How To Bottlerock Like a Local
Update for Bottlerock 2019:
This blog that I posted last year is still relevant, so I am reposting it below. This year’s Bottlerock lineup is pretty awesome in my opinion…maybe past years have been better (truly so subjective), but in some ways, I am glad to just focus on some up and coming unknown bands, and be a little less frantic trying to rush between stages so I don’t miss something. Although I am still having the quandary of trying to decide between Flogging Molly and Imagine Dragons, who are on at the same time. This Bottlerock will be different for me since I don’t know many of the bands, and I really look forward to discovering new music. This year, I might just relax a bit more on a blanket or lounge chair, drink more (last year’s frosé by JAM will be my first drink), eat more and most importantly, visit with friends more. I might even have time this year to try the spa services; get a massage or get my hair braided (that would look really funny!) This year, I won’t even bother trying to enter into the VIP JAM Pad lounge, because trying to get in feels worse than standing behind the velvet rope at a hot miami club with an “L” for Loser on your forehead! Instead, you will find me at Silent Disco - that’s always such a blast…I might just stay at the Silent Disco all weekend!
Follow me on IG (@napanista) as I discover and share all the delicious food, wine cocktails and cool stuff (freebies?) at Bottlerock 2019!
I am giddy with excitement as we get closer to Bottlerock 2018. My daily drive takes me past the Napa Valley Expo every morning and I see the daily changes and additions...signs, scaffolding, tents, and truckloads of fresh green turf! Just over a week to go before the throngs of Bottlerockers, tourists and locals alike, come together for amazing music, weather (hopefully), gourmet fast food, and THE BEST wine. This my husband and my favorite music festival and we are so happy it takes place in our own backyard! If you are on the fence about getting a ticket (now only available on the after market), trust me: it's SO WORTH IT!
VIP: Wanna party like a rockstar
This will be our 6th Bottlerock. We have gone every year, since the very first one, and we block out the weekend an entire year in advance, defending it from almost any other invitation. We go "all in". The first year, we did not do VIP, but every year since we have, and if you can save your Ben Franklins, it truly is the way to go and here's why:
First and foremost, nicer port-a-potties, with shorter lines more locations. (Remember, you will be drinking, eating, hydrating and its a long day.)
Your own designated bars and viewing platforms
The VIP Acoustic Tent: This was last year's incredible audition. 20 minute acoustic (or semi-acoustic) sets by some of the most amazing top tier bands. You can get up close enough to shake their hands, or you can lounge on one of the sofas scattered around. I guess theoretically, one could just stay in that tent, and not move for all 3 days and have an over the top semi-private concert!
VIP walkways and closer access to all the stages: almost every stage has a path that is for VIP only, that takes you right to the front of the stage, but not on the stage. (If you want that, go Platinum...but I like being in front and part of the audience!
VIP parking access for purchase. We find this a useful service. We have the option of driving, and then if necessary, leaving the car until the morning. Uber has caught on and there are plenty of drivers, but I worry about the scene at 10pm when everyone is trying to get one.
Food at Bottlerock
I tried to be good the first year...tried to suss out the healthy stuff (fruit salads, kale this and that) but when you are there, you'll see, that it's putting yourself through torture to deny yourself. I gave in, and now every year, I go there knowing that I will be a little (or a lot) naughty. I just try to pace myself. That's the strategy! Just know there will be a lot of pulled pork, brisket, home made potato chips, rolls of all kinds, and lots of variations on slaw. Every year the vendors change, so I like to walk the entire festival early on Friday (before the crowds) and observe....what looks good? If I see somebody eating something that looks amazing, I ask them about it! By day 2 there will be buzz about a certain vendor selling a certain specialty. Lines begin to form at that vendor and there is the risk they sell out (I think it was the Paella last year). I have been known to stand in those lines...I don't mind if I have a friend to chat with and we can trade out to fetch wine or cocktails!
The vendors are spread across the entire festival but grouped into food courts. Sometimes you have to hunt down the one that is getting all the buzz. Last year it was the crazy ice cream vendor, Humphrey Slocombe with wacky named ice creams that were incredible . I hope they are back! The VIP area has its own vendors, so if you hate venturing into crowds, you'll be just fine staying there...shorter lines too. (I know that Goose and Gander will be back in the VIP area, hopefully with their virgin Bourbon Buck that you can add your vodka to..simple hack, you’re welcome!)
Wine and Drinks
The vinters' white tents are placed encircling the entire festival...some of the booths are enormous and furnished to encourage lounging. Most just have a manned table and are simply selling and pouring. Thankfully the "powers that be" decided that GoVino glasses would be allowed (for an extra fee, so keep your glass). You don't have to drink your premium wine in a nasty Solo Cup! I like starting the day with some Schramsberg bubbles, then go to a crisp white, have a few interim cocktails and frosé (hope they have more of this, since the line was so long), and finish off with a nice Pinot or Cab. Each glass of wine is a treat- this is the good stuff, so I don't mind paying the high price tag. Realize that the vintners who take part in Bottlerock are NOT really making money off of us (same with the food vendors)...mostly they are pouring as a community service, and to get a little brand recognition.
There have been more cocktails added each year, but not enough in my opinion! Hendricks Gin and Reyka Vodka had their own outlets, and I would love to see more of these.
Jam/Butterhas been an interesting story to watch. They started relatively small, with a single tent and a lot of beach balls, but year after year they come in bigger, and Bigger and BIGGER ...and now they own the festival, literally. And that, most people agree, has been a good thing. Locals should own and control this festival! The Jam tent was a big of a clusterfest last year, mostly due to its location and also because it was seen as the cool place to be...the meet and greets were out of control -everyone wanted to be "in" the Jam tent. I hear that this year it will be in a different location, so less of a bottleneck and hopefully less of a mess. Kudos to John and Michelle Truchard for what they and their team have accomplished.
Hydration:You can purchase a cool Bottlerock branded Camelback water bottle to fill at various filling stations, or you can bring your own. Hydrate people!!!!
A qualified yes, kids are welcome and there is enough to keep them entertained, and big lawns are inviting for picnic blankets. If possible, bring them earlier in the day and then send them home to Grandma. The later it gets, the more crowded, and little kids might easily get lost. For the Middle School crowd, it's heaven. Buy them a GA pass and cut the cord! The festival is safe. If they have a buddy and a phone, I say, let them roam!
Attire! Festival Fashion and Selfies
This is the really fun part! You get to wear the cute Boho chic, hippie clothes that are so fun and trendy right now. Flower crowns? Yes! Fringe and feathers? Yes! Rainbows too! Napa at the end of May can be cool in the morning, warm and sunny during the day and cools down again in the evening. Daytime: floppy hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and flats or wedges (grass and sawdust everywhere!) Evening: Its dark and everyone has had enough to drink, so fashion takes a back seat. I bring a backpack with Uggs and a light down jacket for the evening, just in case- nothing worse than being cold.
Oh, is there music? Ha ha. Yes, the bands are incredible and there truly is something for everyone. Download the app, download the playlist on Spotify, and discover new bands-that's the way to do a festival. Click the star if you like that band and it automatically shows up on your personal schedule. They do a great job of scheduling and stages are close enough that you can catch the beginning of one act over at the Main Stage and dart over to see the end of another act at the Miner Stage!
My favorite last year was the Silent Disco - they attempted to set the world record for the largest silent disco. There were two competing live DJs and two separate channels. It was a trip!
Bottlerock finishes at 10pm sharp, to appease the neighbors. They even unplugged the Foo mid-song mid-song last year! That means there are still a few hours of fun left before all of Napa shuts tight like a ...oh never mind. Here are the options: there are the official Bottlerock sponsored "after parties" that you buy tickets for (hosted by Blue Note/Jam Ballroom) or bars and restaurants that stay open just for the hordes of Bottlerockers! New to the scene: The Archer Hotel Rooftop, Gran Electricaand Stone Brewery (open til Midnight) and the Grove at CIA Copia. Other venues that stay open late: Napkins (turns into a disco, but be warned... it is a certain crowd), Downtown Joe's (good 'ol American bar with live music and craft brews), and Cadet (a hipster wine bar).
Reserve the lockers NOW. There is a link to this in the Bottlerock app. They sell out fast and they are a nice amenity!
Take a selfie at the Love sign (also a good meeting spot!)
You don't need to make any plans to dine outside...its all inside!
Please do respect that this is a residential part of town, and its a privilege to have this in the heart of Napa. Maybe buy a bottle of water or two from the residents who are selling stuff on their front porch?
How about those wristbands? Put them on loosely so you can remove to shower (or do what you will).
Download the app...it has all the schedule and notifcations of cool stuff happening.
The Culinary Stage has not been my favorite but I know some people love it. It's just too crowded for my taste, and too much standing around watching other people have fun.
Remember your external battery for your phone!