Those of you familiar with attending giant music festivals know that the best laid plans can just go out the window at a moment’s notice. You study the schedule, you know what you want to see, you know how early you need to show up to get the best spot with the right mix of sun and shade, photo opportunity, and sound quality, and then you head to the venue. By the time you get to the venue, one thing changes and sets into motion a cascade of revisions, amendments, and adjustments that you either roll with or go home crying. On day two of the giant music festival known as BottleRock Napa Valley, I rolled with the changes and ended up having an incredible time discovering new bands from near and far.
The new plan
The original plan to watch Sacramento superstars, Autumn Sky, in the VIP lounge at 3:30 flew out the window when the BottleRock Android app alerted me to the fact that they would also be playing on the Sprint Stage at 12:15. The Sprint Stage is a big stage with walls of speakers, a massive video screen, and some of the best light for taking photographs. There was no way I was going to miss this opportunity to see and photograph this great local band.
Autumn Sky, perhaps a little tentatively, took to the stage, and within a minute or two had shed the butterflies and settled into a folksy, yet rocking set that, with every passing moment drew more and more people to their stage. Autumn’s heartfelt lyrics soared across the venue as the rest of Autumn Sky, as animated and engaged as ever, built song after song. By the time they were through, a good sized crowd had gathered and showed this local band their appreciation with a boisterous ovation. At that point, the mood was set, and I knew I was going to be in for a great day.
Free from the bonds of a schedule, I wandered, and I’m really glad I did. At around 3:00, I crossed paths with the San Francisco-based band, The Soft White Sixties, performing on the City Winery Stage. This band knows how to belt it out. Their version of gritty, working class soul, is power-packed, sexually-charged, and impossible not love. To say I was transfixed would be an understatement. To quote Sherrie Perkovich’s tweet “There is a new king @bottlerocknapa & their name is the sift [sic] white sixties! They just crushed it!” They really did.
From there I made my way to the Miner Family Winery Stage to catch the rest of the No Age show, and yet again, I was treated to an amazing surprise. Two people, Randy Randall on guitar, and Dean Allen Spunt on drums and vocals, and from those two, an absolutely massive wall of sound positively fizzing with hints of Husker Du, Sonic Youth and New Radiant Storm King. Each song blasted the audience with tight, dramatic builds and phenomenal musicianship. This band needs to come back to Napa, and soon.
Right after No Age got done ripping Napa a new one, it was time for local legends, the Deadlies, back at the City Winery Stage. This trio has perfected the genre of surf rock and it really shows every time they play. The band, this time complete with go-go dancers, know how to make an audience happy. Their music is groovy and infectious and so much fun. If you ever get a chance to see them perform, do it.
After the briefest of breaks, it was time to watch De La Soul on the Miner Family Winery Stage. Having never seen them perform live, I didn’t know what I was in for, but it soon became apparent it was going to be a good time. In the middle of the second song, they stopped the music, addressed the photo pit, and instructed us to put our cameras down and enjoy the show, which we did for about a full minute. After that, Pos jumped down from the stage and up onto the security barrier, leaning into the frenzied crowd and making his way across to let everyone know how psyched he was to see everyone. That is the beauty of BottleRock Napa. Happy surprises are around every corner, and if you venture away from the Toshiba Stage, you often times get to be up close and personal with the performers in a way that rarely happens.
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 them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BottleRockNapa, #brnv #brnv14.