NAPA — The fourth installment of the BottleRock Napa Valley music, drink and food festival is perhaps its most cohesive, with a strong lineup from the very top with Florence and the Machine, Stevie Wonder and Red Hot Chili Peppers, all the way down to the Napa Youth Orchestra and tween hard rockers The Helmets.
We’re reporting right from the festival and catching up with Oakland soul singer-songwriter Fantastic Negrito, Utah rockers The Moth & The Flame, and Los Angeles roots and Americana quintet Rose’s Pawn Shop.
Long before he took the name Fantastic Negrito, Xavier Dphrepaulezz made music. But while many know how the former Oakland street busker broke through by winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest, beating out 7,000 others, in 2015, most don’t know he had a recording deal when he was much younger. Dphrepaulezz says he was not mature enough to be successful with what he was given. In the years since, he nearly died from an auto wreck in Los Angeles, tried his hand in the marijuana business and became a proponent of socioeconomic change in his hometown. Friday, Fantastic Negrito will play a free hometown show during Oakland’s First Fridays celebration in honor of the release of his album, The Last Days of Oakland.
You have more or less stepped in to a spokesman role for the people of Oakland. It seems like you kind of relish it. Are you trying to accomplish anything socioeconomically or are you just doing it because that’s who you are and you want to be yourself?
I’m honored and happy to be a part of that. I think there’s both. I really believe in the power of collectives, and I hope that people will really sincerely, even from a financial standpoint, think more on the idea of collective rather than this idea of personal wealth, which I think is a road to nowhere. If you’re not in business with your friends, guess what? You’re in business with the bank. We do have a choice. People really have power, and if you’re from the Bay Area, the home of progressive politics, you should take heed to that.
Have you ever and/or have you considered holding public office?
Not at all, because my public office is with the people who put me here. I always say the people are my record company. I got to answer to the people, so I don’t want to be bought by some corporation who can tell you what to do. I don’t want to do the bidding of a corporation. “Twenty years later, he’s the President! Lying motherfucker. [Laughing].” I hope that I will stay true to that. I think I will, and you call me on my shit personally if I ever do run for office and take money from a bunch of criminals. It’s on tape, baby. You guys come and knock on my door and just point the finger at me, and say “motherfucker.” Say it just like that.
Is Fantastic Negrito one of your personalities or is that character you play? Is there a separation?
I think Fantastic Negrito is just an incarnation. I’ve had many artistic incarnations and this is one that I’m enjoying heavily. I just like to enjoy things right now. This is happening now, and it’s an amazing ride. I like focusing on that, what’s happening right now, because I can control that. The other stuff, I can’t control.
The Moth & The Flame
In May 2015, shortly after Provo, Utah quartet The Moth & The Flame released an inspiring video featuring a 61-year-old skateboarder for single “Young & Unafraid,” off their 2016 album of the same name, a website posted an unauthorized copy with the band’s name and information removed. The video went on to collect eight million hits. The problem was the band’s version attracted barely any attention, and no one knew the artist from the unauthorized copy. Luckily, the video was moving enough to get people to start asking questions, the band said at BottleRock.
I want to know what the resolution was for the “Young & Unafraid” video that was posted without proper attribution last year.
Mark Garbett (keys): We’d have to do a multi-part series to really get into it. What ended up happening was they got really scared from all the people posting (accusatory comments), and they took it down. We just wanted them to credit us correctly. They said they were sorry.
If they were smart, they would have realized all they had to do was add your name back.
Brandon Robbins (vocals, guitar): That’s all we wanted. At the end of the day, we missed 8 million people not really seeing us … There were so many people asking who the band was.
Garbett: At the end of the day, I think it was great for all of us. There was good exposure for the video. We just wanted to credit the band and Neal (Unger). That was the frustrating part. It was fun drama, but I still get mad about it.
Rose’s Pawn Shop
Americana and roots revivalists Rose’s Pawn Shop were one of the earlier bands to perform at BottleRock on Saturday, but because the stage on which they played was in one of the breeziest parts of the Napa Valley Expo, hundreds turned out to catch their set to avoid the scorching, melting heat on the hottest day of the weekend. We spoke to frontman Paul Givant about living in both the Bay Area and in Los Angeles.
What is it like being an Americana band based in Los Angeles? A couple years ago you mentioned something along the lines of having lots of fans spread through the United States, but none in your own town.
That’s right. We have a fan base in Los Angeles but there’s other places where we have bigger fan bases. I think that’s just the nature of LA, in some ways. There’s so many bands there, it’s hard to get a lot of recognition unless you’re a darling of one of the radio stations. We never have been. There’s a lot of Americana, a lot of folk rock bands in LA. that are on the same page as us, and a lot of their fan base is outside of LA. You leave LA. to go play to your people. LA.’s kind of a strange town in that way.
Your band has played Hardly Strictly Bluegrass before. Do you have any favorite Bay Area memories? It doesn’t have to be performance-wise or musical-related.
I lived in the Bay Area for three years, myself. I went to San Francisco State. I was there in the late ‘90s, the early 2000s. I have a lot of memories of the Bay Area. Very fun ones, generally. As a band, yeah, Hardly Strictly was one of the highlights of our Bay Area performances, and our career. That’s one of our big festivals we always wanted to play, and it was really special to us to get to play that.
Where were you from before you went to SF State?
I grew up in the Los Angeles area. I’m the only guy in the band who’s actually from LA. Everybody’s from kind of all over the country and we all met in LA, but I actually did grow up in the San Fernando Valley. I’m a Valley boy.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.