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Just as 2014 was the year of the earthquake, 2017 will surely be remembered in Napa Valley as the year of the wildfires. Our music community came out in force in November and early December with a series of benefit performances on behalf of fire victims.

Fire relief

benefit concerts

BottleRock Presents stepped up with three major benefit events: Michael Franti and Vintage Trouble at Mondavi Winery, Counting Crows and Brett Dennen at Green Music Center and a jubilant night at JaM Cellars Ballroom at the Opera House with Train and Con Brio.

Blue Note Napa hosted a week-long series of benefit performances by local artists, and the stars of Live in the Vineyard including LeAnn Rimes and ZZ Ward performed at the JaM Cellars Ballroom.

Festival Napa Valley and Boissett Collection sponsored a Lincoln Theater benefit with Ozomatli headlining, and additional benefit events were held at Billco’s (kudos to Shelby Lanterman), Flora Springs Winery and Silo’s.

Proceeds were distributed to the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund, the Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund, the Sonoma County Community Foundation Relief Fund, the Firefighter Relief Fund, #NomaCares and Napa Humane.

A dynamic year

for BottleRock

Aside from executing another sold-out, world-class BottleRock festival with Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Maroon 5 headlining, Latitude 38 Entertainment significantly expanded its portfolio. In 2017, BottleRock Presents produced or booked the JaM Cellars Ballroom series at the Opera House, the Mondavi Summer Concert Series, the Silverado PGA concerts and selected performances at Silo’s.

In early January, it was announced that a majority stake in Latitude 38 Entertainment had been acquired by industry giant Live Nation. BottleRock CEO Dave Graham assured Napans that the acquisition, which will enhance the festival’s booking power, would not alter local control.

“We got the festival—all of us, our team—to this point and it’s a pretty good festival because of our hard work and our know-how,” Graham said. “Live Nation’s approach to partnering with festivals and festival promoters is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The most talked about moment of of the 2017 festival was Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s tenacious continuation of the band’s festival-closing performance of “Everlong” after the sound was cut off in compliance with BottleRock’s noise abatement policy at evening’s end. The crowd ate it up and provided the vocal power as Grohl and the band finished the last 90 seconds unamplified.

In retrospect, what was most memorable, for this fan at least, was experiencing a classic Tom Petty performance only four months before his unexpected death. Petty & the Heartbreakers, with Mike Campbell in full guitar command, topped off BottleRock Saturday night.

Porchfest 2017

Well, so much for “maximum Porchfest” in 2016. With 128 bands and as many as 20,000 fans this year, this joyful community event, despite organizers’ intentions to the contrary, continues to grow.

In its seventh year, Porchfest was mostly what it’s been, a live musical potpourri performed by locals for a strolling, bicycling crowd that, as the word gets out, is probably populated more and more by visitors.

Something substantial and positive was new for 2017 — the relocation of headquarters, merchandise and food trucks from the county library parking lot to the eastern perimeter of Fuller Park, significantly increasing the capacity for these functions. The park’s amenities — playground, picnic tables and bathrooms — were a bonus.

A jazzy town

Between Blue Note in its first full year in town and the Napa Valley Jazz Society (NVJS) calendar, Napa jazz fans are getting a rich choice of artists. A partial list for 2017 includes Brian Culbertson (New Year’s Eve ’16 and ’17 at Blue Note and likely a tradition), Karrin Allyson, Tuck & Patti, Clairdee, Eric Johnson, Pete Escovedo, Ottmar Liebert, Andy McKee, Stanley Jordan, Keiko Matsui, the Larry Fuller Trio, Royal Jelly Jive, Kevin Mahogany, Spyro Gyra, Ravi Coltrane, Kenny G., Michael Lington and Diane Schuur.

For the first time, NVJS, which has hosted its performances mostly at Silo’s, produced a performance at Blue Note. A sold-out house showed up in early December for the Larry Vuckovich Quartet joined by famed bebop percussionist Big Black.

A rich variety

at the Uptown

As usual, there was plenty of rock, pop and blues on Third Street in 2017. A partial list includes the Beach Boys, the Pixies, Boz Scaggs, Aimee Mann, David Crosby, Dave Mason, Chris Isaak, Robery Cray, Dave Koz with Larry Graham, Jr., Randy Newman, TajMo (Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo), Y&T, David Luning, Rufus Wainwright, Dweezil Zappa and Los Lobos.

The Uptown Theatre is also the place where most big- name folk music happens in Napa. A few exceptions were this year’s Bela Fleck/Abigail Washburn and Livingston Taylor shows at Blue Note. In 2017, the Uptown hosted Jake Shimabukuro, the Wailin’ Jennys, the Irish Rovers, Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin and an unforgettable two-fer, John Prine with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

Chamber Music

The 23rd season of Music in the Vineyards featured 19 performances in 15 venues over four weeks in August. At Freemark Abbey, the original version of Aaron Copland’s iconic “Appalachian Spring” was performed by a 13-piece orchestra – goosebumps and a standing ovation.

The 38th season of Chamber Music in Napa Valley at the First United Methodist Church began this fall with pianist Till Fellner and the Takacs String Quartet. The continuing calendar includes superstar pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman and the Vertavo, Jupiter and Artemis String Quartets

23rd Music Festival for Brain Health

The Staglin family’s annual philanthropic series continued this year with a performance by Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group (which is not entirely acoustic). To date, the effort has raised over $280 million for medical research on brain health.

Festival Napa Valley

In its 12th season, Festival Napa Valley again brought an array of international talent in July. Highlights included the return of Joshua Bell, performing “Seasons of Cuba” at Far Niente Winery, and pianist André Watts with Festival Orchestra Napa at Lincoln Theater performing the music of American composers Edward McDowell, Gordon Getty and Leonard Bernstein.

The festival’s hottest ticket and change of pace was Bill Murray with cellist Jan Vogler, also at Lincoln Theater. The popular actor recited from the works of Whitman, Twain, Hemingway and Capote amid instrumental pieces by Bach, Ravel, the Gershwins and others.

And more…

Throughout the year, other venues hosted musical performances – the Napa Valley Opera House (its non-Blue Note/BottleRock Presents calendar), the Napa Valley Center for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Theater, the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center, Jarvis Conservatory, The White Barn, Farmstead, JaM Cellars tasting room, Copia, Ca’ Momi, Napkins, Downtown Joe’s, the River Terrace Inn, and the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company.

Finally, with apologies to the deserving but unmentioned, a hat tip to the local artists who week in and week out provide quality music in town – to Mike Greensill, Kellie Fuller, The Deadlies, Shelby Lanterman, Zak Fennie, N2L, Secure the Sun, Brian Coutch, Jealous Zelig, Jeff Johnson, Phil Smith, the Howell Mountain Boys, Rob Sherman, Kristen Corona Van Dyke, Surf and James, and Amber Snider.

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David Kerns is a Napa-based freelance journalist. You can view more of his work at DavidKerns.com.

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