BottleRock is here. And we can only hope it returns.
Arriving late on Friday, I caught the last half of Andrew Bird’s set. I’ve always thought he would be better in a concert hall than a festival, and I still think that. He was good, but there’s something about the violin and looper pedal that runs counter to the spirit of a big rock show. On the next stage, the Shins, who were rumored to have played a warm-up show the night before at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma to about 15 people, were tight and professional. They’re about as surgically precise as a band can be, sounding just like the record. Almost too perfect, but very good. At the same time, Blues Traveler started tearing into their set. I caught “Run Around” and stayed for a couple songs because, damn, that John Popper can blow! I haven’t heard if he and Charlie Musslewhite, who is also playing the festival, are doing or have done a harmonica duet. I don’t know if the world could handle it.
The set up was similar to Outside Lands, but without the one-mile trek between stages. This meant that no matter where you stood, there was music playing. Not that lines were a big problem (the longest I waited for anything was about 10 minutes), but it would suck to know you’re missing the main reason for the $130 ticket because there is not an adequate number of beer stations. The addition of comedy to the festival was tough, making yet another thing to choose from to watch in addition to the great bands. But the comedy headliner each night (last night was Jim Bruer) started at 10:15, just after the last band. Not sure if that meant more or people would stick around because the rock show was over. But there were lines for each of the other comedians throughout the day.
Before the Flaming Lips took the stage (they were the last act of the second stage), it was time to refuel. There was festival food, but this being Napa, there was so much more. Cochon Volant BBQ actually ran out of buns for its pork sandwich, but the line did not diminish upon this announcement. They served instead a plate of just meat and coleslaw, which was incredible. The deep smoke flavor went nicely with a Sierra Nevada fresh-hop Harvest brew, another culinary upgrade from usual festival fare. Tons of restaurants, including Morimoto (of Iron Chef fame), were dishing up fancy foods. And with what seemed like hundreds of wineries on hand with popup tents and tasting lounges, it felt like a good representation of the California culinary scene. Imagine coming from Philadelphia or New Mexico to a festival that not only cares about food but almost worships it like a groupie does a rock band. It made for a good vibe.
Scarfing down my pork and ‘slaw, I got pretty much front-and-center to see the Flaming Lips. I’d seen them at Treasure Island a few years ago as the headlining act, and they raised the bar for me for festival acts. Frontman Wayne Coyne and company did not disappoint. In fact, they raised the bar yet again. Wayne, in a blue polyester suit, stood atop his lumpy, space-age, shiny bubble pulpit with a baby doll in the crook of his arm, cooing an playing with it while the band rocked around him. I’m glad he didn’t do anything crazy like throw it into the audience or rip its arm off or something. It gave that baby a symbolism it would have otherwise not held. The stage faced the setting sun, meaning the band got to watch a beautiful Napa sunset while the crowd didn’t have to squint at sun spots (good planning, BottleRock!). Coyne remarked how beautiful it was, and said how cool it would be if the sun set and then rose again immediately after (this ain’t Alaska, Wayne). He also praised the festival and thanked “whoever got us to play here” because it was a good thing to be a part of. As it got darker, the light show became more pronounced. Lasers, smoke, a truss of lights that moved down from the sky to just above Coyne’s head and shot strobe lights and huge flood lights across the crowd. Being directly in the center, I was blown away. You’ve seen people put hands on their head in that oh-my-god-what-am-I-even-seeing-right-now move of disbelief? That was me several times during this performance. Luckily, there are photos to help explain, because words are hard sometimes. The Flaming Lips received a well-deserved ovation, prompting a real encore (the lights had even come back on already). All this while the headliners, the Black Keys were about half an hour into their set already. People stayed for the Flaming Lips encore, and almost demanded a second encore.
The Black Keys were good. Even had a full band for the second half of their set. But if someone could explain why this is the end-all-be-all of bands right now, I’d love to listen. They rock, yeah, I dig that. But Blues Traveler rocks, too, though I suppose they had their time in the sun as well. Leaving the festival was relatively uncomplicated. There were plenty of volunteers directing the masses to the shuttle locations, and five shuttles filled and left at one time, so there wasn’t much of a wait. Upon arriving at the, ahem, parking lot, it was a different story. I hope everyone loaded their car’s location into Google Maps as a “favorite location,” because with no lights whatsoever and no volunteers directing the crowd, finding your car out of 10,000 in five separate lots would be tough. I parked at the back of a lot, and was really hoping I remembered correctly which one because it’s a 15-minute walk back to the dropoff point, and who knows how long from there to the other lots. I was right, and left with little delay.
One more point is the sound. It was excellent, but could have been a little louder on the main stage, especially for the Black Keys. Maybe this was a city ordinance thing, but it’s a rock show. Give it some gas!
The full lineup for Bottle Rock Napa Valley has been announced. It includes The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Zac Brown Band, Furthur featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Kings of Leon, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Primus, The Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, The Shins, Bad Religion, Iron and Wine, Dirty Projectors, Dwight Yoakam, Edward Sharpe, Mavis Staples, Best Coast, Sharon Van Etten, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cake, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Brandi Carlile, Donovan Frankenreiter, Grouplove and many, many more.
The festival runs May 9-12 at the Napa Expo, with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis kicking off the festivities on Wednesday, May 8. The Macklemore show is free to 3- and 4-day pass holders, and individual tickets for the show, at $29, will go on sale “at a later date.”
Confirmed acts for Thursday, May 9 include Furthur, the Black Crowes, Primus, ALO, Violent Femmes and Cafe Tacuba.
Confirmed acts for Friday, May 10 include the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Flaming Lips, Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird, the Shins, Blues Traveler, Tristan Prettyman, Vintage Trouble, Flagship, Justin Townes Earle. and Allah-Las.
Confirmed acts for Saturday, May 11 include Kings of Leon, Jane’s Addiction, Bad Religion, Ben Harper, Edward Sharpe, Dwight Yoakam, Iron & Wine, Best Coast, Sharon Van Etten, Tift Merritt, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Allen Stone, Donovan Frankenreiter, and RNDM.
Confirmed acts for Sunday, May 12 include the Zac Brown Band, Train, Michael Franti, the Wallflowers, Rodrigo y Gabriela,Cake, Grouplove, Brandi Carlile, Rogue Wave, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, and Erin O’Hara.
Ticket pre-sales start Sunday, Feb. 3, at 10am, on the festival’s own site. Prices are as follows:
Three-Day Pass (Fri.-Sun.): $299.
Four-Day Pass (Thurs.–Sun.): $399.
VIP Reserve Passes (includes VIP parking, viewing area, VIP afterparties): $599.
The first 700 Napa County locals to join the “Highway 29″ club will get $70 off, with
details to be announced Feb. 2 full details just announced: if you are a Napa County resident and pledge to walk, bike, skateboard, carpool or take public transportation to the festival, you will get a presale code for the $70 discount. The pledge also involves letting people from out of town crash at your house, and to “display kindness in the face of frustration and patience in dealing with the inevitable hiccups of a first-year festival.” (UPDATE: After just an hour of signups, all of those 700 locals-only presale codes are completely spoken for.)
In honor of the Superbowl, 49er fans can use the code “GOLDRUSH” to get $49 off.
As of yet,
no individual day tickets are announced, but based on what I know about festival ticket sales in general, I can predict that there will likely come a time when individual day tickets become available. UPDATE: Single-day tickets go on sale on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Individual day tickets are $129.
A full comedy lineup is expected to be announced in mid-February, and food, beer and wine will naturally be part of the festival as well.
The excellent lineup is a massive coup: Bottle Rock is being put on not by Live Nation, Another Planet or Goldenvoice but by two Napa locals, Gabe Meyers and Bob Vogt, who had a hand in the resurrection and reopening of the Uptown Theatre. Needless to say, it’s a huge deal for Napa.
More details here as they come in.
Bottle Rock Napa Lineup: Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Macklemore, Flaming Lips, Ben Harper, Shins, Bad Religion, Jane’s Addiction, Furthur, Many More (UPDATED)
The lineup for the totally crazy Bottle Rock Napa Valley music festival running May 8-12 has been announced, and boy, is it nuts. Can we just say it right now: Best North Bay Festival Lineup Ever?
The Black Keys
The Flaming Lips
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
Iron and Wine
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Michael Franti & Spearhead
By my count, that’s about seven bands that are huge headliners in their own right, plus a lot of festival heavy-hitters. Not to mention: there are over 40 bands scheduled to descend on the Napa Valley for the festival, with a complete lineup and full info promised for this Friday.
The festival runs May 8-12 primarily at the Napa Valley Expo, which will have four stages. Other shows are at various venues around town, including the Uptown Theatre. Food, wine, craft beer, comedy, and afterparties throughout downtown are all part of the deal.
I’ll say it again: This is nuts.
VIP and group tickets go on sale here on Feb. 3; public tickets go on sale on Feb. 10. We’ll update here as more info. comes in.
UPDATE, Jan. 30: According to the festival’s Facebook page, three-day passes are $299, four-day passes are $399 and VIP Reserve passes for $599. Locals get a discounted rate with three-day passes at $229, four-day passes at $329, and VIP for $529.)
UPDATE II, Jan. 31: The Black Crowes have this festival listed on their official website tour dates. Also, little birdies are chirping that Macklemore is playing a kickoff show for the festival , and judging by the festival’s first-ever tweet, that’s probably very likely. There’s also a “leaked” lineup going around that is almost certifiably fake.
UPDATE III, Feb. 1: Lots of news this morning.
Added to the festival: Jane’s Addiction, Kings of Leon, Furthur featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Primus, Zac Brown Band, Dwight Yoakam, and Cafe Tacuba.
Ticket prices are as listed above. As of yet, there are no single-day tickets announced. Napa Valley locals, artist fan club members, community partners and “Friends of the 49ers” will be able to buy 3- and 4-day passes starting Feb. 3. Passes go on sale to the general public on Feb. 10.
The Macklemore show is Wednesday, May 8, and is free for all three- and four-day passholders. Individual tickets will be sold to this show as well at $29, available Feb. 10.
Headliners by Day:
Wednesday, May 8: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Thursday, May 9: Furthur, the Black Crowes, Primus
Friday, May 10: Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, the Shins
Saturday, May 11: Jane’s Addiction, Bad Religion, Ben Harper, Edward Sharpe
Sunday, May 12: Zac Brown Band, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cake
The incredible thing is that this festival is not being put on by Live Nation, Goldenvoice, or even Another Planet. It’s being put on by two Napa locals, Gabe Meyers and Bob Vogt, who had a hand in the resurrection and reopening of the Uptown Theatre.
I’ll say it yet again: This is nuts.
Friday night at the Harmony Festival was headlined by perennial standby Michael Franti, who recently signed to Capitol Records after years on the independent-label grind. But Saturday and Sunday were topped by the Flaming Lips and Primus—two bands that got snatched up by Interscope and Warner Bros. in the great alternative rock signing frenzy of the early 1990s. While their back-to-back sets at the Harmony Festival were a nostalgia trip for many, and eye-opening for some, they also provided a case study in What Happens When the Weirdoes Get Industry Support.
In the Flaming Lips’ case, it’s resulted in some breathtaking albums—The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots—and one of the world’s must-see theatrical live shows. Part of the joy in seeing the Flaming Lips live the second, third or fourth time is watching the reactions of first-timers, particularly the ones on mind-altering substances, which at the Harmony Festival means many. So if you’ve seen the confetti blasts, the giant laser hands, the space ball and the mothership descent before, turn to your right and watch the slack jaws.
This was the case with me, although I can still say the ‘Lips were better than ever. Opening with a blast of hits, including “Do You Realize?!,” “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” they powered into stranger material from Embryonic and a recent split with Neon Indian. A cover of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” followed, the space ball came out, they closed with “Race for the Prize” and everyone left satiated.
There’s a bit of ego tripping in Wayne Coyne’s banter, urging the crowd to get more into their set and be more excited (he must’ve said “c’mon, motherfuckers, c’mon” a dozen times) and it’s irritating that their volunteer dance brigade’s options have gone from full-body bunny suit to ogle-inducing “Sexy Dorothy Costume” in six short years, but they’ve got their shit down, for sure. A key stat: before their set, the lawn was sparse, and I wondered where all the people were. By the end, the crowd couldn’t've been denser, showing that the Harmony bookers took an interesting chance on the band, which worked.
Primus is less of a gamble, since they’ve got deep roots in Sonoma County—something Les Claypool alluded to onstage, citing old stomping grounds like the Cotati Cabaret, the Phoenix Theater and the River Theatre. “You all look like fine people,” said Les Claypool at one point, “I wish I lived around here somewhere.”
Of course, Claypool does live around here—a fact reflected in new song “Hennepin Crawler,” about a contraption made for the Handcar Regatta, and with references to the Russian River and Bodega Bay in another new song, “The Last Salmon Man,” about the population reduction of chinook salmon. (Their new album Green Naugahyde comes out in September, and the rumors are true: It really does evoke the early Frizzle Fry era of Primus.) “Groundhog’s Day” opened the show, and “Harold of the Rocks” and “Tommy the Cat” closed it, with an obligatory “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” thrown in.
But the highlight, by far, was a version of “Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers” that epitomized Primus’ three-piece range, with Larry LaLonde and Jay Lane pounding and skronking around Claypool’s bass during an extended jam. I hadn’t seen Primus live in roughly 20 years since literally worshiping the band during those Phoenix Theater and River Theatre days Claypool had alluded to, but damn if they didn’t still have that same old magic.
And yes, it was the 1990s again, with crowd surfing and a real-live pit.
More Photos Below.
The Flaming Lips play this weekend at the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, and when I chatted with Wayne Coyne for the Bohemian, he professed that “It’s better to be honest and be true if you’re gonna try to make art and music your life.” Which is something that I could very easily imagine Zone Music’s Frank Hayhurst saying, too.
Has anyone seen the two in a room together? Just sayin’.
(Wayne Coyne photo by Pooneh Ghana, who takes incredibly awesome band Polaroids.)
Get out those giant inflatable space balls and nun puppets covered in blood—the Flaming Lips have been confirmed as headliners at this year’s Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa! Running June 10–12, 2011 in Santa Rosa, the festival lineup also includes Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, whose hit “Home” shows no sign of fading; Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, fresh from a rare small show at the Hopmonk Tavern earlier this week; Kirtan yoga darling Krishna Das; Maui’s Lost at Last and Americana heroes Railroad Earth. More artists are to be announced in the coming weeks, and “sneak peek” tickets are on sale now at www.harmonyfestival.com.
In more festival news, the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival has announced its headliners—who, as many are quick to point out, would never be filed in the “jazz” section of any record store or iTunes playlist. Still, a sold-out crowd is expected for Sheryl Crow (May 21), John Fogerty (May 20) and the Gipsy Kings (May 22), all under the big tent. Opening acts and side-stage artists, traditionally more representative of jazz, will be announced soon. As is the fest’s custom, tickets for Sonoma residents go on sale one day early, Feb. 14, while tourists have to wait until Feb. 15 at www.sonomajazz.org.
Ah, the things you don’t get from other festivals. Hearing people on the shuttle bus talk about the night before and how much they drank. About the game of Scrabble that lasted until 2:30am and the crackhead sleeping in the hall. About how they’d love to move but their rent is low. “I’ll only move if I can buy a house, or get married,” says a woman pushing 40, “and neither is going to happen very soon.” She’s good looking. More talking. About how nice the shuttles are. “Grizzly Bear’s pretty cool,” says someone, to his girlfriend. “They’re like a mix of… of Yo La Tengo, and the Walkmen, and the Flaming Lips.” Amazing how his frame of reference encompasses today’s lineup.
I have written about the Treasure Island Festival time and time and time and time and time and time again. By now, it is a good friend and a bottle of pills: comforting, scenic and dependable, with enough variety and excitement for me to keep singing its praises. Word has obviously caught on, because this year’s festival, with a somewhat weak lineup, was the best attended yet. Both days were sold out.
Contrary to what you might overhear on the shuttle to the island, Grizzly Bear doesn’t sound anything like Yo La Tengo, the Walkmen or the Flaming Lips. Their new album, Veckatimest—the first time I heard it, I couldn’t believe I was enjoying it. (I regularly root for the “rock” contingent of “indie rock,” not the increasingly visible four-part harmony infiltration of indie rock.) There’s a prodding, experimental aspect to their compositions that I can’t let go of. “Two Weeks” may have been the summer hit, but give me long, intricate songs like “Fine for Now,” whose lyrics are a bunch of vague bullshit but whose music is sheer beauty.
They opened with
the Talking Heads’ “Warning Sign” “Cheerleader,” and played a brief set heavy on Veckatimest material, replicating almost exactly the precise tone and instrumentation of the album. Singer Ed Droste attempted to have some personality between songs, and failed, but their songs gave off a polished classicism that hid their complexity. What the hell were they doing playing so early, at 4pm?
One more reason to like Grizzly Bear: their website—and Droste’s Twitter feed—mentions whenever possible the options for buying tickets to the band’s shows without a shitty service charge. Also, my friend Kerri points out that Veckatimest is an anagram for Meat Vest? Ick! Luckily, their heads didn’t explode in the middle of “Two Weeks.”
I spoke too soon when I said something about Bob Mould lulling nostalgia hounds to sleep. Assuming Mould would play songs from his recent solo albums, I headed to the bathrooms, only to be pulled back by “The Act We Act,” the first song from Sugar’s Copper Blue. In fact, Mould represented Copper Blue hardcore. “A Good Idea,” “Changes,” “Hoover Dam”—was this for real?
It was a genuine stroke of luck. Mould’s regular bassist couldn’t make the show, so at the last minute he called up David Barbe, the bassist for Sugar, and throughout the set many, many nights in 1994 came rushing back to me. Yes! It was nostalgia! But of the entirely unexpected variety. Oh, sure, Husker Du fans got “Makes No Sense at All,” “In a Free World,” “Something I Learned Today”—but who’d'a thunk Mould would rock the Sugar songs so hard? It was like Prince playing a show of all shit from Graffiti Bridge.
I’ve never gotten into their Eastern European brass tip, but Beirut makes me glad for one reason and one reason only—because of their unlikely success, the independent San Francisco distributor Revolver is able to take more chances getting good, otherwise unheard music into stores. The plight of an independent distributor is a lonely one, and Revolver over the years has seen a ton of exclusive deals with labels and artists who decide they can do better with R.E.D. or Caroline and jump ship, leaving their early supporter in the dirt. When I see “Exclusively Distributed by Revolver USA” on the back of a hugely selling album like Gulag Orkestar, I am heartened for the DiCristina Stair Builders.
The Walkmen have the East Coast written all over them; they fuckin’ rule. What was decided at their first band practice? “Look, you guys, we’re gonna get vintage instruments and play them like nobody else played them. You, Hamilton, you gotta good voice, you’re the singer. Okay? But we gotta look tough. Or bored. Somewhere between tough or bored. Then we gonna write the best songs you ever heard.”
Bows and Arrows is a bonafide gem, and at the Outside Lands festival last year, even newer songs like “The New Year” floored me. I hope that they don’t turn into the Guadalcanal Diary of their day, i.e. a band with a fresh semi-retroish take on current trends who fades into Rockin’ Road Trip obscurity. More songs like “Thinking of a Dream I Had” ought to do the trick.
I ran into Hamilton Leithauser afterward; he told me the horn players—who were tight as hell—learned their parts five minutes before going on stage. Funny thing, going on tour and having to hire pickup musicians in each town.
The greatest psychedelic guitar work recorded in 1997 (not related to Jason Pierce) belongs to Yo La Tengo and the outro to the song “We’re an American Band” from I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. I have listened to this particular guitar solo more times than I care to remember, and I still haven’t fully figured it out—meaning that I haven’t tried to PLAY the thing, merely to comprehend it. Is there a ghost of an angry debutante inside the guitar? Did they bring an octopus in the studio to flail upon the strings? Can you keep feedback alive on an iron lung?
During Yo La Tengo’s second song, Ira Kaplan re-creates that same mayhem five feet from my face and I still can’t make heads or tails of it. I do know that what he did to his guitar didn’t constitute the accepted definition of “playing.” He sometimes put his fingers on the strings, just like he sometimes let it swing away from his body entirely to let the angry debutante do her thing. Maximized control in chaos environments. Rhythm section calm and holding. Snapped back together like elastic. Amazing.
The Flaming Lips have put out a new album, Embryonic, that reminds me of the Nobel Peace Prize—it’s getting a lot of acclaim simply for not being At War With the Mystics. If it could be chopped down to an EP, it would be perfect, but better yet is that it has shaken up the band’s live show, which though visually incredible has stayed pretty routine for about five years. I’ve seen them three times, and I swore that if Wayne Coyne smashed blood on his head and made a puppet nun sing “Happy Birthday” into a fisheye-lens camera yet again, I would scream.
As soon as the Decemberists finished, Coyne spent a good deal of time onstage helping his roadies set up their ever-more elaborate set. Then the music began. After walking atop the crowd in a plastic space bubble, shooting confetti from blaster guns, blowing fog around the stage, flinging ribbons to and fro and leading his band in “Race for the Prize,” Coyne settled into a friendly rapport with the San Francisco crowd, talking about the band’s first show at the I-Beam and how San Francisco had always felt like a second home. “Thank you for being the home of the freaks,” he said.
The band played a standard mix of “hits,” with new tracks like “Convinced of the Hex” sounding the most invigorated, but it was an obscure song called “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” that reminded me most of the Flaming Lips’ magic. Musically settled squarely between soothing and weird, the song’s title alone could serve as the band’s mission statement, and it carried us across the Bay Bridge and back into the real world.