We’ve all been out of practice with navigating a massive music festival. Though you may have been lucky enough to enjoy live music at various points through the last tumultuous 18 months, a three-day festival in wine country is new again to all of us.
To help navigate the three jam-packed days of BottleRock Napa Valley, we’ve chosen artists from each day that are undoubtedly worth making your way over to hear—besides the headliners, of course. From emerging electro-pop to jam bands and rappers, these acts will make the return of festivals even more exciting.
Lawrence – Jam Cellars Stage – Friday – 2:15 p.m.
Siblings Clyde and Gracie Lawrence have been making music together since they were preteens. Influenced by legends like Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, the two have grown their household duo to incorporate a group of musical friends they’ve made through the years. Now in their 20s, Lawrence has become an octet whose music, like friends Lake Street Drive, sounds as modern as it does a throwback. Their sound can hardly be confined to a single genre, but it is undoubtedly fun and energizing.
MUNA – Verizon Stage – Friday – 2:30 p.m.
MUNA, an electro-pop trio built from a group of musically inclined college friends indicates the direction low-key pop is heading toward. Synthesizers and guitars mix on songs like “I Know a Place” or “Bodies,” a collaboration with The Knocks, to make for sunny, West Coast summer vibes. But these aren’t throwaway pop gems. MUNA’s songs are weighty. What more could you be looking for at a show in Napa?
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Truly Stage – Friday – 4:30 p.m.
With raw and authentic vocals and spastic energy similar to that of influences like James Brown, Black Joe Lewis and his band The Honeybears are the perfect fit for a summertime festival. Their bluesy, soulful sound is energizing.
Ripe – Plaza Stage – Saturday – 3:45 p.m.
Ripe is another jam-focused band with a genre that can’t really be pinned down and, honestly, shouldn’t be. Incorporating elements of funk, jazz and R&B, the Boston group is freewheeling and easy listening. With lyrics like “I hope this summertime flame will be the death of me,” from their debut EP, sung over an array of instruments, it’s clear they’re here to jam out and create a good show.
Meg Myers – Truly Stage – Saturday – 5 p.m.
Meg Myers‘ intense arrangements, sometimes dark lyrics and breathy vocals bleed influence from the likes of Alanis Morrissette or Sinéad O’Connor, artists whose emotions couldn’t be withheld if they tried. At times anthemic, her songs like “Tourniquet” or “I Really Want You to Hate Me” give off the sort of intense vibe of immense passion and musical drive. But we’ve heard her plenty and can vouch for her. Five stars.
Dominic Fike – Verizon Stage – Saturday – 5:30 p.m.
Fike’s debut single, “3 Nights,” blew up across Europe and Australia back in 2018, yet barely eked its way onto American charts. Yet less than three years later, he’s duetted with Justin Bieber and was picked by Paul McCartney to cover “The Kiss of Venus” for his remix album, McCartney III. Fike is able to move from simple poppy hooks to rapping effortlessly and will surely make his way up festival lineups in the coming months.
Chris Pierce – Verizon Stage – Sunday – 12 p.m.
The bluesy everyman flow of singer-songwriter Chris Pierce provides the sturdy foundation for his lyricism, which deftly addresses injustices obvious and not so obvious. You may have heard Pierce’s music used in TV show like “A Million Little Things and “This Is Us.” Its poignancy meets the moment. He’s also toured with the likes of B.B. King, Al Green, Sara Bareilles, Jill Scott, Buddy Guy, Keb’Mo’ and Aaron Neville. Maybe even more remarkably, he accomplished this with a disorder that caused him to lose all hearing in one ear and partial hearing loss in the other.
Jack Harlow – Verizon Stage – Sunday – 5:30 p.m.
After his breakthrough last year with single “What’s Poppin’” that peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, the 23-year-old Kentucky rapper has continued to make waves. Last month he and Lil Nas X hit No. 2 again with their collaboration “Industry Baby,” sending Twitter into a frenzy over its homoerotic, sexual nature and video. He’s got plenty of energy that he uses to effectively blend rap with elements of R&B and trap, and could easily become a household name in the near future.
Jon Batiste – Plaza Stage – Sunday – 5:45 p.m.
Active since the late 1990s, Jon Batiste has collaborated with everyone from Mavis Staples (also appearing at BottleRock this year) to Ed Sheeran. He’s also the bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Last year he worked to score Pixar’s jazz-themed film “Soul,” ultimately winning him an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his work. Most special of all, he had one of our favorite albums of 2020. Batiste’s piano playing skills cannot be overstated, and you’ve likely heard his music even if you don’t yet recognize the name.