When Gabe Meyers, co-producer of BottleRock 2013, asked Thea Witsil to coordinate a stage for local performers at last May’s music festival, Witsil said she didn’t think twice.
“Wow, yes, I’m in,” was her immediate reaction, she said. “I just knew it would be an amazing event.”
Meyers asked the right person. Witsil, who owns the Wildcat Vintage Clothing boutique in downtown Napa, also happens to be a music impresario. In addition to other events, she co-founded the Napa Porchfest, a one-day music festival that has been a hit with both locals and visitors.
At BottleRock 2013, Witsil created the “local” performers stage, where 16 bands played between the bigger-name bands at the five-day music marathon.
Last year’s BottleRock, including the local stage, was a success with concertgoers, said Witsil. Even after the original promoter, BR Festivals, filed for bankruptcy, “I was very hopeful that things would work out” for the next BottleRock, she said.
It seems they have. When the new producers of BottleRock, Latitude 38 Entertainment, asked Witsil to manage the same stage at BottleRock 2014, her answer was once again, yes.
With BottleRock just around the corner — concert dates are May 30 to June 1 — Witsil said she’s spent the past seven weeks working on the project, which is called the City Winery Lounge Stage.
“We’ve expanded our vision” for the stage, said Witsil. Located in front of Chardonnay Hall, the stage will host 18 different performers. There will also be 12 acoustic singer/songwriter acts that will perform in VIP and other areas, she said.
The definition of a “local” act has been expanded. “Last year, our focus was really centered on local talent with emphasis on Napa Porchfest favorites,” said Witsil. This year, the stage will feature regional and up-and-coming bands from all over California.
Witsil said she received more than 142 submissions from bands hoping to perform at BottleRock. Witsil said she listened to all of them.
Whittling down the list to the top 50 was “tough,” said Witsil. A five-person judging committee, including Witsil and other Latitude 38 partners, narrowed the selection to the final group.
“We wanted a wonderful, rich mix of genres,” Witsil said. Attendees will hear a little of everything, including retro rock, world fusion, Americana roots, rock/soul, reggae, ska, funk, country, “lyrical space rock” and “dork rock.”
About a third of the bands are Napa-centric, the rest are from the Bay Area and California. The bands are not paid for their performances, but receive passes to the three-day music marathon.
San Francisco singer-songwriter Mike Annuzzi said he appreciates being able to perform in wine country.
“As a locally based musician, it is an incredible honor to share my music at BottleRock alongside some of my favorite bands,” he wrote in an email.
Abe Newman, bassist for The Graveyard Boots of Napa, said his band is excited “to have our music heard by people that otherwise wouldn’t know we existed.” Meeting members of the band Weezer wouldn’t be bad either, said Newman.
“BottleRock reminds us that although wine pairs well with food, it pairs even better with good old fashioned rock ’n roll,” wrote Robert Fleming of the Los Angeles-based band Victory.
Nick Powers, of Oakland’s Major Powers & The Lo-Fi Symphony, summed up his thoughts this way:
“The road to the Grammys is littered with the bones of bands who didn’t play BottleRock,” he said.
Witsil, who isn’t paid for her work at BottleRock but receives space for a pop-up shop, said the musicians are her motivation.
“They are so appreciative,” said Witsil. “I love to be an advocate for them.”