Bottle Rock Napa 2013 – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

A Review Of Bottle Rock

Luckily, today is day 3 of the Bottle Rock Napa 2013 Festival for me. I say luckily for two reasons – first, I am very lucky to be able to afford such a trip, especially as a VIP and staying in such a beautiful home in Sonoma. On the flip side though, lucky because this could be day 5 since this really started Wednesday and I am not sure I could have survived that many days. While the concert is fun and has had its high points, there are quite a few things that just leave me not feeling so VIP.

Starting with the good – the bands. There are some fantastic bands here and this is really why I wanted to go to this festival in the first place, the food & wine were pretty much an afterthought for me. While I missed a couple bands I really wish I could have seen (the Violent Femmes & Primus Thursday night, Blues Traveler and Matt Nathanson Friday), we saw quite a few great ones and some other surprising groups I had never even heard of.

Best Unknown Artist: Carolina Chocolate Drops. This is a blue grass type band (almost a jug band) that really rocked and played a great, eclectic set in the smaller Miner Family Winery stage, one of the only ones to actually provide shade. This short video I took doesn’t really do them their full justice as it is just a bit of harmonies. For the most part, they filled the entire stage with guitar, banjo, harmonica, and sometimes kazoo. They don’t have the mainstream pop sound so I don’t expect to hear them on the radio anytime soon, but they will be added to my Spotify playlist for sure.

Most Entertaining Performance So-Far: Jane’s Addiction. As a music fan, I am embarrassed to say that I did not know that Dave Navarro was in this band. They put on one hell of a show; albeit, somewhat egotistical. While I appreciate their dedication to artistry, I want to hear my favorite songs sooner than later, especially at a festival this size where you need to be at the next artist at least a half hour early to get a decent spot. I can’t wait while you force me to listen to all your new stuff I don’t know first. Still, this was a rocking set and I did catch this video of Caught Stealing. Black Eyed Keys are a close second and Kings of Leon (Sex on Fire video blurry) were pretty good, but Jane’s was the most entertaining.

Other notably decent shows were Iron & Wine (short video) and Dwight Yokam, who sang my favorite “Bakersfield” which I got a short snippet from. I am fans of both and neither disappointed. Iron & Wine was also on the smaller Miner Family Winery stage and offered a nice rest in the shade and some space to actually sit for a bit. I fear we left before they really kicked into high gear, but what we saw was great.

Just lumping the bad and the ugly into one group, it really all falls under the management of this event. I realize this is the first year so there are growing pains, but there are some glaring missteps that I think even I could have foreseen as an organizer.

– First, poor communication ahead of time for the VIP’s. No word on where the parking was going to be or where to check in (not realizing you were supposed to). Not a good start.

– A complete lack of security and no knowledgeable event staff.

– Organized parking was a nightmare and taxi’s, well lets just say there were only 50 taxis running for what is an obviously oversold show of maybe 30,000+. We actually witnessed a woman taxi driver of a yellow cab van auctioning off her service.

– Lines: Food, ID Check, Water, Restrooms…all 45+ minutes at times. Made to order food for 30,000+ not such a good idea.

– Fatigue: Very little shade. No seating. And allergies if you got them – my eyes were en fuego and I was one of many sneezing.

The absolute worst part, the truly ugly, were the bathrooms on Friday night in VIP. The VIP section originally had nice trailers that eventually became victims of the oversold concert and the lack of security since people were cheating into the VIP section. Think Haiti or some other 3rd world country natural disaster.

It seems though, that by Saturday they may have figured a few things out. From what I could tell, the staff were much more friendly and actually were proactively providing information. It looked like they put a 4 foot clearance around the sections to keep people from jumping their sections. And in reading the social feeds, it sounds like that while the bathroom situation was fixed, parking/transportation is still a mess.

Moving on to today, I am most looking forward to seeing Train, a long time favorite of mine. Considering they pretty much sold out their last tour so fast, I feel pretty lucky to be able to get to see them. Other than that, I am stuck in a music festival conundrum as I would like to see Zach Brown, Cake, and Rodrigo y Gabriela – but they are all on at the same time. May have to opt for the shade and go with the dueling Spanish guitars…I hear it’s a gonna be a hot one!


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