BottleRocket 2024

BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival Honors Bay-Area Music Scene

BottleRock Napa Valley 2024 keeps the festival’s winning streak going with something for everyone, including Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, and Stevie Nicks.

Memorial Day weekend has arrived, meaning it’s time for “the first taste of summer” with the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival. The event has grown over the past decade to become one of the most dependable music festivals in the country. Its lineup honors the Bay Area’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage while providing something for everyone, with a wide age range of artists across pop, hip-hop, funk, punk, electronic, and blues.

There’s big-time headliners with gypsy rock goddess Stevie Nicks on Friday, alt-rock titans Pearl Jam on Saturday, and a Sunday finale pitting pop star Ed Sheeran vs the heavy power of Queens of the Stone Age. Add in regional food and beverage selection with the beautiful weather, and it’s easy to see how BottleRock has become one of the premiere annual events in the Golden State, with somewhere near 40,000 attendees per day.

Friday, 24 May

There’s always a great homecoming vibe on Friday at BottleRock, with excitement for returning to the site of so many memorable Memorial Day weekends. The sun is shining, there’s a balmy breeze, and Napa Valley feels like the place to be.

Foo Fighters lead guitarist Chris Shiflett was a headliner when the Foos played BottleRock. It’s great to see him here on the smaller Prudential Stage with his bluesy honky tonk side project at 16:00. “Good Night Little Rock” is an upbeat tune Shiflett that says is about when he moved to San Francisco in 1995 to join a punk band and go on a tour for the first time, only to find it wasn’t quite as glamorous as Motley Crue videos made touring look. Shiflett tears it up on “Black Top White Lines” from 2023’s Lost at Sea album, while “I’m Still Drunk” provides a fun party time romp. He introduces “West Coast Town” as being about his hometown of Santa Barbara but says it could just as easily be about Napa. When he sings, “I grew up in a West Coast town, back before they chased the working class out,” there’s a zeitgeisty vibe.

Chris Shiflett / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

Chevy Metal keep the party going on the same stage with more Foo Fighters family vibes. The hard rock tribute band were a side project of drummer Taylor Hawkins that looked like it was through after his untimely passing in 2022 until teenage son Shane Hawkins stepped up on drums to keep it going. Chris Shiflett makes a rocking guest appearance on Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love”, followed by Bastian Evans from the local alt-rock band the Alive sitting in on “You Really Got Me”. Singer/bassist Wiley Hodgden provides some amusing banter when he notes that Shane is almost 17, and even though he can’t legally drink wine yet, next year, he’ll be old enough to fight for his country! That leads to a killer jam on Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”.

Chevy Metal / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

The Hendrick’s Gin 3-Story Bar is an annual festival staple, and the Butterfly Effect cocktail hits the spot in the late afternoon. Featuring a blend of Hendrick’s Gin, Chareau Aloe liqueur, Jardesca Apertivo, fresh lemon juice, fresh honeydew juice, and simple syrup, the Butterfly Effect demonstrates how refreshing a gin drink can be when mixed the right way. It also features a stylish appearance with its alluring purple float, which feels apropos while checking out the next act.

St. Vincent / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

The Jam Cellar’s main stage becomes the place to be, with St. Vincent putting on a sensational performance at 18:00. The enchanting singer/guitarist brings a commanding presence to the stage with a dynamic voice that can be downright mesmerizing on its own. Then she’ll tear it up with hot guitar riffage to dazzle the senses. The way her group mix in vibrant synth parts on songs like “Big Time Nothing” from 2024’s All Born Screaming generates a multi-dimensional sonic landscape that stands out. Likewise, for “Pay Your Way in Pain”, where the retro-futuristic sound includes St. Vincent dabbling on theremin. “Digital Witness” ripples with a visionary sci-fi vibe on the chorus, making it feel like she could star in a Bladerunner sequel, while “Broken Man” pushes this sound even further with a fierce performance. 

Say She She / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

There’s conflict at 19:15 between Gogol Bordello and Say She She, but the female-led disco-delic trio Say She She has been generating recent solid buzz, and they show why with their groovy set at the Truly Stage. Piya Malik, Sabrina Mileo Cunningham, and Nya Gazelle Brown are backed by a full band, boosting their heavenly harmonies higher in a way recalling the angelic harmonies Lucius brought to BottleRock last year. The funky “NORMA” from 2023’s Silver gets the dance party going as the ladies sing “We will not go back” and follow with lyrics like, “Right is now wrong, What is left of left? What is left to say? Where did we go wrong? Before it gets too late, write a letter to the state.” The blissful “Astral Plane” conjures vibes of interdimensional romance, while “Questions” compellingly blends funk and psychedelia. A smashing cover of the Jackson Sisters’ “I Believe in Miracles” closes the set triumphantly, even as the crowd dwindles with a legendary headliner about to hit the main stage.

There’s an electrifying vibe in the air when Stevie Nicks comes out for her headlining set and promptly cuts loose by opening with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”.  Many may think of Nicks as a pop star, but she’s always been a rocker too. The 76-year-old siren still sounds excellent, and it’s a treat to see her dial up some vintage classic rock before diving into her classics. “If Anyone Falls” follows with a vibrant sound that still feels fresh and uniquely Stevie as the set takes off at a high level. The performance is packed with classic hits from Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and “Gypsy” to “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, with longtime guitarist Waddy Wachtel singing Tom Petty’s part in the duet.

A cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” is a treat, with Nicks relating how she was part of the Sunset Strip curfew riots that inspired the song in 1966 when she was 18. She notes that it really wasn’t a political movement per se, just kids wanting to have fun. “Gold Dust Woman” is another highlight, with Nicks imparting a mystical aura as her band jams out on the song’s outro section. “Edge of Seventeen” features more of her shamanic power with its timeless riffs and harmonies.

After melting hearts with the classic self reflection of “Landslide” for the encore, Nicks offers a heartwarming sentiment when she bids BottleRock farewell by saying, “Stay safe, save the world, you can do it! I love you!” It’s inspiring to hear one of the great rock stars tell us that she thinks we can still save the world, especially with the current state of affairs in this foul year of our Lord 2024. Thank you, Stevie!

Saturday, 25 May

BottleRock will typically include a few local regulars, such as Moonalice, who rock the Prudential Stage at 14:00. Guitarist/impresario Roger McNamee has an all-star unit with drummer John Molo, bassist Pete Sears, guitarist Barry Sless, and keyboardist Jason Crosby. The group have also been augmented in recent years with vocals from the T-Sisters, the fabulous Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, as well as his son Dylan Chambers, to generate a ten-piece “Full Moonalice” lineup. The set concludes with the Chamber Brothers’ timeless 1968 classic, “Time Has Come Today”, which resonates across the years every time out. 

Holly Humberstone / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

British singer/guitarist Holly Humberstone plays the larger Verizon Stage in a similar time slot, and part of the beauty of a big festival like BottleRock is how an artist can catch your ear when you’re just walking from one stage to another. The singer, who identifies with revealing songwriters like Phoebe Bridgers and Adrianne Lenker, has a crisp sound that blends power pop with a little alt-rock edge on “Ghost Me”, which shimmers across Napa. “Scarlett” has a dynamic sound too, with Humberstone singing about being left “waiting on a heartbreak”.

My Morning Jacket hit the main stage at 16:00 for a 75-minute set and comes out of the gate with a fitting opener for Napa in “Mahgeeta”, as Jim James sings, “Sittin here with me and mine, All wrapped up in a bottle of wine, Little we can do, We gon’ see it thru somehow…” The laid-back spring vibe is in effect on “Spring (Among the Living)” from 2015’s The Waterfall and “Run It” from 2020’s companion album The Waterfall II.  It starts to feel like they might be holding back a bit, though, in an afternoon festival set that precedes an impending four-night residency at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Then the mellow “Phone Went West” builds into a powerful peak before My Morning Jacket flip the script with a majestic version of George Harrison’s classic “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”. 

Mana follows on the main stage just 30 minutes later, and it doesn’t take long for the Latin rock stars from Guadalajara to win over the audience. “Corazon Espinado” has a groovy Santana vibe, naturally, since Mana collaborated with Carlos Santana for the song on his smash hit album Supernatural. The title track from 1992’s Donde Jugaren Los Ninos (“Where will the children play?”) gets a boost from a giant inflatable elephant that towers over the stage to add some extra festive atmosphere to the set. Singer/guitarist Fher Olvera later proposes a tequila toast and calls for thousands of shots to be served to the crowd before “Mariposa traicionara”, a tune with a Mexican folk song vibe. “Un Lobo Por Tu Amor” from 1997’s Suenos Liquidos cranks things up with a bluesier rock vibe that hits the spot nicely. Another song features a “Get Up Stand Up” teaser jam; American music fans can surely use more in 2024.

Pearl Jam Bring Their Dark Matter World Tour to Napa Valley

When Pearl Jam perform at 19:45, an electrifying vibe takes over BottleRock for the next two hours. Props to the alternative rock superstars for making the gorgeous event print from artist Brad Klausen available at the artist merch stand on Friday, so fans could snag it then and not have to deal with holding the poster tube during Pearl Jam’s set when they want to devote themselves to properly rocking out. “Corduroy” from 1994’s Vitalogy lights a fuse early on as Eddie Vedder sings of how he can’t buy what he wants because he wants peace. Bassist Jeff Ament stars with his crisp punchy bassline on “Why Go”, as Pearl Jam gets the crowd further amped up while the soaring “Given to Fly” keeps that 1990s energy flowing.

Pearl Jam / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

Some band members have said they feel their new Dark Matter album is the best they’ve ever made, so it’s no surprise they’ve been featuring it on the tour. The record has a vibrant energy with catchy tunes and zeitgeisty lyrics, making it feel like it could be at least their best work since 1998’s classic Yield album. Vedder brings a passionate urgency here on album opener “Scared of Fear” when he sings, “We used to laugh, we used to dream, We used to dance, we used to believe” over sharp rocking chords.

Pearl Jam’s music has long served to chronicle society’s decline, and it seems that Vedder wants to push all his chips in now. The incendiary “React, Respond” builds on this urgency when he sings, “As the light gets brighter as it grows / The darkness it recedes, It’s better to give, give than to deceive / Questions dissolve the more you believe.” The next song, “Wreckage”, surveys the dystopian landscape, with Vedder in a reflective stance over shimmering chords that call for humanity to do better. There’s no doubt Dark Matter is the Pearl Jam album the world needs now.

Pearl Jam / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

“Daughter” features a tease on Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” that resonates as Vedder ad-libs, “Leave those girls’ bodies alone.” More than 30 years after Vedder scribbled “Pro Choice” on his arm during Pearl Jam’s MTV Unplugged set, American women are still being made to fight for their right to control their bodies, and that’s a sad commentary on 2024. But at least Pearl Jam are still here to speak truth to power,  as too few other bands dare. The title track to Dark Matter explodes with kinetic energy as Ament and drummer Matt Cameron lay down a fierce rhythm while Vedder laments how “It’s strange these days / When everybody else pays / For someone else’s mistake.” Guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard are tearing it up here, as they will continue to do on the classic “Even Flow”.

The new material shines throughout the set as “Waiting for Stevie” features a classic rock vibe and takes on a deeper meaning when Vedder explains that it’s about a girl who discovers her scene at a big rock concert, when “She finds herself in the song, Hears her voice rising”. Classics like “Black” and “Porch” ignite the night, but the new “Running” fits right in with an urgency that matches the energy of the 1990s albums. McCready acts as a sonic glue throughout the set, melting face time and again on his sizzling solos regardless of when a song is from.

Pearl Jam / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

The extended encore sequence finds actor Bradley Cooper sitting in with Vedder for an acoustic duet on “Maybe It’s Time”, a tune Jason Isbell wrote for the actor’s role in A Star is Born. The song resonates when they sing, “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.” The next tune resonates here in wine country, too, when the group builds a powerful jam on the simmering “Crazy Mary”, as Vedder sings, “Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around.” Three consecutive ragers close the show with a triumphant blast as the fierce social commentary of “Do the Evolution” is followed by a smoking jam on “Alive”, leading to a timely finale on Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World”. There haven’t been many deep cuts, but the set has included many songs that were not played at the Sacramento show 12 days earlier, showing that Pearl Jam put some thought into considering how many fans present would have attended both shows.

Sunday, 26 May

Sunday can become an endurance test for those attending all three days of the festival, and the temperature is rising, too. The high of 76 is five degrees warmer than on Saturday, and it feels downright hot at 16:00 when Bully play the Truly Stage. Many fans thus seek refuge in the partially shaded bleacher section, but singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno and her band rock out nonetheless. She’s quit drinking and suffered her dog Mezzi passing away, but Bognanno has channeled her adversity into an excellent fourth album in 2023’s Lucky for You. “How Will I Know” is a standout track from that, as a groovy bassline, crunchy chords, and an infectious chorus explode to rock this sunny Sunday.

Bully / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

It’s a much different vibe at the main stage at 17:00, where Norah Jones plays to a huge crowd. The multi-Grammy-winning singer/songwriter has a beautiful voice and a talent that’s landed her on the renowned Blue Note Records label. The vibe is a bit mellow for those ready to keep rocking after Bully’s high-energy set, but there’s also something to be said for taking a jazzy breather in the late afternoon. The mid-tempo “Running” from 2024’s new album Visions is a winner as Jones sings of how she keeps running because she “don’t wanna pay”, as she lays down some melodic piano over a pulsing bass line.

MonoNeon / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

BottleRock’s sonic diversity stands out here when experimental funk bassist MonoNeon hits the Prudential Stage at 17:30. MonoNeon is a Grammy winner, too, and no less than Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers has referred to him as “the greatest fucking electric bass player”. He puts out a high-energy sound, and how he wears a quilted ski mask in this warm weather is a mystery, but his neon quilted outfit certainly is stylish. The upbeat sound gets the faithful dancing, and his new single “Segregheto” is a groovy number with a socially conscious vibe that blends hip-hop, funk, and jazz. “Am I Trippin’?” brings more of an R&B flavor, though some of the tunes feel too aggressively proggy for the festival audience. But we’ll still look forward to catching MonoNeon in a club setting or perhaps jamming with blues guitarist Eric Gales.

The Scarlet Opera / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

Trying to sample more of what BottleRock offers leads to an attempt to check out the Offspring at the Verizon Stage, but the punk rock stars draw such a massive crowd that navigation becomes an obstacle. Walking back toward the main stage area, a surprising cover catches the ear from the Truly Stage, and it turns out to be the Scarlet Opera rocking Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth”. The Los Angeles band’s theatrical sound makes it sound like a moment from the Tom Cruise film Rock of Ages, which generates a fun vibe.

The Soul Rebels / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

The Soul Rebels featuring Talib Kweli bring their ever-festive New Orleans sound to the Prudential Stage for a funky dance party at 19:00. Mixing a brass band with funk, hip-hop, and rock, the Soul Rebels never fail to get the party started (or keep it rocking). “Good Time” is exactly that, with a rap about getting lit and returning to New Orleans. A funky jam on Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” keeps the good vibes flowing with a groovy singalong, and it’s great to sample some New Orleans flavor here in Napa.

When 20:00 arrives, it’s time to return to the Verizon Stage to see the Queens of the Stone Age destroy Napa Valley. “Regular John” from their 1998 debut opens the set with a hard-charging sound. The quintet are off to the races (if such a race were to take place on, say, Mad Max’s “Fury Road”.) “Paper Machete” from 2023’s In Times New Roman album has hot riffs and an infectious flavor that sounds like classic Queens of the Stone Age, while “Emotion Sickness” is also a winner from the new album with its syncopated riffage and hooky power pop chorus.

Queens of the Stone Age ooze with coolness as guitarist/singer Josh Homme, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Michael Shuman, keyboardist Dean Fertita, and drummer Jon Theodore all look like they could be starring as a gang in a retro sci-fi flick like Escape From New York or Repo Man. “If I Had a Tail” is an intriguing mid-tempo tune as Homme sings, “When you own the world, you’re always home, Get your hands dirty, roll up those sleeves…” The set scores with another killer track from the latest album, “Time & Place”, utilizing big hooks over a dance groove that takes on a futuristic flavor with freaky synths as the crowd rocks out to a dope jam. 

The catchy riffs and hot groove of “The Way You Used to Do” get a grungy dance party going, the sultry “Make It Wit Chu” keeps it grooving, and then the classic “Little Sister” ignites it into overdrive. The set is surging as they steam toward the finish in “Go With the Flow”, before detonating what feels like an incendiary device with the heavy riffage of “A Song for the Dead”. This song destroys as the crowd are blown away. Actual moshing has even taken place several times during the set too.  Kudos to BottleRock for bringing in another band of hard rock heroes here on Sunday to give Pearl Jam fans a reason to stick around. 

Stephen Marley / Bottle Rock Napa Valley

But the fun’s not all over yet as Stephen Marley is still going at the Prudential Stage with an acoustic rendition of his dad’s classic song, “Jamming”. It feels like a fitting ending to the weekend, except that there’s still one more jam to follow on “Could You Be Loved” which feels even better (and the second version of the song on this stage on this day after Soul Rebels.)

Bottlerock Aftermath: My Morning Jacket @ The Fillmore – Tuesday, 28 May

Official “BottleRock After Dark” shows take place at venues around the Bay Area from Thursday through Sunday.  There are also unofficial aftermath shows, like Say She She at the Hopmonk Tavern in Novato on Monday. Then there’s My Morning Jacket making a full week of it with a special four-night residency at San Francisco’s fabled Fillmore Auditorium on 27-28 May and 30-31 May, with each show billed to feature a unique setlist. Returning to the Fillmore represents a homecoming of sorts, with the Louisville group having recorded their 2006 live album and concert film Okonos during a two-night run at the Fillmore in 2005.  At the Tuesday show, the Fillmore is packed from front to back. 

PopMatters has previously chronicled Jim James’ rise as an All-American rock ‘n’ roll icon when he brought his solo tour to the Fillmore in 2019, where he impressed with his green room llamas and bold socially conscious songwriting. Thus, it becomes compelling to make a return visit to see James here with My Morning Jacket. “The Way That He Sings” has an ethereal shimmer that resonates nicely as an early highlight. “Never in the Real World” from the group’s self-titled 2021 album stands out as well, with James singing “Bendin’ every rule, Across space and time”. The Fillmore is a great place to bend time and space, and My Morning Jacket are skilled purveyors of such tone sciences. 

A cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” about halfway through the set scores big with its classic shimmering sound, augmented by sweet pedal steel guitar from lead guitarist Carl Broemel. One of the evening’s deeper moments occurs when “I Think I’m Going to Hell” from 1999’s debut, The Tennessee Fire, is paired with the epic “Victory Dance” from 2011’s Circuital. Bassist Tom Blankenship, drummer Patrick Hallahan and keyboardist Bo Koster lay down a dynamic soundscape here as James sings of prophecy, heaven’s possibility, and of hoping “to watch the victory dance in the evening’s setting sun”. It’s a multi-dimensional tune that opens up with crowd-pleasing results as the jam stretches out. The energy carries into the hard-rocking “Aluminum Park” and a fun version of the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around”.

James reflects on past visits to the region during the encore sequence, such as playing the famed Bridge School benefit shows with Neil Young and in “How the Bay Area is so powerful”. An ethereal ride through “Old September Blues” leads to James ad-libbing on a jam over the dynamic bass line of “It Beats 4 U”, as he calls for people to get together here at the Fillmore. My Morning Jacket rock out on “Spring (Among the Living)”, continuing to crank up the energy level before segueing into some of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, which sounds sacred in this sonic temple. A crowning moment follows as “One Big Holiday” gets the audience so excited that the dance floor vibrates from enthusiastic fans jumping up and down. My Morning Jacket wins again in BottleRock overtime at the Fillmore!