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BottleRock Napa Valley acts shred on 1st day leading to Metallica debut

The crowds were already wrapping around the block when the gates opened at 11:30 a.m. Friday for the first day of BottleRock Napa Valley.

The massive three-day music, food, craft beer and wine festival returned to its regular Memorial Day weekend schedule this year after being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and delayed to Labor Day weekend in 2021.

Locals and out-of-county visitors alike were eager to enter the Napa Valley Expo, where the festival has been held each year since debuting in 2013, cheering as the long line began to move just as the sun broke through the clouds in downtown Napa.

Festivalgoers were immediately hit with a heavy dose of rock ‘n’ roll as Los Angeles rock band Dorothy opened the day on the JaM Cellars stage, the largest of BottleRock’s four music stages.

“I heard it’s too early to start drinking,” said Dorothy lead singer Dorothy Martin, dressed in black and crisscrossing the stage before the band went into their song, “Ain’t Our Time to Die.”

By the looks of the lines at the many beer and wine booths, the crowd disagreed, as patrons lined up for $12 Coors Lights and $16 Lagunitas IPAs, as well as wine from Napa County wineries such as JaM Cellars, Stags Leap Winery and Foley Johnson Winery.

Even more busy was the festival’s Culinary Garden, where savvy festivalgoers grabbed lunch before the afternoon crowd filed in.

Matthew from Livermore bought chicken salad from a food vendor whose name he could not remember, despite visiting it five minutes earlier.

“There’s just so many options,” he said.

This year was Matthew’s third at BottleRock, though he wasn’t planning to attend until the last minute.

“I had no plans for this weekend, so I thought, let’s go to BottleRock for a day,” he said.

Traditionally, all three- and single-day BottleRock general admission passes are sold-out well in advance, but Matthew happened to grab one to join friends who were already coming.

While he doesn’t have a particular band he looks forward to seeing, Matthew noticed a lot of Metallica shirts in the crowd Friday. The iconic heavy metal band made their first appearance at BottleRock, headlining Friday’s opening day.

“There’s a lot of Metallica families, too,” he said. “Dads bringing the kids.”

Justin from Napa was one of those dads, attending BottleRock on Friday with his wife and two daughters, ages 9 and 3. The whole family was decked out in Metallica T-shirts.

“I’ve never seen them before, that’s why I’m here,” Justin said. “They come to my hometown, I’ve got to come.”

This was Justin’s first time at BottleRock. He said he’s considered attending in previous years, but getting to see Metallica play in Napa was too good to pass up.

“This is the only time this band’s going to be here,” he said.

It was also the first time at BottleRock for Candice from Vacaville, who brought her teenage daughter, Melina.

“It’s my first festival. I like it,” Melina said. “A lot of people. I like everyone’s style.”

“I’m coming all three days,” Candice added. “I was kind of hoping it would be a little hotter actually.”

With the recent heatwave having ended by Friday, the first day of BottleRock saw temperatures in the mid-70s. Despite the weather, the music was anything but mild, with hot rock acts stacked leading to Metallica’s stage debut.

Dorothy rocked the JaM Cellars stage at noon as Napa rock band Mama Said grooved with the crowds at the Verizon Stage, the second largest of the festival, starting at 12:15 p.m. The band, fronted by Jennifer Knight and Latifa Reeves’ dual vocals, played its self-described “new classic rock” off its upcoming album, “Change in the Weather.”

Following Mama Said, teenage rock band The Alive brought out the heavy distortion and played covers of TOOL and other ‘90s-era rockers between their original, grunge-inspired rock.

Consisting of 14-year-old bassist Manoa Neukermans, 18-year-old drummer Kai Neukermans and 17-year-old guitarist and vocalist Bastian Evans, The Alive looked confident and cool on the Verizon Stage, grabbing a large part of Metallica’s fans.

For festivalgoers seeking a lighter sound, the Allianz Stage featured R&B guitarist Peter Collins, who performed on solo acoustic guitar and showed off his falsetto vocals on the song, “Ain’t Nobody Love Me Like You Do.”

Canadian folk and country singer-songwriter William Prince also played the Allianz Stage, crooning the crowd with his laid-back sound.

But it was rock ‘n’ roll for much of the rest of BottleRock on Friday, with bands ranging from Michigan-based classic-rock revivalists Greta Van Fleet, Texas-born indie-rock veterans Spoon, South Carolina-bred country and blues-rock star Marcus King and Georgia hard rock trio Bastardane on the lineup throughout the afternoon.

BottleRock Napa Valley continues this weekend, with headliners Twenty One Pilots on Saturday and P!nk on Sunday. General admission tickets for Saturday and Sunday are sold-out.

For more information, visit bottlerocknapavalley.com.

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