Rain or shine, BottleRock Napa Valley returned to California’s wine country this Memorial Day weekend for three days of uninhibited indulgence. With Imagine Dragons, Flogging Molly, Neil Young with Promise of the Real, Pharrell Williams and Santana anchoring each day of the festival, the sold-out spectacle of music and arts celebrated its seventh year as the “first taste of summer.”
Without a doubt, the festival’s unparalleled culinary stage continues to create some of the weekend’s biggest moments, including Guinness World Record attempts and unforeseen pairings of celebrity chefs, artists and personalities. In addition, BottleRock’s welcoming wine garden, silent discos, on-site spa offerings and local culinary options served more than the average fan could indulge in just one weekend.
Across five main stages, two additional side stages and a surprise speakeasy dance party, this year’s musical lineup seemed to bring one of the festival’s more estranged groupings of artists, such as AJR and Sylvan Esso or Chevy Metal and Cypress Hill. Considering the festival failed to sell out on the first day of sales, as it had done in the previous two years, there was a clear drawback for fans this year.
Regardless, the level of excitement did not diminish as crowds made their way from stage to stage reeling in the unique experiences presented at BottleRock. Nowhere else could one witness two of the world’s greatest sumo wrestlers assist chef Masaharu Morimoto set a Guinness World Record, chef Aaron Sanchez join colorful forces with Juanes and Amirah Kassem, or chef Matty Matheson squawk alongside Big Boi from Outkast in an unforgettable showing that could easily have its own tour.
While the rock genre has continuously seen a decline in representation on the Billboard charts, for what some consider a lack of ingenuity, BottleRock has worked out a music lineup that represents the many branches of the genre. From its lesser-known artists, such as local songstress Shannon Shaw, Turkuaz or Royal Jelly Jive, to its more promising acts, such as The Soul Rebels, Marian Hill and Tash Sultana, the rocking spirit of the festival has grown a bit more inclusive.
On Friday night, Imagine Dragons exemplified what the festival could become as lead singer Dan Reynolds shed his Interscope Records jacket to reveal a Tegan and Sara Foundation t-shirt during the 2012 hit “It’s Time.” In paying homage to rock and roll legends The Police, the group performed a surprising rendition of “Every Breath You Take,” which gracefully complimented their full set where Reynolds would regularly address the youth with words of reason and inclusiveness.
Similarly, Pharrell Williams would take his time on Saturday to praise the women in the crowd, which he effortlessly accomplished between 2002’s “Beautiful” and 2008’s “Everyone Nose.” With a stage full of choreographed dancers, each song of the night came with a special performance designed to celebrate all types of women.
While Sunday undoubtedly had the most stacked lineup of the weekend, it also had some of the most conflicting set times for those wanted to see the best acts. For some, Tash Sultana‘s one-woman show could not be missed, while others would likely never get another chance to witness Jeff Goldblum and Mildred Snitzer Orchestra‘s soothing jazz concert alongside Goldblum’s unequivocal banter with the crowd.
In the end, the biggest decision fans had to make was: Mumford & Sons or Santana? Without second guessing, we chose to witness the legendary guitarist and his longtime band conclude their ‘Global Consciousness Tour’ with an exclamation point that showed signs of exhaustion, but enough vigor to send us off with another legendary performance at BottleRock.
BottleRock Napa Valley 2020 is set to take place May 22-24, 2020.
For more information on BottleRock and all of its artists and vendors, visit BottleRockNapaValley.com.
Keep scrolling for a selection of photos from some of the weekend’s most memorable moments we got to experience.
Photos by Cesar Alexander.