BottleRock Napa Wrap-Up

bottleBy Laura Braden, Chelsea Irvine, Caroline Silveira and Julia Tanghetti

From Outside Lands and Coachella to Mumford and Prince, we consider ourselves concert connoisseurs. So when we heard that there was a new festival planned in Napa in May, we said “giddy-up”.

And BottleRock Napa didn’t disappoint.

The Good 

95% of everything – we were all impressed with the logistics, line-up, customer service and vibe of the entire festival. Some highlights:

The Line-Up: They had a solid mix of new and old rock, country, indie and americana. Stand-out artists included Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Black Keys, Blues Traveler, Allen Stone, Dwight Yoakum and Blues Traveler. Everyone seemed super stoked to be out in the sun listening to music so the energy was high and everyone was making friends and dancing.

The Size: They expected 35,000-40,000 people, which sounds huge, but consider that Outside Lands is approximately 60,000 and Coachella is around 90,000. We were with about 15 people, and even though we all strayed from the herd at some point, it was relatively quick/easy to re-find our group. The size of the concert grounds was also totally manageable, and it was easy to meet up with folks, as well as sprint across the park to get to your next show.

Food/Beverages: No crappy hot dogs for this crowd. BottleRock featured over 40 food vendors (Morimoto and Kitchen Door to Fish Story and La Toque) and 40 wineries (Chandon and Ceju to Grgich Hills and Gundlach Bundschu) from across the region. They also had these delicious BottleRock-branded wine pouches (red and white) that had nearly three glasses of wine for $15 (only bad part is they sold out on Saturday). The best part? Nothing was ridiculously overpriced. Red bulls for $5, solo cups of beer for $9 and most meals (big portions) ran $10-15.

Shuttles for One-Day Rockers: They also offered $29 (r/t) shuttles from nearby downtowns to the festival. The Sacramento bus picked up Chelsea’s crew at the Capitol at 10:00am and dropped them off around 11:00pm. The bus was pretty fancy (super clean with foot rests, fold-down trays for drinks, and bathroom!), and it was only half full, so it wasn’t cramped or full of rowdy drunks. We were able to sleep the whole way home (bonus!), and that also meant we could enjoy mimosas on the way there and save a couple bucks on drinks at the event (double bonus!).

The Bad

Parking and Shuttles: Since our hotel was 10 miles from the site, we loaded into two cars and caravanned to the festival. Cars with five people got to park for free (NICE!) and parking passes were $20/day. The lot was in an old industrial park about five minutes from the concert grounds. They had a million shuttles, but from door to door, it took us almost two hours to get inside, making us miss most of Alabama Shakes (boo). The story (not shockingly) was the same leaving the festival. They herded thousands of us into six lines to load onto shuttles back to our cars where we then waited 45 minutes to leave the lot. The plus side was that Laura’s boyfriend had a killer speaker (the “port-a-party”), which we had on full blast. Nothing like random strangers singing Outkast, Journey and Hall & Oates to make the time go faster. The next day, we haggled some taxi drivers ($10/person each way) and got dropped right outside of the concert in less than 45 minutes. #LessonLearned

Cell Service: Again, totally understandable at any large event, but good lord, it was super slow. AT&T text messages took about 30-45 minutes to go through (Verizon was closer to 10-15), which severely limited our ability to communicate with each other – not to mention being unable to live tweet, Facebook and/or Instagram (#FirstWorldWhine). Hard to brag about what a good time you’re having without stellar cell service.

Brilliant - simply brilliant. And the wine wasn't bad either!
Red/white wine in a pouch… Brilliant – simply brilliant. And the wine wasn’t bad either!

The Heat: Holy moly did it get hot on Saturday, as in 92 degrees. At one point, all of us girls took a seat right up front by the stage because we were about to start dropping like flies. Nothing funnier than 1/2 dozen girls swapping water bottles and fanning each other like antebellum Southern ladies. Like all seasoned concert goers, the trick is to load up on vitamins, eat a solid meal at the beginning of the day and drink a ton of water. And listen to your body – there’s nothing wrong with finding a quiet tree and laying down for 20 minutes…especially if it makes you last 12+ hours.

The Ugly

To be honest, there’s nothing that really fell into this category. We all thought that this was a solid festival, especially given that it was the first year and that the organizers had zero music/festival experience. If we have to pick something, we’re going with the bathrooms. We realize that there’s probably some fancy festival algorithm that calculates expected attendance and the amount of parking, food/water stations, bathrooms, etc that you’ll need. NOTICE TO ALL FESTIVAL PLANNERS: Take the number of bathrooms needed and double it. And then pay the vendors extra to clean them out twice as often. We don’t want to get too graphic, but the lines were long, the toilet paper ran out quickly, and many stalls had an inch or two of … water? … in them. No bueno for those wearing flip flops. This is to be expected at any large event, but seems like an easy and inexpensive fix.

Our bottom line? BottleRock Napa is as good as Outside Lands and Coachella and StageCoach – we’ll see you there next year! No seriously, they’ve already announced next years dates and ticket sales.

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Our friend Katie with Allen Stone!
Our friend Katie with Allen Stone!

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The fans were VERY necessary on Saturday.
The fans were VERY necessary on Saturday.

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