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Napa braces for BottleRock's return

  • Dave Graham CEO of Latitude 38 Entertainment, the promoter of BottleRock in Napa, April 24, 2014. BottleRock will be returning to Napa in late May. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

NAPA — Napa is bracing for BottleRock's return next month under new management and scaled-down ambitions from last year's debut, which attracted an astonishing lineup of rock stars and legions of fans, but also left a raft of financial problems.

The three-day event, which opens May 30 at the state-owned Napa Valley Exposition, features 60 bands, including headliners The Cure, Outkast and country music star Eric Church. Tickets for a one- or three-day pass initially ranged from $149 to $279, but last week were going for $99 to $199 via Internet sites such as Groupon.

Last year's BottleRock, which drew raves from music fans and from Napa Valley hoteliers whose rooms were booked, also sparked bitter financial recriminations after the festival's producers stopped paying their bills and filed bankruptcy. The event also generated neighborhood complaints about noise and about festival-goers who trampled on private property.

For those reasons, many in the city of 78,000 express mixed feelings about the festival returning to Napa.

"There's a lot of neighbors that are cranky about it. But I think it's great," said Audrey Weeks, who lives a block from the Expo.

At the same time, the festival's new managers, who graduated together from a local high school, are receiving a generally positive reception from the community after they took over the event and began settling millions of dollars in outstanding debts from last year's BottleRock. While new to the music business, the new group calling itself Latitude 38 Entertainment promises this year's festival will be a big draw and a boost for the local economy. They say they are addressing neighborhood concerns and vow to meet their financial obligations.

"We're going to put on a great experience," said Dave Graham, CEO of Latitude 38, so-named for Napa's geographic location. He and his partners, Jason Scoggins and Justin Dragoo, graduated from Vintage High School in 1990.

Last year's BottleRock, which seemed to come out of nowhere, drew tens of thousands of fans to the North Bay to rock out with some of the biggest names in the music business, including The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and Zac Brown Band. Multi-day passes went for as much as $600.

The event's iconic image may have been Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell swilling from a bottle of Rombauer merlot while he and his band performed on the massive main stage, and later, Farrell occupying the rooftop lounge at a downtown Napa restaurant to, well, party like a rock star.

Wine Country had never seen anything like it. BottleRock turned out to be the summer's standout music festival, drawing buzz once reserved for larger festivals like Outside Lands in San Francisco and Coachella in Indio. Some hoped Napa would become the next Austin, which hosts South by Southwest.


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