Rain did not keep serious music fans away from Napa’s BottleRock

The seventh annual BottleRock music, food and drink festival in downtown Napa ended with one last, big blast of music Sunday, with Mumford & Sons on one stage and legendary rock guitarist Carlos Santana on another.

The Santana set was dominated by his guitar solo work from the start, while Mumford & Sons built a mood a little more slowly, as backlit smoke spread across the stage.

Across the Napa Valley Expo grounds, a carnival mood prevailed, right down to the brightly colored balloons brandished by children.

The sold-out festival ended its three-day run with an estimated attendance of 120,000, even with some inclement weather on the last day.

Despite the cold and drizzly Sunday morning, some fans still showed up as soon as the gates opened.

Susan Sindelar, 34, of Santa Barbara, sat wrapped in a thermal blanket at a picnic table that was outfitted with an umbrella, waiting for Con Brio, the first band of the day to arrive at the main JaM Cellar stage.

“I came early to see Con Brio, They’re stellar,” she said. “I initially planned to use the blanket just for sitting on, but now it’s dual-purpose because of the weather.”

Con Brio didn’t let her down.

“This song is called ‘Give It All,” Ziek McCarter, the band’s lead singer, said from the stage. “And that’s exactly what we came to do.”

Attending BottleRock for the first time, Sindelar has been at the festival all three days. “It’s been really good. I really surprised by some of the bands,” she said.

With more than 80 bands performing on six stages over three days, BottleRock delivered a lot of variety, and Sunday was no exception, from the smooth rock of Skylar Grey to big beat of Ocean Alley to the rap-like rock of Harry Hudson.

Performers took advantage of the intimacy available from a gradually growing crowd to chat up the fans from the stage.

“I used to come to Napa for the wine, but love kept me here,” Grey said.

“It’s a little wet, but we don’t mind,” said Baden Donegal, lead singer for Ocean Alley.

Playing at the Lagunitas stage, Dustbowl mixed horns and fiddle with solid rock, for a soulful cover of The Band’s “The Weight.”

BottleRock is as celebrated for food and drink as it is for music, with cuisine ranging from Asian to vegetarian and everything in between, including such festival mainstays as sausage and baby back ribs.

“This is the first of 10 courses,” one woman said as she sat down at a picnic table with a basket of garlic fries. Then she added with a sigh: “And here comes the rain.”

There were a lot of families at BottleRock this year. Kids in slickers and rain jackets played Nerf football on the lawn.

The weather began to warm up in the late afternoon, as Michael Franti, backed by his band Spearhead, came onstage to spread his musical gospel of peace, joy and love, as the crowd jumped and clapped in time to the beat.

Film actor Jeff Goldblum demonstrated his versatility by appearing both on the Williams Sonoma culinary stage, and later on the Bai music stage, with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.

The “orchestra,” a five-piece jazz combo, wore black suits and ties. Goldblum, in zebra-striped pants and shirt and a black porkpie hat, played and clowned at the baby grand piano. He warmed up the crowd before the set with movie trivia games and then invited the crowd to his house after the show - “Clothing optional.”

Rocker Alice Cooper also made an appearance on the culinary stage, assisting in the creation of a fried chicken salad.

Early attendance looked sparse but the last day of the festival was sold out in advance to its capacity of 40,000. Organizers expected the crowds to peak nearer the end of the day.

“We’re looking for slow build today,” festival spokesman Tom Fuller said.

Indeed, attendance grew steadily throughout the day, even as the rain clouds lingered.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette