Editor’s note: Napa Valley Register columnist David Kerns offers his BottleRock insights from Day 1.
Secure The Sun is an indie alt-rock band, no question, but their influences are surprising—not the mention of Tom Morello or The Strokes or Queens of the Stone Age or Incubus, but the invocation of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jaco Pastorius and Chick Corea. The talented teens from Napa opened the main stage at BottleRock on Friday.
The band members are lead vocalist Ari Eisenberg, 17, a junior at Napa High School; guitarist Liam Milligan and bassist Anthony Capetto, both 17 and graduating from Vintage High School in two weeks; and 19-year-old drummer Jonathon Soria-Gil, a Vintage graduate headed for college in the fall.
The jazz emphasis resides in the rhythm section. Capetto is headed for the University of North Texas to study jazz with a concentration on bass, and Soria-Gil will be entering the California Jazz Conservatory to study jazz drumming. In the meantime, these guys play rock and roll.
The band’s energetic set of seven original songs on the JaM Cellars stage was a success, delivered with professional execution and just the right abandon for its genre. They closed with “Maniac,” which could describe the manner in which Eisenberg fronts the band, although “energizer bunny” is probably more on the nose.
Eisenberg has a big on-pitch voice and an apparent absence of inhibition, dancing, bounding, dropping to the boards, occasionally David Byrne-ish, spasmodic and weird, obviously having a blast along with the audience. He is a confident and competent entertainer.
After the performance, the band sat down for a conversation about the experience. The four teens were wowed by the quality of the sound on the big stage. “We’re used to little or no monitor,” Soria-Gil said. “It’s nice to finally be able to hear each other really well. It was the best sound ever. It was great.”
“You could hear all the mixes really well in the monitor,” Eisenberg said. “You could hear the guitar, the drums, the bass; it was all mixed super evenly. It was really nice. And there was a lot more room on the stage than we’re used to, so I was able to dance around a lot more, which was kind of fun.”
The crowd, thin at first, grew as the set progressed. “It felt like a lot of people were drawn into the sound and the music that we were producing,” the lead singer said. “The audience was the most responsive that we’ve ever had. It was such a big town event. It was really nice to see a bunch of friends come out and support us and ditch school for us.”
Milligan was in awe of the overall experience. “It was just as amazing as I thought it would be,” he said. “The realization of who else is playing on the stage that we were standing on, it’s really crazy. I don’t even know how to explain it really. It’s like dreams. It’s like accomplishing your dreams playing on that stage. It’s a lot of big shoes to fill.”
“I’m gonna remember this for the rest of my life, that’s for sure,” Eisenberg said. “This is gonna be the most memorable concert I’ve ever played.”
Secure the Sun’s four-song EP “Handy Oil” is available on Spotify, iTunes and free on Soundcloud.
Small is beautiful
There’s a lot that’s new at BottleRock 2017 – a lawn in front of the main stage that looks and feels like a fairway at Augusta, newly conceived double-decker VIP viewing structures, a spa, for goodness sake – and, strikingly, the emergence of small stages overflowing with fans.
At 3 p.m. on Friday, Fitz and the Tantrums were on the new acoustic stage in the VIP Village, Michael Franti and Spearhead was doing an acoustic set in the Jam Pad – JaM Cellars new acoustic venue open to all BottleRockers, and Ayesha Curry was cooking on the Culinary Stage with E- 40, and guess who showed up? “MVP, MVP” rolled through Expo as Stephen Curry joined his wife on stage.
There have been small stage moments in earlier years, Morimoto and Snoop Dog rolling sushi, for example, but nothing like this. The headliners on the big stages took over in the evening, but the afternoon belonged to short intimate sets in, by festival standards, intimate settings. BottleRock keeps living up to its promise – something for everyone.