NAPA — In the end, the only thing that could stop the Foo Fighters at BottleRock Napa was a strict 10 p.m. curfew. The rock band that headlined the final night of the fifth annual festival was about a minute from finishing “Everlong,” from 1997’s The Colour and the Shape, when the audio was cut, which the band was clearly not happy about.
Dave Grohl and co. had a two-hour time slot and, realizing the urgency to get through a catalog full of hits, dove right in with “Times Like These,” “All My Life,” “The Pretender,” “My Hero,” “These Days,” “Money Wrench” and “Best of You.” The songs spanned the Foo Fighters’ storied alt-rock career. Along the way, the band noodled through brief covers of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny.” Grohl even sang “Happy Birthday” to his wife. Throughout the show, he also bantered with the crowd and his bandmates, sometimes a bit aimlessly, which was likely the reason the band never got around to playing new song, “The Sky Is a Neighborhood.” Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins debuted the song at the Acoustic-4-A-Cure benefit show at the Fillmore earlier this month.
At one point, the singer-guitarist and former drummer of Nirvana asked the crowd to scream if they had never been to a Foo Fighters show in the band’s 22-year-run, which elicited a louder response than those who voiced they did.
“Couldn’t get a sitter?” he joked. It seems the fans are aging with the band.
The Foo Fighters’ set was one of numerous strong performances on the last day of BottleRock. Also of note:
Charles Bradley — The Motown soul crooner recently beat stomach cancer, and his BottleRock gig was one of his first times on stage since. An emotional Bradley teared up as he said the victory was for his fans. Then he shook, evocatively slithered his hands down his body, spun in circles with sensual joy and even danced a bit of the robot. Bradley wore a rhinestone encrusted shirt and pants and at times a cape, like a superhero returning.
SWMRS — The Oakland pop punk quartet of Cole and Max Becker, Joey Armstrong and Seb Mueller put on the day’s most emotionally raw set. Singer-guitarist Cole Becker, wearing a women’s sundress, played the role of true rockstar, commanding a packed, moshing audience to dance, sing and jump. His brother played a more restrained foil, focusing instead on his guitar chops. Bassist Mueller looked the part of Green Day’s Mike Dirnt, with a mop of blond hair and a red and black checkered suit. During “Uncool,” Cole Becker demanded his fans not buy into the media definition of how the world works. On one of the band’s newest tracks, “Miley,” about pop singer Miley Cyrus, he attested he wouldn’t judge anyone who hates her, nor would he judge anyone who loves her. Then he presented both sides of the argument.
Live — The ’80s and ’90s Pennsylvania alt-rock band reunited with singer Ed Kowalczyk on New Year’s Eve, and their slot at BottleRock was Northern California’s first shot to see the original lineup performing classic songs like “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes,” making the set a must for anyone who came of age in the ’90s. Luckily, the vast majority of the set came from 1994’s Throwing Copper. The band, which had an ugly separation from Kowalczyk, seemed to be genuinely happy on stage, also covering Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” and performing Audioslave’s “I Am the Highway,” in honor of Chris Cornell.
The Helmets — When the young thrash metal and hard rock band played BottleRock in 2016, the pre-teenagers surprised many attendees with their developed musicianship. Fast-forward a year, and thanks to Korn taking 12-year-old Tye Trujillo on tour, everyone knew he was the son of Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. This led to a much larger crowd for The Helmets’ noontime slot. And those people still left impressed. Not only is Trujillo reminiscent of his pop, but the other members, singer-guitarist Bryan Ferretti, guitarist Bastian Evans and drummer Kai Neukermans, are themselves advanced and developing performers. They headbanged and romped for nearly an hour, playing both original tracks as well as covers, the best of which was, for the second year in a row, Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise.”
St. Lucia — The New York synth pop band packed its stage to the gills, and then frontman Jean-Philip Grobler dived in for a stroll, singing and taking pictures with fans, shaking hands and sweaty hugs. He called it fan outreach. The band performed songs off 2013’s When The Night and last year’s Matter, and it was a newer song, “Physical,” that hammered home the set’s peak, sending hundreds of swing in the air.
Con Brio — The San Francisco soul outfit played just before Bradley and proved an outstanding pairing. Ziek McCarter was the ringleader, working his bandmates and himself into a big, sweaty party. The band closed its set with a 12-minute jam that included snippets of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I can Fly” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” The song kept going and going, and the audience didn’t want it to end.
Pacific Radio — What this Los Angeles quartet accomplished on stage is a mystery. The band played a bunch of should-be hit songs in the style of ’70s hair rock while dressed like characters from a Chris Farley movie, down by the river. Bassist Joe Stiteler was dressed in a denim vest and denim cutoff shorts. Vocalist Joe Robinson sported women’s tights emblazoned with a starlit galaxy and a CHiPs mustache. The tights allowed him to kick high in the air. “Did I mention were gonna be up here having a party?” he asked at one point. “You should join us.” The band concluded a perfect set with “Katie,” a worthy unrequited love followup to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.”
Little Hurricane — The San Diego garage rock duo with a Mississippi blues edge got the final day of BottleRock started right with several tracks off Same Sun Same Moon, the newest album, released in April. Raspy-voiced Anthony “Tone” Catalano sang with conviction while drummer Celeste “CC” Spina kept the pace moving forward. The duo also covered Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” but made it their own.