Caliber Takes BottleRock 2018

Getting exclusive access to BottleRock -- one of the Bay Area’s hottest music festivals -- was something I never thought could happen, until my application for a press pass was accepted. In a matter of weeks, I had to figure out how to represent Caliber Magazine and take full advantage of the press pass benefits that came with free festival admission.

After surviving my first three-day music festival, I can confidently say each day was better than the last. BottleRock completely exceeded my expectations for a festival in Napa Valley. I talked my way into the photographer’s pit for the Chainsmokers’ headlining set, jammed out in the VIP section for The Killers (a childhood dream come true), and watched Halsey and Bruno Mars leave the audience shook after two back-to-back performances. I also did interviews with three new artists, and scored a media invitation to Hendricks’ Gin three-story bar. Though diving into BottleRock made me question everything (I thought) I knew about music festivals, it had me feeling ambitious and confident about pursuing a career in this world in my post grad life.

BottleRock Napa has been running since 2013, growing in popularity each year and drawing names like Maroon 5, Macklemore, and the Foo Fighters. This year, Muse, The Killers, Bruno Mars and many more headlined the festival. In addition to several musical stages, BottleRock partnered with Williams Sonoma to create a culinary stage, pairing established celebrity chefs with musicians, Olympic Gold medalists, and TV stars. Drawing over 120,000 festival goers this year, BottleRock is arguably equal parts food and wine as it is to music.

Pretty soon after my press pass was approved, I started getting a flood of emails in my inbox about artist performance times and requests to watch and cover their set.  I also got messages from publicists asking if I’d be interested in interviewing their clients -- the artists that were performing at the festival. During the festival, I was able to watch a musician perform a set, then, an hour later in the media room, have a chat with the artist about their musical career and snap a few portraits. I was lucky enough to have one interview each of the three days.

A huge portion of BottleRock is also about food and wine vendors -- because after all, the festival is in Napa, the heart of wine country. Several food vendors from all over the Bay Area surrounded the edges of the Culinary Garden, while wineries and breweries alike had their own tents for tastings or drink purchases. The selection of wines actually had its own lineup, independent from the music -- that’s just how many wineries came to be a part of BottleRock.

Now for the food: I was not surprised to see vendors representing the area’s finest chefs and restaurateurs. For example, Morimoto Napa, created by Masaharu Morimoto who competed on Iron Chef, had both a pop up vendor and a presentation on the culinary stage with Morimoto himself. There was also an appearance from La Toque, a French restaurant that consistently earns a Michelin star each year in Napa Valley. There were too many established and well known restaurant vendors to name them all, but needless to say I was never hungry.

Several famous chefs also performed on the Williams-Sonoma culinary stage, looking like something you would see on a cooking competition show. One of the culinary stage highlights was Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Top Chef Michael Voltaggio’s creation of a world-record-breaking cocktail: a 550-liter Paradise cocktail, inspired by Snoop Dogg’s 1994 hit “Gin & Juice.” Halsey also teamed up with Giada de Laurentiis to create a classic pasta dish and an Aperol Spritz. Food Network’s Duff Goldman and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White also paired together to get their bake on -- it was all endless entertainment.

Right next to the Williams Sonoma culinary stage was the Hendricks’ three-story bar that had to be seen to be believed. It was both a bar and a performance, where you’d find one person chopping cucumbers on the top level, another gentleman in a three-piece suit pouring a gin mixture down one funnel on the second level, and someone at the bottom pouring it into a cup, finished off with a dehydrated orange slice or bits of lemon zest. We met with one of the ‘gin ambassadors’ who definitely looked the part, and had the chance to try four of the cocktails they were offering. These craft (and bougie $16) cocktails had names like ‘Butterfly Effect’, ‘Sun God’, ‘Radler’, and ‘Genteel G&T’, each with a different color and decorative piece on top: think cucumber, dehydrated orange slice, lemon zests, juniper berries, pink peppercorns or mint. Believe it or not, this three-story bar travels around to different festivals and events and, as far as I know, is the only one of its kind.

        One part of the festival I regrettably did not check out was the spa tent, a place to stop on your way in between sets for a massage, IV hydration therapy, or a ‘shampoo and chardonnay’ in true Napa fashion. The art installations couldn’t be ignored either, with one gigantic “LOVE” sculpture by Laura Kimpton plus murals throughout the festival grounds. Everything about BottleRock was as high-end and perfect as you’d imagine for a festival in Napa, highly organized and aesthetically pleasing. Freshly watered grass, ample shade, and food and drink in every direction made for constant excitement. What’s better than watching live music with Michelin-starred food in one hand, and a glass of Napa Valley wine in the other?  If there is one quote to sum up the weekend, it’s from Sunday’s headliner Bruno Mars who teased: “BottleRock is a fancy Coachella.”

Kendra Shutts