Day 2 of BottleRock Napa Valley 2014 got off on the right foot for me with Napa Point Brewing‘s BottleRock IPA and a special, very acoustic treat: local reggae band Pion 2 Zion were playing with absolutely no electricity (unless you count a battery-powered megaphone that died partway through). I’ve known members of this band for years: I was first introduced to them by their former drummer, a then-coworker of mine. In the years since, there have been a few lineup changes, but the current drummer, Gary Paddock, is another former coworker of mine. Moreover, I’ve known the current lead vocalist and saxophonist, Chad Schuler, since elementary school. It’s a small town, it’s bound to happen, right? Anyway, as I said yesterday, I’m admittedly not big into reggae, but these guys have always been an exception. They’re a really great band, they have local fans who truly love them, and I’ve never seen someone not enjoy hearing the band play live.
Up next, I went straight to the Miner Family stage to catch a little of LA-based band Victory, whose music I made a note to check out. This band is definitely my cup of tea, so to speak, and their set was great. Afterward, I crossed the Expo grounds to check out Cracker. I admit, I only remember hit song “Low,” but it was enough to get me there, so maybe that’s all that matters? What I found was a band whose music lent itself rather well to the breezy weather and a laid-back start to a Saturday at a music festival. They had a brilliant, chill vibe, and yes: “Low” was the best part of their set for me, because it was the only song I knew, but I hope to change that soon.
After stopping at the craft beer area for a 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer, I stuck around nearby the City Winery stage to listen to part of the Soft White Sixties‘ set, who I found to be a pretty solid rock band. Later, Matt & Kim played the Toshiba main stage. They were unbelievably energetic indie pop rock, and I couldn’t get enough of them! I watched with a friend from the nearby Ca’ Momi tent, laughing, dancing, and having a great time. Matt told the crowd that they were from Brooklyn, but that the Bay Area is “one of our favorite corners of the world, and goddamn! Look at this day!” calling it “like-we-died-and-gone-to-heaven festival weather!”
Kim admitted that she was “so motherfucking ready to cause a fucking ruckus,” which she absolutely did. At one point, Matt gave a shout out to “one of the greatest American poets of all time, R. Kelly,” whose “poetry” they would use. The song he was referring to? “Ignition,” of course! It was both hilarious and awesome, and like everything else they do, worked wonderfully. Matt mentioned that they had planned to “retire this part of the show,” but that it was just “too perfect today” to skip it. “It involves Kim walking out on your hands and shaking her booty…” As they set it up, Kim admitted she was “just trying to figure out who would be the freakiest!” Toward the end of their set, they covered a little of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” complete with the ever-thickening crowd singing along at the top of its lungs. Their set was an early highlight of the day, overall.
Next, I had a choice to make: I could stay at the Toshiba stage for Third Eye Blind, or head to the smaller Miner Family stage to check out Smash Mouth. Before I tell you what I chose, why, and how it worked out, I’ll say that ever since “Semi-Charmed Life” got waaaayyy overplayed in the 90s, I’ve said I hated 3EB. Smash Mouth, on the other hand, has been something of a fun, if guilty, pleasure since I was first introduced to their tunes in Can’t Hardly Wait. It seemed an easy choice, so I parked myself in front of that stage and waited. Because 3EB started first, I heard one of their songs from the nearby Whole Foods Garden where the majority of the food was being sold as I crossed to the other stage. I admit, they sounded pretty good live. Later, I realized that there are several songs of theirs that I sincerely like, and that I probably could have just suffered through “Semi-Charmed Life” and been just fine. Anyway, coulda would shoulda! Not long after Smash Mouth began, front man Steve Harwell began trash-talking Third Eye Blind. I didn’t know the story, but after a quick Google search I discovered that Harwell apparently harbors a deep-seated hatred for 3EB lead singer Stephan Jenkins. How long it’s gone on, or why, I don’t need to know. I do know it was distracting, and while the band themselves sounded great so far, Harwell’s vocals left me wanting more.
After “Can’t Get Enough of You, Baby,” I really noticed that Harwell was struggling to reach his old notes. He sounded okay, but nothing special, and the only notes I thought sounded especially nice were softer, almost falsetto notes at the ends of two consecutive songs. “Then the Morning Comes” was decent, as was “Walkin’ on the Sun,” but it was Smash Mouth’s cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” that was the highlight of their set. Monkees’ cover “I’m a Believer,” a little fake-out intro to an AC/DC song, and a bit of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” all led up to the band’s biggest hit, “All Star,” which wrapped their set. Overall, they were fun to see, but they were weak. Between Harwell’s shaky vocals and shit-talking, I should have passed. And when I relayed this sentiment to my brother later, we took turns listing the Third Eye Blind songs that I had forgotten I actually liked. In retrospect, I wish I’d have seen them instead, and I will next time I have the chance…
My brother joined me just in time for Weezer on the Toshiba stage, and as we filed in to get as near the stage as we could, I overheard some tool saying something like “I think the people here are so starved for real music that they’re like, yeah, Weezer? That band from the 90s? Sure, I’ll see them.” I regret not stopping to ask his name or where he was from, but rolled my eyes. (For the record, dude, we’re not that far from the Bay Area, where most tours stop at least once. Take your pretentiousness to Coachella, please.) Anyway, Weezer started mere moments later, and there was a power failure early on, leading to boos from the crowd. Mercifully, the problem was quickly fixed. It was really fun to see this particular band with my older brother, because he was a senior when I was a high school freshman, and the band’s first few hits were from that time; it was really fun to rock out with the nostalgia and the evolution of a really great band. Highlights included “My Name is Jonas,” “Hash Pipe,” “Island in the Sun,” and “Beverly Hills,” which included the energetic voice of the crowd singing along. The effect was rad, as is usually the case when several thousand people sing along with the band to a song you love!
The band went on to play “Surf Wax America,” “Say it Ain’t So,” “(If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To,” “Pork and Beans,” and “Photograph.” One thing I didn’t know about this band was that every member really “has the goods.” At more than one point in their set, they’d pull a little musical Chinese fire drill, switching places on the stage. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo took to the drums while the guitarist and bassist sang lead vocals, and at the end of the set, every single member was banging on the drums for the finale. They’re quite special, and while I’ve loved many of their songs over the years, I’d say Weezer has the last laugh over the guy who didn’t know how great they are: recorded, they’re excellent. Live, they’re one of the best bands I saw all weekend. They also featured a little cover of Blur’s “Song 2” before closing with “Come Undone (the Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly.” I’m still singing these songs, days later!
With just enough time between the end of Weezer and the start of Outkast, we ran across the expo to a different restroom area, hoping to avoid insane lines (we did). Even better, we got to catch just a minute of the Blues Traveler set we’d both been sad to miss. We’d timed it perfectly: no lines, and we got to hear an amazing performance of “Runaround” before high-tailing it back to the Toshiba stage with just enough time to grab a beer before Outkast was supposed to begin. As it turned out, they didn’t play until fifteen minutes later, but they were well worth waiting for. I’d heard about them “sucking” at Coachella, but had also heard it chalked up to audio issues, so I was still hopeful. (And sad that I couldn’t be in two places at once, as I would have loved to see Heart, too.)
Regardless of what had happened at Coachella, it was easy to see early on in Outkast‘s set that there were no issues that night, and no one could say they sucked. “Ms. Jackson” made me type “siiiiiiiick” into my notes. I really enjoyed “The Way You Move,” and “Hey Ya” was quite literally a moment I hope I’ll never forget. The crowd was completely massive, and to see all those girls shaking it “like a Polaroid picture” was such an unbelievably fun moment. They also did “Elevators,” “Roses,” a little bit of Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Pt. 2” and “The Whole World. I admit, I would have liked to hear “Rosa Parks,” but that being the only song I’d hoped for that I didn’t get, I left without a single complaint.
I heard that Heart’s show was fantastic, too, and that just like the previous night, the band had been cut off abruptly at 10pm in mid-song to observe the strict curfew for the neighbors. Even so, I can’t imagine a soul who could complain with what a fantastic day it had turned out to be. But wait – there’s more! There was still one day left to enjoy!