As you’ll see in some of the photographs, day one at BottleRock Napa Valley started off rather slowly and quietly. At this point in the day it is possible to get a good lay of the land, figure out where you are going to eat (BaconBaconSF) later and drink (Rombauer) later and identify the shortest route between stages (never really happened). When mostly empty, the Napa Valley Expo feels huge. I guess at 26 acres, it actually is pretty darn big.
Despite all this space and the myriad bands to see throughout the day, there was a particular contingent who were there for one thing only: To be in the front row when The Cure performed. When the gates opened at 11 a.m. this group of diehard fans made their way to the security fence at the front of the Toshiba Main Stage, threw down some towels and blankets, and settled in for the 8.5 hour wait until The Cure took stage. I applaud their tenacity while simultaneously questioning their sanity.
The surprise performance of the day for me was Matisyahu. This Hasidic reggae rapper blends Orthodox Jewish themes, sometimes in Hebrew, with slow-motion reggae rhythms to produce a unique aural experience that is a little hard to explain. Each ingredient and influence is clearly recognizable, even familiar, but it is a little weird to hear them put together. The overall experience borders on mystical with the religious roots of rasta and rabbi, instead of conflicting, blending harmoniously.
To achieve balance, I followed this performance up with a trip to the Food Truck Rodeo to treat myself to something from the famous Bacon Bacon truck. Upon approaching the big black truck, it became immediately apparent what it was I was going to be stuffing into my face: Porky Fries. The mix of crispy fries, pulled pork, pork belly chunks, and bacon with fresh herbs, parmesan and mildly spicy red peppers is simply one of the best things I have ever eaten. The fatty goodness of the pork is nicely balanced with the mild heat of the peppers and fresh herbs and there’s just enough sauce from the pulled pork to pull the whole thing together into one incredible dish.
To close out the night, we returned to the Toshiba Main Stage to see The Cure. Secretly, I was a little concerned that the show would be a bit of a disappointment. The Cure has been around since I was too young to apply eyeliner without getting a whooping from my Pop, but they came out blazing and continued to do so for the duration of their 2.5 hour set. Not bad for a group comprised of mostly gloomy baby boomers. As you can see on the setlist photo one of my spies took, The Cure were building a rollercoaster for their fans with a mix of old and new, dirge and delight, and they quite literally muscled their way through the whole thing without a single flaw or hiccup. Amazing.
For more information about BottleRock Napa Valley, including a full lineup of 60+ artists on four stages over three days, visit the website www.bottlerocknapavalley.com to join the mailing list, join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Bottle Rock Napa Valley, or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BottleRockNapa, #brnv #brnv14.