NAPA — Sunshine and cool breezes were the true star on Friday at BottleRock Napa Valley. It was possibly the first moderate date at the festival in its five-year run at the Napa Valley Expo, with previous fests reaching into the mid-90s.
The agreeable weather made it easier to hop around between BottleRock’s four music stages and the culinary stage. And good thing, too, because no one or two acts dominated the lineup. The day was best experienced a la carte
Headliner Maroon 5 drew the biggest crowd; thousands packed the JaM Cellars Stage to watch Adam Levine and his bandmates start their set with “Moves Like Jagger,” transition to “This Love” and “Harder to Breathe” off 2002 debut Songs About Jane, and then roll into deeper cuts. Levine had center stage the entire time, prancing around, swiveling his hips, and drawing whistles.
Across the festival grounds, G-Funk icon Warren G was alternatively spitting rhymes and smoking joints passed to him by fans. “Party We Will Throw Now!” and his mega-hit set-closer “Regulate” drew the largest cheers, but the rapper’s chill demeanor on cuts like “I Want It All” and his mid-song banter also hit home for the fans, many of whom were also lighting up. His throwback style differed from the day’s other big-name rapper-MC duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Macklemore saved his choice expletives for brief adrenaline rush with a take on YG and Nipsey Hussle’s “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).” The rest of his performance fell flat, and the rapper seemed like he was going through the motions.
Over at the sun-drenched Samsung Stage, Modest Mouse and Silversun Pickups were carrying the slack for the rock and roll portion of the day’s lineup. Both drew large energetic crowds. Silversun Pickups played a wide selection of their songbook before closing with their best-known song, “Lazy Eye.”
Earlier in the day, blues rocker Barns Courtney turned in an electrifying performance. Dressed in all black, with a mop of dark hair bouncing as he thrusted back and forth on stage, Barns solicited a large daytime crowd to sway as one as he pounded on his guitar for “Glitter and Gold.” By the end of his set, he was thoroughly lathered, prompting him to pour a bottle of water over his head.
Around the same time, Scottish quartet Frightened Rabbit was pounding through its own set. Singer-guitarist Scott Hutchison, armed with sardonic humor, addressed the state of the world outside of Napa, poked fun of his band, and delivered the sad lines with his powerful wail. Prior to playing an early cut, he asked the crowd for patience.
“This song is from our first album, which nobody buys, which is OK, because it’s a bit shit,” he said.
L.A. dance pop band Saint Motel captured the youth vote. Frontman A/J Jackson, dressed in a white suite, took turns playing a keyboard mounted to an old-school television prop and stepping into the crowd. The band began to peak with its newest song to get there video treatment, “For Elise,” a play on words to Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” The crowd went wild when Fitz and the Tantrums’ saxophonist James King joined Saint Motel on “Move,” the dancefloor jam off the band’s latest album, saintmotelevision.
Reggae singer-songwriter Hirie channelled early Gwen Stefani, blending her genre with pop, ska and R&B. Her six-member band showed some chops of its own, with synchronized dancing, and Hirie’s guitar player soloed behind his back. The singer balanced her sugary vocals with a strong stage presence, which involved some skank dancing. Oh, and she sang a bit of Matisyahu’s “King Without a Crown.” She was preceded on the Miner Family Winery Stage by the Bay Area’s bluesy psychedelic band Doobie Decimal System.
L.A. quartet Partybaby, which includes former musicians from Portugal. The Man and 30 Seconds to Mars, visibly had a blast at its short set, with curly haired Jamie Schefman and leather jacket-wearing Noah Gersh displaying macho cool. Partybaby reached Weezer-esque levels with “California,” covered R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World” and debuted a new mid tempo rocker called “Delirium.”
Friday got off to a strong start courtesy of San Francisco band Hibbity Dibbity, which played a mix of Southern funk, neo-country, honky tonk and psychedelic polka, all with a strong dash of killer slide guitar.