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
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

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.