Rain, pulled pork sandwiches and the intersection of millenials and Wine Country natives all made an appearance this year at BottleRock Napa Valley.
Friday began with an hour of traffic and a blessed parking pass (definitely worth purchasing). My first year at BottleRock, I was surprised by the aesthetic appeal of the festival. With string lights swinging from the lush trees and trendy signs decorating food stands, the event is picturesque, though a dry pulled pork sandwich for $16 and a Michelada for $13 was a harsh introduction to festival-priced food.
Among the daytime bands, Neon Trees kept the crowd dancing with catchy pop tunes, while Anderson East serenaded his audience with his melodic voice, leaving the crowd enamored. The highlight of the day goes to Sylvan Esso, with band members Amelia Meath and Nick Sonborn delivering contagious enthusiasm. Meath performed a tireless stream of dance moves in silver, cut-out pants and Sonborn happily rocked out alongside her.
Friday headliner Imagine Dragons included strobe lights, confetti and smoke cannons in their show, with the audience singing along to the band’s multiple hits. Lead singer Dan Reynolds reiterated a message of inclusivity and positivity throughout the performance.
Saturday began with the punk rock Regrettes. Their songs moved lyrically between topics such as the social pressures women face, first dates and friendships, giving the group equal amounts of vulnerability and the take-it-or-leave-it punk attitude.
In an interview, the band revealed a level of clarity with insightful perspectives that belied their youth, discussing the importance of writing lyrics about societal pressures women, particularly young women, face. “I think it is important to use whatever kind of platform you are given to unapologetically speak about things that matter,” says lead band member Lydia Night.
Other notable performances included hip-hop group Cypress Hill, drawing a crowd who grew up in the early ’90s and sang along to all the cannabis-laced lyrics. The standout performance of the day was Latin pop star Juanes, who had the whole audience busting out enviable salsa moves and singing along to every word (in Spanish of course). The headliners, Pharrell Williams and Neil Young, had predictably different audiences. Young sang his hits in a beanie and raised a mason jar filled with “water” to his older fans, while Pharrell Williams moved across his stage with seven dancers by his side to a younger audience.
Sunday rain deterred me from making the trek to Napa, but two days of wine, overpriced food and good music were enough for me.
BottleRock Napa Valley will return May 22–24, 2020.