NAPA — The fourth installment of the BottleRock Napa Valley festival brought high temperatures and memorable performances. Temperatures flirted with the 90-degree mark as 40,000 flocked to the Napa Valley Expo each day for the event. Let’s look at seven sets from the 2016 BottleRock that stood out above the rest.
While The Lumineers played sweet folk pop on the festival’s biggest stage, this Los Angeles guitar-and-drums duo delivered fuzzy, scuzzy garage rock on its smallest one. Singer-guitarist Lindsey Troy and drummer Julie Edwards teamed up to make a racket as the sun set on the final day of the 2016 installment, pleasing a throng of listeners at the Lagunitas Stage. Deap Vally tossed fireballs with a set that mixed groove with intensity.
Florence + The Machine
The defining musical moment of the 2016 installment came midway through Florence + The Machine’s headlining spot Saturday. Frontwoman Florence Welch, barefoot and clad in a see-through lime green dress, twirled and danced in silhouette at the conclusion of “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” She twisted her body left and right, moving like an elegant prizefighter. Her stage presence carried power and passion, her soaring vocals dominating the main stage while espousing love and togetherness in between songs. By the time “Dog Days Are Over” arrived, she had them eating out of her hand.
The BottleRock fans didn’t know what to make of this New York gypsy punk group at first, but warmed to them during the course of their 75-minute stand Sunday on the main stage. While some of it owed to tired feet as the three-day event steered toward the finish line, many of those content to relax on the ground in the sun were jumping, kicking and thrusting their fists in the air as Eugene Hütz and company effectively dared the crowd to keep sitting still. When “Start Wearing People” and “Pala Tute” came in the final 15 minutes, Gogol had won them over.
At a festival with so many younger musicians, blues master Buddy Guy showed swagger during his sunset stand Friday on the Miner Family Winery Stage. “I was born to play the fucking guitar,” he said, then showed how true it was, climbing scales and showing decades of experience. Guy mixed originals such as a moving “Skin Deep” with “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” but also drew upon his history with those he once called contemporaries, tearing into B.B. King’s “Sweet Sixteen” and a teasing tidbit of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” He also riffed on Jimi Hendrix’s’ “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile,” proving he was indeed born to rip that six string.
The Joy Formidable
As The Joy Formidable’s showstopping set closer “Whirring” started to escalate, frontwoman Ritzy Bryan started smashing drummer Matt Thomas’s cymbal until it fell off of the riser in her direction. The song halted, the gear was fixed and, as though it never happened, the Welsh rock group kicked back into action. As “Whirring” reached its boiling point, Bryan swung her head and her sunglasses went cockeyed. She ripped them off her face and threw them to the stage. Seconds later, she drummed into the drum kit and, for the pièce de résistance, swung her guitar by its body before hurling it on the stage. Their whole show wasn’t quite that intense, but the moment alone justifies putting them on this list.
K.Flay returned to Northern California with a bang, holding court on the Lagunitas Stage. The multi-genre musician leaned on newer offerings from her 2014 independent release Life As a Dog as well as newer material such as “It’s Strange” and her latest single, “FML.” Flay showed conviction, prowling the stage to deliver her lyrics and roping in her audience in the process.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
On the cusp of the release of The Getaway, the Chili Peppers’ 11th studio album, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers dazzled BottleRock with a reading of hits and a sprinkling of obscurities. The band reached back to 1989 — before many in the crowd were born — to excavate “Nobody Weird Like Me” from the Mother’s Milk album. They also used it as an opportunity to play the new album’s title track for the first time. But it was “Under the Bridge” which brought the biggest reaction, dotting the main stage field with the glow of smartphones as it started. The group fired off mini-jams and interludes between songs, making the experience feel like a distinct and satisfying close to the 2016 BottleRock.
Follow photographer Jon Ching at JonChingart.com.