Memorial Weekend brought forth not only the unofficial start of summer but the 2023 edition of the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival in Napa Valley, California. The three-day festival was marked by outstanding weather over the course of the weekend that was highlighted by the outstanding performances by the big names, notably Lizzo and Keanu Reeves’ surprise performance with Dogstar. Performing with his band, Dogstar for the first time in twenty-three years on Saturday night, Reeves had many in the crowd singing along and dancing. Later that night, Lizzo brought down the house with a slew of hits that included “Juice”, “Good as Hell” and “About Damn Time” and a theme of positivity throughout her set. Alternative rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Smashing Pumpkins had all the nostalgia for a broad range of music fans young and old dancing and singing along to the classics like “Californication” and “Under The Bridge” by the Chili Peppers and “1979”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Tonight, Tonight” by the latter, who performed acoustically, making it that much more memorable.
But as much as the veteran heavyweights shined with their immense catalogs, the emerging artists were just as entertaining and brought the energy during the day. Standouts included Dayglow, whose infectious indie pop songs like “Can I Call You Tonight?” And “Medicine” had the crowd dancing as well as singing along to covers of “Funkytown” (Lipps Inc.) and Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (Tears for Fears). Paris Jackson, daughter of the legendary Michael Jackson, was impressive with her powerful vocals and stage presence. The young artist performed her own songs like “Something” and “Sirens”, which were catchy and showcased her talent but her set also included a surprise cover of “No Rain” (Blind Melon) that was engaging and upbeat as she danced around the stage. Nicky Youre had a huge crowd for his set as the viral artist whose song “Sunroof” captured the vibes of summer last year was energetic, smooth and incredibly engaging with the audience. The vocal prowess of Danielle Ponder was on display during her early afternoon set. Ponder is living her passions as a performing artist after having spent many years working as a lawyer in criminal justice reform and activism and her set showed it. Ponder showed range and strength in her voice during songs like “Some of Us Are Brave” and “Roll The Credits, as well as her unique covers of “Creep” (Radiohead) and “River Deep, Mountain High” (Elle Greenwich). A local performer making waves was Oke Junior, who lived in Napa for many years while honing his craft. His set was filled with energy that involved the crowd right from the start as many were seen waving their hands in unison and dancing.
The festival’s culinary offerings were a major highlight that featured the region’s world-class wineries and gourmet cuisine from some of the Napa Valley’s top chefs. Roy Choi was joined by Keanu Reeves and his band Dogstar for a cooking demonstration on the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage, as did many other of the weekend’s performers including Lil’Nas X and Warren G along with other celebrities who were in attendance like Tiffani Amber Theissen and Olympian Johnny Mosely. Popular dishes included the Ahi tuna poke nachos from Press, the chicken gyro from Tarla, the maitake salad with chickpeas and burnt ends from Stateline Road Smokehouse.
This year’s Bottlerock Napa Valley Music Festival was a loose and fun time that was filled with both nostalgia as well as glimpses of the future in today’s music. Especially for a Memorial Weekend that truly felt like society was “back to normal”, attendees were truly living in the moment as they danced to songs from their youth all the while appreciating and learning about the emerging acts that could potentially be future headliners. That combination made Bottlerock 2023 a truly memorable experience that many will continue to rave about.