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BottleRock festival gets high marks from attendees, mixed reviews outside gates

  • Big signs showing the schedule are posted all over the venue during Bottlerock 2013 held in Napa, Friday, May 10, 2013.

Charlie Musselwhite, the harmonica legend from Geyserville, rolled up to the gates of the inaugural BottleRock festival in Napa Friday and was told he couldn't get in because his name was not on any lists, even though he wore a wristband that clearly had the word "artist" written on it.

"He said he could call, but he wouldn't," said Musselwhite, 69, whose scheduled performance with Ben Harper on Saturday evening is among BottleRock's most anticipated moments.

The incident can be interpreted as the usual glitches of any major first-time event. Or, it could be seen as another symptom of what one Sonoma County vintner that has a booth at the festival described as BottleRock organizers "biting off more than they can chew."

BottleRock Napa: Day 3

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The early reviews of BottleRock, which continues through Sunday, is that the event so far has delivered on bringing an unprecedented and impressive line-up of bands and comedians to Napa.

Two-and-a-half days into it, there still was a feeling of incredulity in the air at the Napa Valley Expo that the likes of the Alabama Shakes and Black Crowes had graced the site of Napa's fair, bingo games and crab feeds..

"There are bound to be some things that will upset some people, but I think it's awesome," said Jay Schuppert, president of Cuvaison Estate Wines, as he munched on a lobster roll inside the Whole Foods Market Garden.

Outside the gates of the 26-acre expo, the reviews have been more mixed, with some complaining the event is drawing too many people to the expo, and not enough people downtown, where merchants have been banking on big crowds to recoup their financial commitment to BottleRock.

Yusuf Topal, owner of Tarla Mediterranean Grill on First Street, said 15 people showed up Thursday for a late-hours party at his restaurant, which is an official party site reserved for BottleRockers who paid for VIP passes to the event.

"It was so sad," Topal said.

Topal said he has budgeted $10,000 for BottleRock, an amount that includes staffing and a DJ for the after-hours parties. But Topal said all of the restaurants up and down First Street Thursday night were just as empty as his.


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