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.
The veteran festival-goer recently attended Coachella, the mega concert in Indio, not far from Palm Springs. "As a result of going to Coachella, I have an iPod filled with artists that I hadn't heard of a year ago."
Jackie Hall of Santa Rosa is eager to see Ben Harper. "If I wasn't married, I'd try for him," she quipped.
Hall, her husband and two other couples are planning to attend the event on Saturday and stay the night with friends from Sebastopol who have rented a home in Napa.
Hall said BottleRock fills a need now that Santa Rosa's Harmony Festival is on hiatus. "Anytime you can pay to see more than one musician or band, it's just awesome," she said.
The BottleRock lineup includes more than 60 bands and comedians, many that could headline their own concerts. Organizers said the event could pump $50 million into the local economy. Every lodging opportunity in the Napa Valley and in many surrounding communities is spoken for.
A temporary tent city also started to go up Wednesday at Napa's Skyline Park.
"I think it's going to be a huge success for Napa," said Joannie Davis of St. Helena.
Davis, who is volunteering for the event in exchange for a single-day pass, waited in a long line outside the former COPIA building on First Street Wednesday morning to check in.
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