I'd never been to Napa Valley. I'd never been to a major rock music festival. I'd never heard many of the nationally touring bands on the Bottlerock lineup.
In some ways, perhaps, I was a wide-eyed festival virgin from a smallish music market, experiencing thrill of a first-time when I showed up on Friday morning for Bottlerock 2015. I'd buy into that cynicism myself, but I've seen and blogged about dozens of major concerts, festivals, and other events. I saw the 2002 Olympics up close and personal. I've attended a smattering of world figure skating competitions. I've volunteered at outdoor concerts with attendance upwards of 20,000. I've gone to large, themed festivals in New York City, where they really know how to put on a show. So maybe all of that gives me credibility. I can only hope.
How was it? In a word: fantasticfunmarvelousunbelievablewowzaawesomeamazing!!!! From the first hour we set foot inside the venue and throughout the festival, we found ourselves in awe. It sounds a bit naive to say everything about the trip and the festival were amazing and far exceeded our expectations, but truly that was the case. Here are a few things we loved about Bottlerock 2015:
Organization. Team Bottlerock was extremely thoughtful in planning and almost flawless in execution. This was probably the largest large scale event I've attended besides the 2002 Olympics, and it came off with near Disney level polish. We had to wait in line outside the venue on the first day, but once inside we were welcomed with signage, services, a helpful staff, gourmet food and beverage vendors, accommodating common areas and even free granola bars and non-stop water bottle refills. Parking was a bit of a hike but we got in to the lot easily, and, more importantly, our exits at the end of long days were met with only minimal delays. Suffice it to say, the careful organization made it possible for us to have a truly great time and first festival experience. Porta-potties were cleaner at the beginning of the day than at the end, but they were attended to throughout each day, we never had to wait long, and we appreciated the hand washing sinks. Since we both have been involved with recycling through Utah's Green Team, we were continually fascinated by the abundance of recycling bins and ongoing sanitation services at Bottlerock.
The Vibe. I'd heard the term "festival energy" and sort of dismissed it. But I have to acknowledge there's a huge difference between the energy of the band the crowd the venue at a concert, even a huge venue, and what we experienced at Bottlerock. Light years of difference. Electric. Concert on steroids. Unrestrained. Indescribable. Unforgettable.
The Weather. We were treated to overcast mornings followed by blue skies, warm sunny days and scarcely a cloud in the afternoons. Nights were cool enough for sweaters and light jackets.
Napa. The people and businesses of Napa were squarely behind Bottlerock. This three year old festival, which struggled financially in its first year, appeared well funded by the wine industry. We wondered how many bottles of wine were consumed ... and what a beautiful town. On day two, we took a wrong turn and ended up on a picturesque vista, and we realized why people come from so many places to visit Napa Valley.
Security. At any large scale event, there is a need for a carefully constructed security plan. Security were positioned throughout the venue to deal with any crowd control issues that might have arisen, but we never saw anyone misbehave. While we felt protected, never did we feel constrained from enjoying ourselves, and dancing or standing close to the stage when crowd conditions permitted. There were no power hungry ushers to suppress or control the crowd at this gig. The security were there for one reason alone: public safety.
Staffing, Vendors, Service Providers. The remainder of Team Bottlerock was friendly and engaged, helpful, courteous, enthusiastic, and extremely energetic. They chatted us up and were excited that we came from out of state to attend. There were dozens of vendors offering such delicacies as Garlic fries topped with crab. Grilled cheese with pulled pork. Bourbon maple ice cream. Pear beer. Wine from dozens of vineyards.
The Festival Fashions. I probably snapped over 100 pictures of the varied colorful and creative outfits worn by festival goers. Every fifteen minutes. This is a separate topic unto itself consisting mainly of pictures.
Stage Hopping. Bottlerock had five stages including the culinary stage and we hopped or ran among them. Two of the stages and surrounding viewing areas held tens of thousands of people. The others were a bit smaller but more than adequate for several thousand people. We didn't quite refine our stage hopping routine til the second day, but it served us well because we saw many groups on days two and three.
So. Much. Fun. Besides the Music. Giant chairs to sit in, dancing to music on headphones, meeting and talking with people (most everyone was very friendly), photo booths, and a few large scale art installations all topped off the fun.
The Lineup. Last but not least, did I mention three days of non-stop music????? Team Bottlerock assembled an unbelievable array of brand name and emerging artists. Avett Brothers. American Authors. Imagine Dragons. Awolnation. Robert Plant. Capital Cities. ZZ Ward. Foster the People. Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. No Doubt. Trampled by Turtles. Cage the Elephant. My prize was being near the stage for Imagine Dragons and Awolnation. Although this post is not a technical review of any performance, we heard amazing sets. Over thirty bands in three days. Seventy-five bands were on the lineup, so we didn't even see half.
The only complaint -- if I have one -- is that we had to commute about twenty miles each day to get to the festival. We ended up staying in Benicia mainly because the closer options were twice as much or more by the time we made our hotel reservations.
As we walked around each day, we found ourselves amazed at and delighted by every detail and we wished our concert loving friends in Utah had been able to join in the fun. Maybe next year. The pre sale tickets are already on sale ......... I might or might not have purchased some. ;)
The pictures don't even begin to tell the story. There will be more as soon as I win the fight with Google Plus, if that's possible. Meanwhile, enjoy.