by Annie Lesser
Memorial Day Weekend in Napa used to just be a getaway to taste wine and eat delicious food. At BottleRock, now five years in, it's still about tasting wine and eating delicious food, but those indulgences are paired with a variety of music acts ranging from the up-and-coming to the decidedly "vintage," and once again this year they played to a sold-out crowd. While Maroon 5 finished their show early on Friday night, both Tom Petty and the Foo Fighters played full sets that pleased the entire crowd (estimated at 120,000 combined over three days) though the Foo Fighters ran up against the strict 10 p.m. curfew Sunday night and had their final song go unplugged, which drew many boos directed at the festival organizers.
The weekend also saw Big Boi and White Panda DJing the world's largest silent disco, for over 4,000 attendees they probably could have even fit in more people but the line got so long that many gave up on even getting in. The culinary stage was popping this year, with E40 and Ayesha Curry making E40's beer battered chicken and pancetta gruyere waffles, and Martha Stewart teaching Macklemore and Ryan Lewis how to make one of her meal kits. And don't forget the after-shows. Aside from just the heavily FOMOed Foo Fighter's secret Blue Note show, these included performances from acts like Bob Moses, St. Lucia, The Shelters, and others at local Napa venues.
BottleRock, more than most major music festivals, plays up its local cred as much as the restaurants in Napa that surround it. NorCal wineries set up lounge areas throughout the festival giving you a chance to interact with the wines both by tasting them and interacting with their aesthetic. From punk rockers SWMRS, whose drummer is the son of Billie Joe Armstrong (a.k.a. lead singer of Bay Area-borne Green Day), to Michael Frant, Bay Area performers or bands with local history are featured heavily at the festival. Franti is now practically the mascot of BottleRock, performing not only on the main stage, but also on the culinary stage, and at pop-ups throughout the festival. He could even be spotted just walking around GA drawing artwork on fans. BottleRock has even begun to phase out food vendors who aren't from the NorCal area. They got rid of previous coffee vendors that were from different states and replaced them with Red Whale Coffee, which touted a Nitro Cold Brew tap and the OHM Coffee Truck that featured fresh French-pressed coffee versus traditional mass drips and a very popular hot chocolate for those that didn't want caffeine. Both had beautiful latte art.
Speaking of coffee, the festival's Platinum Pass was back this year, which included ultra-luxe coffee in the Platinum Lounge. The lounge for those willing to dish out $3,500 for the weekend got Meadowood Estates-catered food, wine tastings with master sommeliers, craft cocktails, and even delivery of french fries and pizza to them while they were against the barricade waiting for the Foo Fighters to go on. The Platinum Lounge this year was decorated with paintings of headlining artists performing at the festival and deconstructed music instruments and featured the in house DJ stylings of Rotten Robbie.
For those who couldn't afford Platinum there were still plenty of food options. In VIP we loved trying the duck carnitas tacos from 1313 Main which featured a green garlic tortilla as well as the clam chowder at Nick's Cove. The sandwiches and salads from The Farmer's Wife featured the freshest fruits and vegetables we tasted all weekend which is saying something because everyone must have been using fresh ingredients with how flavorful everything at the festival was. In GA, Itani Ramen had the greenest broccoli you probably could ever find in a cup of pepper broth and noodles. And there were also bao buns from both The Chairman and Cross Hatch Eatery (they even made a s'mores bao for dessert); duck confit on fries from Bui Bistro; rich ice cream and root beer floats featuring homemade caramel from Mariposa Ice Cream, which gets the award for longest line at the festival; Tres Tacos' loaded chicken nachos; and popsicles from Pop Nation that included 3D-printed strawberry pops.
Overall, the festival continues to embody the food/wine culture of Napa giving Outside Lands a run for its money in this department, albeit on a smaller scale while continuing to present some amazing music performances.