“I had forgotten what it looked like”

The organizers of BottleRock Napa Valley had to face so many obstacles that it’s astonishing the festival could even take place in 2021.

A raging pandemic, the threat of wildfires and related air quality issues, ever-changing COVID-19 orders issued by several different governing bodies, multiple postponements / rescheduling, cancellation of acts headlights – and, really, the list goes on and on.

Still, there they were – tens of thousands of music fans walking through the doors on Friday (September 3), as BottleRock kicked off its three-day run through Sunday at the Napa Valley Expo in downtown Napa.

The smiles said it all, as people seemed so happy to finally be back and enjoying the music at BottleRock. And the performers also seemed excited to be making music again in front of a large crowd of festival goers.

“I will never take it for granted again to do this,” country-pop star Maren Morris said towards the end of her enjoyable set on day one.

Brandi Carlile had a similar reaction as she watched the legions of fans gathered in front of her.

“It’s huge,” the famous folk-rock singer-songwriter said. “I had forgotten what it looked like.”

Friday was an unforgettable day. It was a day to remember the power of live music and how it feels to be around thousands of people all cheering on the same band. It was a day to remember what it’s like to jump on a great new song and then sing along, like no one is watching, to an old favorite.

But it was also a day to make new memories, with a soundtrack that included hip-hop stars Polo G and G-Eazy, gospel / R & B legend Mavis Staples, the last minute headliners. Highwomen (more info in a minute) and so many other cool acts.

All in all, it was a big day for BottleRock Napa Valley as it reasserted itself on Friday – after missing out on 2020 due to the pandemic – among the biggest festivals across the country.

The sold-out event, which is expected to draw 40,000 people a day, continues through Sunday with performers including Megan Thee Stallion, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Village People, Donna Missal and Black Pumas.

Although more than 27 months have passed since the last BottleRock – in May 2019 – this festival was not that different from the ones that came before it. Of course, people had to deal with different things, such as being able to prove that they had been fully vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19 in order to enter the site. Yet once those fans walked in, it was pretty much business as usual – eating all this great food, drinking those famous Napa Valley wines, listening to a diverse range of world-class acts, and spending some time. unforgettable.

The music on day one was terrific, especially on the big JaM Cellars stage, which featured artists such as Staples, Morris, Carlile and the replacement stars, the Highwomen.

In fact, the Highwomen were the replacement for a replacement.

Stevie Nicks was originally supposed to shut down JaM Cellars on day one, but the double Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee was canceled in early August due to COVID-19 concerns.

Country music superstar Chris Stapleton, who was set to perform until he fell with an illness unrelated to COVID and announced via social media on Friday that he was canceling his appearance.

Losing a headliner so late in the game could have been a disaster, but organizers thought very quickly – and very intelligently – and pulled off an incredibly rare reservation from the Highwomen.

How incredibly rare? This was only the second time the country music supergroup has performed a full concert.

What helped make this booking possible was that two members of the supergroup – Morris and Carlile – were already performing at the festival. So a few quickly booked plane flights later, bringing Natalie Hemby and Britney Spencer to Northern California, and fans were able to take advantage of what was truly a historic occasion.

The band sounded great as they browsed through songs from their single album – an eponymous 2019 affair – although it’s a shame Amanda Shires couldn’t join in the fun. (According to the group, Shires is recovering from emergency surgery.)

Other highlights of the day include Polo G, the trendy young hip-hop artist who I predict will be sold out in major arenas and amphitheatres within two years, as well as big R & B / gospel Mavis. Staples, which is nothing less than a musical treasure. Many people also turned out to see all the fun unfold on the Williams Sonoma culinary scene, which included a cooking demonstration by Ayesha Curry and G-Eazy, among other attractions.

The festival is set to continue on Saturday with artists including Guns N ‘Roses, Miley Cyrus, Digable Planets, Molly Moore, Warren G and JJ Wilde.

For more information, visit bottlerocknapavalley.com.

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About Michael Terry

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