BottleRock Napa Valley sees younger vibe Saturday as Twenty One Pilots headlines

NAPA — Midway through thrash and funk band OTTTO’s set Saturday at BottleRock Napa Valley, several young people in the crowd fired up a mosh pit, pushing and shoving one another until security guards rushed in a few minutes later to stop it.

This may be a rock festival, but it’s Wine Country’s version of it. So, sorry kids, please keep the elbows inside the ride at all times.

BottleRock’s second day had a younger vibe and cool temperatures that maybe had some in the estimated crowd of 40,000 at the Napa Valley Expo rethinking their decision to bare so much skin.

Saturday was the first of the 2022 festival days to sell out. The big draws were headliner Twenty One Pilots and Mount Westmore, a hip-hop supergroup whose members include California-based rappers Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too Short and Ice Cube.

Warren G, another California rap legend, also was in the house, taking the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage in the afternoon with celebrity chefs Michael and Bryan Voltaggio.

Guilhem Okou and Kavya Kolisetty were among Saturday’s early arrivals. The couple sipped cocktails while enjoying singer-songwriter Ron Artis II perform at the JaM Cellars stage.

“It’s very organized and clean,” Kolisetty said of her first blush with BottleRock.

OTTTO, which drew a more dressed-down crowd, is probably best known for band member Tye Trujillo, the son of Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, whose blistering two-hour set with his aging bandmates Friday night was still the buzz Saturday.

Metallica performed on the Jam Cellars stage before a crowd of thousands. OTTTO, by contrast, rocked the Truly Stage — the smallest of BottleRock’s four main stages — before a few hundred.

One of the joys of BottleRock, however, is discovering bands who go on to hit it big. One example: Kacey Musgraves, who was well down the bill at the first BottleRock in 2013 and is now a verified superstar and Grammy winner.

To get ready for Saturday’s line-up of food, bands and booze, Charlie and Alena Litchfield reclined inside the festival’s dimly-lit “spa” while receiving a combination of vitamins, anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medications intravenously through their arms.

For up to $295, customers at Rapid Recovery Hydration Solutions could choose from the Festival Fatigue Fighter or After Party Antidote.

“Oh, yeah, got a little dehydrated. Good to recharge,” Charlie Litchfield said.

The San Rafael couple were planning to attend all three days of BottleRock and on Sunday bring two of their three kids.

The 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.

Patrons did not have to prove their vaccination status this year and masks are no longer in fashion. People crammed the Pacifico Porch dance floor Saturday, stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of stages and generally seemed unfazed about the pandemic’s continuing threat.

“Good morning, BottleRock! Good afternoon, BottleRock! No matter what time zone you’re from it’s time to wake up!” Kam Franklin, lead singer of Houston band The Suffers, exhorted the crowd early Saturday. “You paid good money to be here!”

Friday’s fashion trends favoring “classic rock” T-shirts emblazoned with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard and of course, Metallica, had given way Saturday to a younger, fresher and more urban vibe.

That probably reflected Mount. Westmore taking the Verizon stage in the evening, and in particular Snoop Dogg, a global superstar who helped launch BottleRock’s culinary stage in 2015 when he paired with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto for a demonstration of sushi rolling techniques.

Speaking of cannabis, BottleRock debuted “The Garden” this year, billing it as a “cannabis inspired lounge” to learn “all the exciting things happening in this new industry.” Guests could not actually purchase cannabis, however, and a sign out front said its use was prohibited.

Nevertheless, the smell of pot smoke wafted heavily over the expo grounds, and if anyone needed to purchase cannabis, they had only to cross Third Street, where recreational sales were brisk.

Strolling through The Garden and sporting a T-shirt from the first BottleRock concert, Berkeley resident Jesse Berg lamented how the event has gotten too “corporate” for his tastes.

“This first year was nuts,” he said. “It wasn’t discovered.”

BottleRock will mark its 10th anniversary next year, a remarkable milestone given the event almost didn’t survive its debut.

The first year drew raves from music fans but also sparked bitter financial recriminations after the festival's producers stopped paying their bills and filed bankruptcy. The event also generated neighborhood complaints about noise and about festivalgoers who trampled on private property.

Latitude 38 Entertainment, run by a trio of three businessmen who graduated together from a local high school, stepped in to purchase the festival. Their success eventually drew the attention of concert giant Live Nation, which took over majority ownership in 2017.

BottleRock is now a well-oiled corporate machine, one most Napa residents have come to embrace.

As they have done for several years now, Rolando Soriano and his family are operating a taco stand outside their Juarez Street home this weekend. Soriano said BottleRock offers an “opportunity” for him and his neighbors to make a few bucks.

Santa Rosa’s AnnMarie Hall is among fans of the festival’s hometown vibe. She has attended the event every year since 2015 and was in line by 9:30 a.m. Saturday. When the gates opened two hours later, she made a beeline to the Verizon stage to plant herself in front of for the day.

“I’m a believer in putting in the time,” she said. “With festivals, people will show up and say, ‘I’m a bigger fan and push themselves to the front.’”

A friend she met at an earlier BottleRock, Kerri Hall of Sacramento, walked up to say she had secured a spot in front of the main JaM Cellars stage to watch Twenty One Pilots. The 57-year-old Roseville resident recounted running across the expo grounds when the gates opened Saturday to beat others to the front.

“You just focus,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe anymore but I kept going. You know people are chasing you down.”

Two weeks after attending Coachella, Dan and Diana Hedblom of San Francisco parked themselves in front of the Verizon stage Friday to catch Chvrches.

The couple brought their 6-year-old daughter, Liv, and 2-year-old son, Viggo, who were camped out in a two-seater wagon stroller, which nobody else around the family seemed to mind for potentially taking up space or blocking their view of the stage.

“If this was Coachella it would be much more of a process to bring the kids,” Dan said.

Even performers seem to take a more sanguine approach to playing BottleRock.

Britt Daniel, the frontman for Spoon, stopped the band’s set at JaM Cellars stage Friday to draw attention to a woman who was apparently suffering a medical issue.

Later in the day on the Verizon stage, Carlos St. John Phillips, a Guyanese-American rapper and singer who performs under the name SAINt JHN, also stopped his set out of concern for a person’s well-being.

“Someone passed out in the front row. We want to make sure they are OK so we can resume the show,” he said.

The person apparently recovered, Philips launched into “High School Reunion,” which opens with lyrics about nearly dying due to an alcohol-fueled relapse.

“This song has even more meaning now,” Philips said.

BottleRock continues for its third and final outing Sunday with headliners P!nk and Luke Combs.

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