BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The fifth annual BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival concluded with a bang Sunday night as the Foo Fighters brought the Memorial Day weekend event to a boisterous close with over 120,000 fans attending the three day event. With temperatures consistently milder than during last years festival, the diverse mix of music, wine and culinary delicacies seemingly had something to offer for everyone.
Playing their first US Festival date in nearly two years following the release of “Sonic Highways” in 2014, the Foo’s played a hits packed set opening with “All My Life” and “Times Like These” before settling into a career spanning set that pulled songs from nine different albums. “The Pretender” and “Big Me” got the crowd further fired up before drummer Taylor Hawkins briefly took over lead vocals for a great cover of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Cold Day in the Sun.”
Long one of the most energetic performers in rock, it was often a challenge to look lead singer Dave Grohl in the eyes as his long black hair constantly obstructed his face due to the frenetic level of his movements around the large stage. The ethereal “Congregation” marked the half way part of the set, with “Walk” and “These Days” to follow. From that point on it was a straight on assault of nothing but the bands best known songs. The mid-tempo “Skin and Bones” was followed by the maniacally upbeat “Monkey Wrench” before Grohl and company took it down a notch with “Best of You.”
Having already announced to the crowd that they’ve always preferred to play straight through, as opposed to going thru the formality of leaving the stage and then returning for an encore, Grohl next induced the crowd to join a sing a long rendition of “Happy Birthday” in honor of his wife.
With the crowd already aware of the unfortunate but inevitable Napa festival curfew, the Foo’s tried to squeeze in their cut “Everlong” from 1997’s “ The Colour And The Shape,” but the plug was literally pulled part way into the song. Not to be silenced, the band soldiered on and finished the track without their amps working, leading to a rather surreal duet with the audience to finish the song and close the Festival.
After teasing about spending time in the studio working on new material on a couple of occasions, we can only hope this world class band will indeed drop some new material in the coming months.
Saturday’s headliner, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, are no strangers to the Bay Area. Touring as part of their 40th Anniversary celebration, the always tight band took the crowd on a trip down memory lane as it played a set full of hits chronicling their four decades together.
Without a new album to promote, Petty was free to dig deep into his catalog. Opening with the upbeat but relatively obscure “Rockin’ Around (With You)” from 1976’s self-titled album, the band quickly launched into more familiar territory with “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels” as many joined to sing along.
It would quickly get even better as “You Got Lucky,” a spirited “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin” followed. Always personable and chatty with his crowds, Petty soon launched into “Don’t Come Around Here No More’” one of the most heavily played staples of the MTV era.
Blasting past the 90 minute mark of the show, Petty, joined by longtime Heartbreakers sidekicks Mike Campbell on guitar and keyboardist Belmont Tench as part of his five man backing band, accelerated down the stretch. A raucous “Yer So Bad” set the stage, but the best was still yet to come.
go away quietly, the Gainesville native blazed thru “Refugee” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream” before leaving the stage briefly. Returning to a thunderous ovation, Petty and Company began their encore with “You Wreck Me” before wrapping up with an uplifting version of their classic “American Girl.”
Just another splendid weekend for all those involved. With crowds approaching 40,000 people per day, there were hardly any signs of altercations outside of a few brief instances where immaturity or inability to handle one’s alcohol consumption got in the way. The overwhelming sense of a positive atmosphere in the air throughout the weekend remained intact.
Once again, BottleRock pulled off one of the finest festival line-ups of the year in just it’s fifth year of operation. 2018’s BottleRock Festival is already set to take place May 25-27, 2017 on the same Memorial Day holiday weekend.