BottleRock Napa Valley 2022 Highlights & Photos: Metallica, Greta Van Fleet, The Black Crowes, The Suffers & More

A jubilant sold-out crowd returned to BottleRock Napa Valley over Memorial Day weekend 2022, having a raucous celebration of that music festival’s return to normal. Just in time to roll into the summer festival season, the ninth-annual gathering continued BottleRock’s unique Northern California style of festing that includes sunny skies and topnotch musical performances paired with world-class wines and gourmet food.

Canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and delayed in 2021 to Labor Day weekend, BottleRock happened this year from May 27-30 in an idyllic setting in the city of Napa, California, and sold out all three days, with about 120,000 making their way to America’s premier wine valley for the experience. All those festers seemed ready to roll, shrugging off the steep prices for tickets as well as for the food, booze, and branded merchandise (which sold out long before the fest was over). The extravagant feeling was everywhere, right down to an actual spa with treatments galore, a big culinary food demonstration stage, and the DJ-fueled “The Club” luring partiers away from the four live-music stages spread across the tree-lined setting.

Luke Combs

The diverse musical guests spanned all popular genres, with rock, pop, hip hop, reggae, country, soul, and bluegrass all represented. As with many festivals, there were some tough choices to make. Popular sets like Mount Westmore (featuring Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, E40 and Too Short) and Luke Combs competed in similar time slots with P!nk and Pitbull, and with the big crowds at every stage it was tough to see everything. Music legends competed with up-and-coming artists, which means we missed some of those popular acts (sorry, Pitbull!), but still saw several great performances. Here are our favorites of the weekend:

There is no denying that Greta Van Fleet is derivative (of Queen and Led Zeppelin, mostly) and overly outrageous, but the three Kiszka brothers along with drummer Danny Wagner are exceptional at what they do. The classic power trio backing Josh Kiszka’s outlandish vocals nearly blew up the BottleRock main stage PA system on Friday afternoon. Josh let it all hang out with theatrical gyrations and sustained vocal wails, while his brother Jake used several Jimmy Page-inspired guitar slinger tricks through their set. We especially liked the totally psychedelic “The Weight of Dreams” and bluesy “That’s Alright Mama.” With the volume set on 10, it seemed very appropriate for them to get the crowd fired up for the next act.

Jake Kiszka

Not many bands would want to follow Greta Van Fleet, but Metallica turned the volume up even higher to 11 and owned the stage from the opening notes of their heavy-metal set. Their loud and commanding show was led by James Hetfield’s booming vocals and powerful guitar playing. Kirk Hammett blasted intense guitar solos as he alternated with Hetfield. Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich’s thunderous rhythms kept the large stage area thumping and the happy crowd hollering.

Kirk Hammett

Hetfield yelled to the crowd, “We’ve been out here for 41 years and you still want to hear it. We’re so grateful!” The band played many songs from their deep catalog including “The Memory Remains,” “Where I May Roam,” “One” and “Seek & Destroy.” They also did a spot-on cover of “Whiskey In a Jar,” the traditional song made popular by Thin Lizzy. They closed out the monster set with crowd favorites “Battery,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.”

The Suffers, a throwback R&B, soul, and rock band delivered two outstanding performances on Saturday. First, they commanded the main stage, and later they did an intimate mini-set on the much smaller JamPad stage. Kam Franklin’s vocals dominated their sound as she belted out very soulful tunes with her powerful, mezzo-soprano voice and was supported by a strong horn and percussion section.

The Suffers

The Black Crowes put on a rowdy, energetic show later that day. Chris Robinson belted out their hits like “Twice as Shy,” “She Talks To Angels” and “Hard to Handle.” While Rich Robinson with Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke helping out, took turns blasting blues-infused guitar solos; Chris twirled around the stage, spinning his microphone stand. The band dropped a resounding cover of The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (off their new covers EP 1972) before closing with “Jealous Again” and “Remedy.”

Chris Robinson

Moonalice has expanded from a Grateful Dead-inspired rock band into a retro psychedelic soul ensemble. Their show on Saturday night featured lead vocals from Lester Chambers, the 82-year-old legend who founded the Chambers Brothers. His son Dylan also delivered soulful vocals, while Erika, Rachel and Chloe Tietjen, known as the T Sisters, provided sweet harmonies as well as occasional lead vocals.

A very sweet and emotional segment focused on love songs. Marvin Gaye’s “You’re All I Need to Get By” transitioned into The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Lester Chambers also sang a reworked version of Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” When the Chambers duo and T Sisters were not singing, there was a beautiful interplay between regular band members Barry Sless on guitar and Jason Crosby on organ. The show closed with a dramatic and satisfying version of The Chambers Brothers’ classic “Time.” 

The Tietjen Sisters

Michael Franti & Spearhead delivered an uplifting, fun show on Sunday afternoon. Franti cannot help himself – his positive energy and desire to connect with the audience seems to compel him into the crowd. He went in among the masses several times, leading them on fun tunes like “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)” and “Say Hey (I Love You).” He brought a random woman out of the massive crowd on stage to sing “Sound of Sunshine” and ended the show with a group of enthusiastic young ladies dancing with him on stage.

Amos Lee

Amos Lee‘s songs were reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan with a folksy, soft rock and soul style. He played masterful versions of his songs “Dreamland,” “Colors,” and “Worry No More.” He also did a funky, sentimental song called “Spirit” that he wrote as a tribute to the city of New Orleans.

One of the festival’s closing headliners was The Wailers featuring Julian Marley. Their Sunday night set featured several of their reggae classics. Marley was a bundle of energy as he careened across the stage with his dreadlocks flowing. The band played at a fast tempo and the sound mix was very vibrant. 

The crowd swayed to that jammin’ mix on versions of “Revolution,” “Is This Love,” “No Woman, No Cry” and “Stir It Up.” Marley’s strong vocals and solid guitar playing combined with the incredible band made this closing show truly memorable. As the festival came to an end, the crowd sang and danced along with the band on Bob Marley standards “Lively Up Yourself,” “Jamming’” and “Exodus.”

Julian Marley

The BottleRock Napa Valley festival was the closest to “business as usual” that we experienced in 2022. There were no Covid-19 concerns or restrictions and the crowds that attended seemed to have a blast. The festival organizers put on a winning long-weekend event, filled with great performances and luxurious creature comforts for all to appreciate.

Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022.

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