Ahhhh, BottleRock. It’s hands-down my favorite time of year. What could be better than waking up to the sounds of fantastic headliners sound-checking from my open bedroom window? (This year, specifically, it happened twice: once with Imagine Dragons, and again with No Doubt. Not bad. Not bad at all.) Anyway, besides the excellent wake-up call, it’s all mild May weather in my gorgeous hometown of Napa, full of the best food, wine, and beer you can find with fantastic bands. I’ve never missed a day of this festival’s three years (and counting), and hope I never have to. Here’s what you missed this year:
Friday, Day One (May 29th) began on the main stage with hometown boys Pion 2 Zion – a far cry from their performance last year at the front gate with a megaphone. (I’ve known the saxophonist since elementary school, and the current drummer for more than a decade, so you’d better believe it’d take more than a megaphone to keep me from seeing them at a big event like this!) As usual, they didn’t disappoint! They have such an interesting rock-reggae fusion, they’re impossible not to enjoy, and they always make you wanna dance! And for the record, it has to be said: I’ve never really gotten into reggae. It’s just the infectious quality of P2Z’s tunes that keep me coming back for more!
Next up, I hurried over to the Williams-Sonoma Culinary stage in time to catch KTVU 2 Sports guy Mark Ibanez hanging with the fantastic chef Victor Scargle, (who currently runs the restaurant Lucy at Bardessono in Yountville,) and mayor Jill Techel dishing some Napa history and even my beloved Golden State Warriors over a presentation of Chef Victor’s delectable lamb sliders, which he then passed around to the crowd.
Later, back at the main stage, it was time for Foster the People. I admit, I only know “Pumped Up Kicks,” but their shoes aren’t the only things that are pumped up during a set like theirs. They’re so full of energy, and front man Mark is so fun to watch – he definitely has that “it quality,” the star factor thing you just can’t be taught. They were a fun set, though I admit, I wondered (and definitely not for the last time, as it happened all festival long) – why the smoke during a daylight performance? (Seriously? Anyone know? Feel free to enlighten me!)
Anyway, then onto another stage to cross seeing/shooting Public Enemy off my bucket list. How rad is this? I admit, I was a little disappointed when Flavor Flav first came out without a clock around his neck…but since it turned out he was just hiding it under his jersey until the moment was right, all was right again in the world. They were fantastic, and it looks like Flav’s doing really well… they even gave a shout out to Steph Curry, saying even Brooklyn fans know to pay attention to that talent! (Sweet!) I’m so happy to have had the chance to catch them live, and still as great as I hoped they’d be.
Finally, the highlight of this year’s festival came early for me this year. Namely: Imagine Dragons headlined Night One. Now, according to editor-in-chief Gordon, my Dragons (currently my favorite band in all the land) are “the new Nickelback,” by which he means to say that everyone everywhere absolutely loathes them. While I agree on the Nickelback sentiment wholeheartedly, I vehemently disagree about Imagine Dragons, and made a point to pass his comparison on to festival-goers all weekend. Gotta say, Gordon, not a single soul agreed with you. Then again, as I told him when he first made his statement, even if that were true, I’d be okay with being a loser for liking them – I love them too much to care what anyone thinks!
I’ve seen the Dragons two or three times, and every time, I just eat up every minute of their performance. They’re super percussive, which is one of the best things about seeing them live: everyone’s really talented, and at points in the show I always feel as though I’m like to explode from everyone on stage banging the shit out of something or other… in the best way possible. It’s fantastic, and I can never get enough.
Because this was technically the very first show on the band’s new tour in support of their recent release Smoke + Mirrors, it was my first chance to hear any of the new stuff live, including my new favorite song “Shots,” as well as “Gold,” “Polaroid,” “Trouble,” “Friction,” and “Dream,” among others. As many of us agree, one of the best things about seeing our favorite band live isn’t just hearing their own songs as we’ve never heard them before, but hearing what they choose to cover in concert. For this particular evening, the crowd was treated to Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” as well as Imagine Dragons fantastic version of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” (which frontman Dan Reynolds said they hadn’t planned to do, he just decided they should since he was feeling it), and finally a little of R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest.”
In addition to all the new songs, there were, of course, plenty of “older” hits from Night Visions, too, like “It’s Time,” during which Reynolds came down off the stage to wander through the front of the crowd and finally stand among them for a big singalong, “Demons,” and of course, their signature smash, “Radioactive.” (Which Reynolds admitted he was sick of hearing, too, but said that they would always always always play it live, no matter what, because it’s who they are and is essentially the song that put them where they are… I respect that.)