I am surrounded by people with purple teeth, stained from too much red wine. These people are twisted beyond belief, screaming obscenities about forgotten 90s bands, while wine sloshes around in glasses suspended by those stupid-looking lanyard wine glass holders. I want to say to them, “Literally, handle your shit. Like, physically hold your glass of wine. You’re a grown up.” It’s like a bad summer picnic for rich winos…
Or at least that’s how I imagined BottleRock to be as we drove up from San Francisco blaring the Gin Blossoms. It was my first time at this particular festival and like everything, I imagined the weirdest possible outcome. While I was dead wrong about the particulars, it was right about something: this festival was strange as shit. Here are a few things that made Bottle Rock, well, Bottle Rock.
1. Cargo shorts – There were A LOT of cargo shorts. Especially the first day. My friend Lauryn was right, the time machine had worked. But instead of a My So-Called Life fashion parade, it was more like all the style trends of the past 40 years muddled together with large dollop of not really trying. Cargo shorts are the vanguard of not really trying. While I appreciate their utilitarianism, how many things do you really need to hold? I know I sound like a San Francisco snob, but really…cargo shorts.
2. Middling bands – There were some really stellar, world-class acts at BottleRock. Outkast, The Cure, Weezer, TV on the Radio; these are the groups whose music helps not only define the moments of your lifetime but also whose existence has influenced the way music is created. That said, a lot of the bands who played over the weekend were probably as surprised as you were that they were booked. I wonder how many of them first said to their booking agent, “Are you fucking with me?” While groups like Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, The Spin Doctors, and Cracker all have one or two solid hits, festival-goers spent most of their sets fidgeting anxiously while muttering, “Dude, play the one song already.” We didn’t even get to stay long enough to find out if the Gin Blossoms played “Hey Jealousy” because well, The Cure was about to start. BottleRock was held where the Napa Town and Country Fair is held, which makes sense considering how many of the bands now play the fair circuit.
3. The crowd was really well-behaved – Honestly, what a nice group of 40,000 people. I remember saying at one point, “Nobody gets arrested at this festival.” Anyone who’s spent time in large groups of drunk people knows that feeling of menace being in the air. Like when you walk out of a sports game at the opponents home field after your team just won. It’s that feeling of, “things could get ugly real fast”. Well there was none of that at BottleRock. You could’ve headbutted somebody’s child and they would probably have apologized to you. Well done, Napa. You sure bring out nice folks. Case in point: At one point my lady friend Ashley lost her phone and some well-meaning person found it and brought it to a security guard. Ashley had it back in less than an hour.
The Cure. Photo by Lauryn McCarthy.
4. The crowd was also kinda weak – At two different times during their incredible set, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, the principle members of Outkast, asked the crowed “Are you still with us?” [Ed note: this is embarrassing.] Outkast didn’t even come out for an encore. Maybe it’s because after two days of watching bands like Third Eye Blind, where the festival goers only knew one out of every six songs, they just weren’t emotionally equipped to handle a set this good. At this point they so yearned for something familiar that anytime Outkast strayed from their megahits, the crowd lost interest. I’m sorry, Andre and Big Boi. I was there with you the whole time.
5. Matt and Kim make the world a better place – Seriously who knew that two people, a drum kit, and a synth could be so enthralling? Matt and Kim are the most fun band ever! I was never that into their recorded music, but after seeing them live, I want to start saving up now so I can afford to hire them to play my as-yet unborn child’s bar or bat mitzvah.
Matt and Kim
6. $20 glasses of wine – Yes, really. Glasses of wine were $20. Maybe that’s why everyone was so nice to each other, nobody could afford to get drunk.
7. No place to stay and terrible traffic – One of the things that makes Napa so nice to visit, besides the whole being buzzed on wine samples thing, is that it’s a quaint and lovely little town. The problem with that is that when you have 40,000 people come in for the weekend it makes it really had for people to find a place to stay. This makes people stay in the Bay Area and commute each night, which in turn potentially puts a lot more intoxicated people on the road. There isn’t even shuttle service offered from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley etc. Even though we stayed with friends for the weekend, everything was so impacted that it took an hour an a half to get an Uber. These are all things that the organizers should take into account for next year.
8. The strict 10pm curfew – Napa’s lovely quaintness also means that BottleRock has neighbors who hate everything about the festival. Somebody told me they saw a sign on a nearby house that basically said, “Hey Bottle Rock: Get the fuck out of here”. Thus there was a strict 10pm curfew that lead to both The Cure and Heart getting the plug pulled on them. I’m not saying anything instructive here about it, I’m just saying “bummer.”
If my snarkiness makes it seem like I hated the festival, I apologize. Overall BottleRock was a good time and has a lot of potential to get even better as the years progress. Until then, let’s all make an effort to rid the world of cargo shorts.
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