Anticipation builds for BottleRock extravaganza

  • A group of teenage friends from Sonoma pose for photos as they wait for the gates to open at the Napa Valley Expo for Bottle Rocket, in Napa, on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

NAPA — For Jessica Marioni and about a dozen of her classmates at Sonoma Valley High School, the opportunity to see the nation's hottest musical act perform in Napa was worth ditching classes Wednesday and camping out all day for the gates to open.

Marioni, 17, said she previously saw Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in October from the front row at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

"We made eye contact so many times," the University of Washington-bound senior said of Macklemore. "I think we had a connection."

The teens are among music fans of diverse ages and tastes who are pouring into Napa this week for the inaugural BottleRock musical festival. Wednesday's buzz on the first half-day of the event was a small taste of what's expected in coming days. BottleRock organizers predicted the event could bring in as many as 35,000 people each day from Thursday through Sunday, which if true, would nearly equal half of Napa's population.

Needless to say, not everyone in Napa was looking forward to the descending hoards. But for rock fans, including many who live in the city, BottleRock has them amped and ready to party.

Stu Harrison, a retired high-tech worker and event planner who lives in Healdsburg, already had bubbly chilling by Tuesday that he plans to pour for passengers aboard a bus he has chartered for the event.

The bus will make daily round-trips from Healdsburg to Napa starting Friday. Harrison said he had about 55 passengers, each who are paying an average of $50 for a roundtrip.

He said the bus and a driver cost about $1,000 a day.

Harrison spent $599 for a four-day VIP pass to BottleRock. He was eagerly anticipating getting to see the Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon and the Black Keys, as well bands he's never heard of.

"You go to see bands or artists that you know, but in doing so, you also have many hours when you discover new music," Harrison said.

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