LL Cool J performs Sunday at the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival in Napa.
NAPA A diverse cast spanning multiple nations and genres of music brought the second installment of the BottleRock Napa Valley festival to a close Sunday at the Napa Valley Exposition.
North Carolina country star Eric Church delivered just the right mix of country rock to end 30 hours of music throughout the weekend. Given his songs about chemical indulgence “I’m Gettin’ Stoned,” “Drink in My Hand” and “Jack Daniels” all came midway through his 90-minute headlining slot he fit right at home in the Napa valley.
“I’ve played a lot of places that were pretty tough, pretty shaky,” Church told the crowd. “Napa valley ain’t one of ‘em.”
Church had the unenviable position of following a diabolical set from LL Cool J and DJ Z-Trip which was one of the weekend’s highlights. LL (right) not only had a pantheon of hits for the crowd, but delivered them with swagger and passion, using every inch of the stage available to him. After a 10-minute warm up set from Z-Trip, LL emerged from within the stage and launched into his 1990 smash “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Later came such hip-hop classics as “I Need Love,” “Doin’ It,” “Rock the Bells” and, appropriately, “Goin’ Back to Cali.”
LL and Z-Trip, too, in the fashion of the day, mixed and matched styles and tastes, singing the late Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” as well as Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky,” but also threw down rhymes to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” to help the crowd prepare for Church.
Closing the Miner Family Winery Stage was Deerhunter, Atlanta’s fuzzy, buzzy noise rockers, another of the day’s standouts. The band’s opening effort approached the 20-minute mark, escalating its neo-psychedelia into a higher dimension. Though playing to a small crowd, the band was an excellent alternative to the main stage offering of Church. “Desire Lines” and “Helicopter” came together later in the set, according to a fellow critic.
Canadian pop rockers Barenaked Ladies delivered on the day’s best-attended sets, punctuated near its end by a guest appearance from Blues Traveler frontman John Popper. The harmonica-playing singer took departed BNL co-lead singer Steven Page’s role on “If I Had $1000000.”
Though the band loses some of its panache without the goofy interplay between Page and singer Ed Robertson, the latter still makes for an engaging stage presence thanks to his humorous freestyle raps. One rap Sunday was about eating lunch with a woman at BottleRock who bit into a piece of fried chicken and chomped the paper it was served in along with it.
Popper, whose band performed Saturday, also appeared to provide punch to “About a Train” and “Two Princes” during an hourlong main stage set from New Jersey rockers Spin Doctors (left). The band cribbed from all eras of its career, including last year’s If the River Was Whiskey. The band was bluesier than its one massive hit might lead concertgoers to suspect, with a number of Whiskey efforts, including “Some Other Man Instead,” showing the band has depth. It has not forgotten its past, however. “Remember the nerd with the hat? That dude was me,” joked singer Chris Barron.
Denver piano rockers The Fray closed down the midsize Sprint Stage. Singer Isaac Slade recalled his days working in a coffee shop when he would schedule open mikes and be the only performer, but said despite the group’s rise, he could “still make a damned good cappuccino.” Near the conclusion of the set came the band’s breakthrough 2006 hit “Over My Head (Cable Car),” with Slade strutting atop the speaker rack in front of the stage to entice the crowd.
The early end of the day on the main stage bowed to San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees and The Stone Foxes. Each delivered one of the day’s best sets, with Stone Foxes playing fiery and impassioned despite their whimsical banter. Thee Oh Sees took extended forays into heavy psychedelic rock, including the barn burning “Toe Cuttter / Thumb Buster” from last year’s Floating Coffin LP.
Former Ambrosia frontman and Napa Valley resident David Pack played an early afternoon set on the Sprint Stage. With many of the festival’s performers catering to the 40-and-under set, Pack reminded BottleRockers of his pedigree, which included writing Jack Wagner’s 1985 hit “All I Need.” Pack moved from electric guitar to acoustic to keyboards and spanned his career, playing “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” from 1975’s Ambrosia debut to this year’s Napa Crossroads project.
Greece-based chillwave artists Keep Shelly in Athens (right) unveiled new vocalist Myrtha in the artist's first U.S. appearance since Sarah P.'s January departure. Keep Shelly blanketed the Sprint Stage crowd with warm, woolly basslines and Myrtha’s singing, which quieted to a dangerous whisper for “Struggle With Yourself.”
Bay Area alternative rockers Camper Van Beethoven played a strident, hourlong set on the Sprint Stage that covered Black Flag as well as The Clash. The band uncorked new material from an LP dropping Tuesday and closed with its signature cut, “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”
Washingtonian singer Noah Gundersen opened the day on the Sprint Stage with low-key singer/songwriter musings from February’s debut LP, Ledges. Along with the title track, Gundersen played “Cigarettes,” which focused on substance abuse.
Napa Valley’s The Silverado Pickups mixed covers and originals during its stint on the Miner stage, opening with a spirited take on The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” The band also uncorked material from a forthcoming debut LP.
A repeat performer from last year, Ray Bertolino and the Forget Me Nots started the day on the Miner stage. For one song, Bertolino hopped the rail to sit, mingle and walk among audience members (left). Bertolino said the gig was the group’s first since beginning work on its forthcoming Butterfly Town album.
Barenaked Ladies setlist
Limits / Never Is Enough / Pinch Me / “Start Making Out” freestyle / The Old Apartment / Gonna Walk / Keepin’ it Real / Blame it on Me / “Real Paper Rap” freestyle / Brian Wilson / Did I Say That Out Loud? / Easy / Odds Are / The History of Everything (The Big Bang Theory Theme) / One Week / If I Had $1000000
Spin Doctors setlist
What Time Is It? / Traction Blues / Off My Line / Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong / Freeway of the Plains / If the River Was Whiskey / Some Other Man Instead / Pocket Full of Kryptonite / About a Train / Two Princes
Edited 6.2.14 7:35 a.m.