set. The Wilson sisters and their band showed that they’re far from over the hill, rocking a high-energy set packed with memorable tunes from their ‘70s heyday, a few ‘80s hits and some strong newer material. It was a veritable hit parade with tunes like "Straight On", "Heartless", "Kick It Out", "Even It Up", "What About Love", "These Dreams", and "Crazy On You". Ann Wilson’s dynamic vocals were on point all night, while Nancy Wilson seemed to benefit from a fountain of youth as she rocked out like a woman half her age and looked damn good doing it. Heart capped the fantastic set by "getting the Led out" with a smashing tripleshot encore of Led Zeppelin’s "Immigrant Song>Rain Song>Misty Mountain Hop" that provided a thoroughly crowd-pleasing finish to the evening (save for when the festival pulled the plug on the last minute of “Misty Mountain Hop” due to the 10:00 curfew).

Music fans could also gain free entry to the festival’s aftershow party at the City Winery downtown merely by signing up at the venue’s table at the festival. Jon Batiste and Stay Human entertained once again with their jazzy funk, followed by Tea Leaf Trio, the stripped down version of Tea Leaf Green featuring keyboardist Trevor Garrod, bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Cochrane McMillan. The Tea Leaf Trio kept the party people entertained deep into the night, with Mathis leading the way on a number of psychedelic excursions. The set was highlighted by a stellar jam on the Grateful Dead’s "Brown-Eyed Women", where Mathis showed off the progressive chops and improvisational style that saw him tapped to play bass with the Mickey Hart Band last year. It was a great surprise bonus set to cap off a long day of music and end Bottlerock’s Saturday night in high style.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.