With just two weeks before the first guitar solos fill the Napa Valley Expo at BottleRock 2014, concert producers are finalizing the layout and other arrangements within the 26-acre Expo grounds – from viewing platforms to VIP lounges, Wi-Fi hot spots to food fixings.
On Tuesday, during a tour of the Expo grounds, Justin Dragoo and Latitude 38 partner Jason Scoggins were optimistic about the 2014 festival and their progress to date.
“We’re feeling very comfortable with where the logistics and preparations stand,” Dragoo said. But that doesn’t mean the group is celebrating yet.
“When we’ve actually done everything we said we were going to do … that will be the first time we can relax,” he said. “We won’t feel like anything’s really accomplished until we’ve proven it can work and we’ve created an event … that everyone’s really proud of.”
Visitors used to the traditional Town & Country Fair layout will encounter a whole different setup at BottleRock 2014.
Ticketholders will be greeted at the Expo gates by a Napa Valley-themed display including wine barrels, grapevines and music-themed artwork, said Dragoo. Inside the gates, food truck and dining areas and a craft beer “garden” will be installed in anticipation of the thousands of music lovers who also appreciate fine food and libations.
The re-imagined dining area will feature an artificial turf surface to keep down the dust, along with food tents trimmed in wood siding.
“It will be more finished and more of a refined Napa Valley feel” compared to the same space last year, which featured plain white food tents, Dragoo said. The dining area will also be opened up for better crowd flow. Unlike last year, food tokens will not be used at the festival. Vendors will accept cash or credit cards, he said.
The list of food and wine vendors includes area favorites such as Allegria, Morimoto Napa, Oakville Grocery, Fume Bistro, Cakebread Cellars, Schramsberg Vineyards, Clos Du Val Winery, Ceja Vineyards, and Whole Foods. “We’re pretty thrilled” with those partnerships, Dragoo said.
Four stages will be built for the 60 different bands scheduled to perform over the three-day festival.
The Plaza Stage, where Town & Country Fair hypnotists, mariachi bands and tribute bands typically play, will become the Miner Family Winery stage. The grassy area along Silverado Trail, usually reserved for fair parking, will become the largest stage, sponsored by Toshiba. The space usually home to the fair carnival will be known as the Sprint Stage. A smaller stage for “emerging” artists, located next to Chardonnay Hall, will be named the City Winery Lounge.
“It will be a world-class music production,” Dragoo said. “I feel really good about that.”
He hopes concertgoers are equally excited that the festival, with new promoters, returned for its second act. “Wow, I’m so happy that BottleRock is back,” is the reaction he’s hoping for, he said.
A festival map, not yet finalized, shows the location of other amenities including a BottleRock merchandise “cabana,” other wine, spirits and beverage vendors, water stations, ATMs, access and viewing compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, medical care, charging stations and Wi-Fi hot spots.
A 2014 festival wasn’t always a sure thing. BottleRock 2013, while a hit with fans, was a financial disaster. Festival expenses for the five-day event, held Mother’s Day weekend, May 8-12, 2013, topped $20 million, yet the event generated gross income of only $11.2 million.
Last year’s producers, BR Festivals, filed for bankruptcy protection in February. At the same time, Latitude 38 Entertainment — a new group of festival producers unaffiliated with BR Festivals — stepped forward with a proposal to produce BottleRock 2014.
BottleRock 2014 organizers have eliminated a common complaint from BottleRock 2013 – the lack of Wi-Fi service. Major carriers will provide numerous mobile Wi-Fi hot spots to offer “significantly enhanced cell service” during the festival, said Dragoo.
Also, more portable toilets will be stationed both inside and outside of the Expo, and additional water stations will be installed as well.
BottleRock 2013 featured comedic performances in Chardonnay Hall. This year, the hall will become a “green” room and artist hospitality area, said Dragoo. Cabernet Hall will be transformed into a lounge for Platinum ticket holders – those who paid as much as $1,000 per day for festival admission and perks such as concierge service, premium parking, lounge seating, gourmet catered food by “celebrity Napa Valley chefs,” sommelier wine service, artist meet-and-greet events and onstage viewing of live performances.
A separate lounge area will also be created for VIP ticketholders inside and outside Merlot Hall. Three-day VIP tickets sell on the BottleRock website for $599.
The BottleRock VIP experience has been refined this year, said Scoggins. The group plans to sell a maximum of 300 Platinum level tickets and 2,500 VIP tickets, he said. That’s about half the number of VIP tickets distributed last year, he said.
Patrons complained the VIP experience was not “VIP” enough, Dragoo and Scoggins said. The decision to sell fewer premium tickets this year is “based on the maximum number of people we can help feel special,” said Dragoo.
VIP and Platinum ticketholders will be provided access to expanded and reoriented reserved viewing areas. A shaded and tented “skydeck” viewing platform will provide an elevated viewpoint for Platinum ticketholders and key sponsors, said Dragoo. That deck, built to the east of the largest stage, will be approximately 100 feet by 20 feet, he said.
BottleRock 2013 hosted a reported 120,000 total visitors over five days. Dragoo and Scoggins said they are preparing for daily attendance between 25,000 and 30,000. The producers would not reveal the number of tickets sold so far for BottleRock 2014.
In April, Latitude 38 Entertainment partnered with online “deal sites” to offer reduced-rate tickets. Those third-party promotional offers were to end May 16, said Dragoo.
After the festival ends, Dragoo said he hopes that those leaving the three-day event will be looking forward to BottleRock 2015 and thinking, “‘God, I can’t wait till next year.’”