Appetizers

Bottlerock wows with its food – and oh yeah there’s music, too

A view of BottleRock early Saturday afternoon as the Napa Valley Expo began to fill. A combined crowd of more than 100,000 are expected for the three-day festival of music, food and wine
A view of BottleRock early Saturday afternoon as the Napa Valley Expo began to fill. A combined crowd of more than 100,000 are expected for the three-day festival of music, food and wine The Sacramento Bee

If the legendary wine critic Robert Parker scored music festivals on a 100 point scale instead of wine, we’re guessing he’d give BottleRock a solid 95.

The blend at BottleRock 2017 included comfortable weather, a wide spectrum of music enjoyed by a fairly chill but appreciative crowd and a dizzying amount of choice food and beverage options.

Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl even played on the festival’s wine country vibes, offering tasting impressions of his beer during the band’s headlining set on Sunday night. (“Notes of backseat leather and aluminum,” he said as the crowd hooted along.)

The festival transformed the Napa Valley Expo into a land of food, adult beverages, luxury and music through Memorial Day weekend with a combined sell-out crowd of more than 100,000.

Gripes will arise any time a crush of people that size descend on a single event, whether it’s traffic snarls or epic lines for food come dinner time. But leave it to BottleRock to include a giant spa with massage, yoga and aromatherapy options to help melt those festival stresses away.

Downtown Napa meanwhile turned into a happening kind of place to be, which is not the norm for this usually sleepy tourist town. Post-BottleRock crowds flooded the city center, on the hunt for a post-show soft serve ice cream at Miminashi, or lined up in front of Henry’s Cocktail Lounge on Main Street for a nightcap.

Here’s how the weekend unfolded and some early highlights from BottleRock 2017 that filled our stomachs and eardrums:

YAY AREA

BottleRock hit one of the weekend’s biggest highlights within just a few hours of opening its gates on Friday. E-40, the Vallejo rap icon and adult beverage entrepreneur, was in the midst of a fried chicken and waffle cooking session with Ayesha Curry on the Culinary Stage. Hot oil bubbled, E-40 sipped on some of his high-octane Tropiscato wine and even dropped a few verses of “Choices (Yup)” for the packed crowd.

But the scene hit another level of bonkers as Curry’s husband, the Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, made a cameo appearance on the stage. Chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” sailed over the crowd as the chicken sizzled.

As Bay Area a.k.a. Yay Area pride reached ghost pepper-like heat, technical problems with an oven forced Ayesha Curry to improvise. In this case, the impromptu script was a freestyle rap from Ayesha Curry.

Maybe next year, E-40 and Ayesha Curry can get their own BottleRock performance slot on the Samsung Stage?

BEST BOTTLEROCK BITE

Come dinner time, the crowds at BottleRock’s Culinary Garden were like a mosh pit of their own. Seeking out unique eats is as much a BottleRock tradition as scouting out new bands at the festival.

We’re talking duck confit, beer can chicken sandwiches, a foie gras option for Goose & Gander’s burger and bites from Bouchon Bakery in the VIP area. Those with baller status and Platinum Level VIP passes were privy to a food and beverage free-for-all run by Meadowood, the luxury Napa resort with an on-site restaurant that holds three Michelin stars.

But our vote for best BottleRock bite goes to the “Menchi Katsu Burger” from Morimoto Napa. At once hearty, spicy and with a tasty slaw for cooling effect, this Asian influenced chicken burger with a pillowy bun rocked our tastebuds. Bonus points for the side of tangy kimchee served with this sandwich.

BLISSED OUT

BottleRock 2017 landed the best ever weather in its five year run. Opening day was downright cool, to the point that a sweatshirt was needed for pretty much the whole day. But, an ever present sun made for an overall pleasant day of noshing and dancing through the festival’s run.

BottleRock’s grounds were also augmented with a significant amount of grass, both the natural and artificial kind, compared to previous years. While it’s not the same as Coachella’s immaculately manicured polo fields, laying out a blanket and kicking back never felt so comfortable at the Napa Valley Expo.

For those who wanted to take relaxation to a whole other level of chill, an on-site spa provided chair massages, aromatherapy, “sound therapy” and other services to get eardrums and chakras in the right place.

As a DJ spun loungey house music, some of the most well-heeled and hungover attendees had the option of paying $180-$200 for an “afterparty antidote.” This hydration treatment was billed as an elixir to help with body pains, stomach issues and other byproducts that come with raging hard all weekend at BottleRock.

SMORGASBORD OF SOUNDS

Oh yeah, and there was music at BottleRock, too.

Between all the grubbing in the Culinary Garden, chair massages and checking out the Culinary Stage action – such as Friday’s entertaining collaboration between Martha Stewart and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – those BottleRock days seemed to fly by.

But it’s the music that binds everything together, like House of Pain inspiring the crowd to “Jump Around” while being cautious to not spill their chardonnay.

Saturday night’s headliner, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, started off strong with such sing-a-long hits as “May Jane’s Last Dance” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” But much of the remaining set was fairly snoozy, due to too much dead air between songs and a set that emphasized the band’s mellower and more meandering side.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis meanwhile had Friday’s crowd hoisting their wine and cocktail cups to such uptempo hits as “Thrift Shop.” At the same time, Silversun Pickups played a set of dreamy alternative-rock that hit the right notes as a evening prepared to descend on BottleRock.

The early afternoon crowd on Sunday, usually a groggy bunch on Day 3 of the festival, was amped up by SWMRS. Its jubilant pop-punk was like a much needed Vitamin B-12 shot of energy as BottleRock reached its home stretch.

Live, the alternative-rock favorites from the 1990s, were also well received on Sunday with its string of hits (“I Alone,” “Lightning Crashes”) that was a giant Gen X flashback.

“We’re going to take it back to the days of much larger cell phones,” said Live’s Ed Kowalczyk as the band kicked in to “Selling the Drama.”

The Roots helped wind the whole weekend down with its co-headlining set on Sunday night. The band’s impeccably delivered live hip-hop was a smooth and dance friendly way to put a cork in BottleRock, though its drum machine solo went on about five minutes too long and sullied some of the vibes.

Foo Fighters were meanwhile treated like conquering heroes during its set, which unfurled on a nearby stage at the same time as The Roots’ performance. Foo Fighters were at once ferocious and fun, with Grohl offering those tasting notes between songs and inspiring sing-a-longs during “My Hero” and “Learn to Fly.”

Foo Fighters also continued another BottleRock tradition. Like The Cure in 2014, the sound was cut on Foo Fighters right as 10 p.m. hit and the noise curfew went into effect. It’s always an awkward way to wrap up a set, but the crowd certainly walked away with its fill of music, wine and maybe even chair massages.

And you can start marking your calendars now. BottleRock 2018 is set for May 25 – 27.

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

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