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With no disrespect intended for BottleRock Friday (Imagine Dragons, Logic et. al) or Sunday (Mumford & Sons, Santana et. al.), the Saturday line-up is eye-popping, the most stacked in the festival’s now seven-year history.

Saturday’s stars – Neil Young, Lukas Nelson, Pharrell Williams, Nathaniel Rateliff, Gary Clark Jr., Juanes, Cypress Hill and Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins’ “other band,” Chevy Metal – could on their own populate three days of headline slots at a major festival.

Neil Young with Lukas Nelson’s Promise of the Real

It’s always nice to have a bona fide legend at the top of a music festival line-up, and BottleRock has had its share, from Robert Plant to Stevie Wonder to Tom Petty. This year is no exception. Neil Young, twice inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a 26-time Grammy honoree, qualifies.

Young’s singular tenor voice, guitar prowess and prolific songwriting have fueled his solo career and his membership in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He has recorded 44 studio albums, an archive of live performances, and numerous collaborations including with Pearl Jam, a period when Young was dubbed the “godfather of grunge.”

At BottleRock, Young will perform with Promise of the Real, his backing band for the past five years. Promise of the Real was founded and is led by Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son). Promise of the Real on its own was a big hit at BottleRock 2018 as was Nelson’s solo acoustic set on the JaMPAD.

Pharrell Williams

One of the most honored artists of the past two decades, Pharrell Williams has accrued 40 Grammy nominations, with 12 wins, and a slew of other awards as a performer, songwriter and record producer. His pop and rap collaborators include Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Shakira, the list goes on.

Long established for his production credits within the industry, Williams’ worldwide breakout as a performer came with the late 2013 release of “Happy,” which was part of the soundtrack of “Despicable Me 2.” The most successful song of 2014, “Happy” sold 6.45 million copies in the U.S. and 13.9 million units worldwide. Aside from its Grammy, Billboard and other honors, it was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.

In the same year, Williams’ visibility was further amplified when he became a popular coach on the “The Voice,” where he remained for four seasons. Asked why, amid his busy career, he would commit to the TV show, he said that his goal was just to reach people, “…to share everything I learned and everything I was taught and pay it forward.”

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

On the heels of three Stax albums since 2015 and a breakout presence on the late-night TV circuit, Rateliff and the Night Sweats has become one of the most popular festival bands in the country. They are a throwback, a gospel-tinged rhythm and blues show band, horns and all, but with a twist – introspective, even dark lyrics woven into gotta-get-up-and-dance rhythms and grooves.

In an Austin City Limits interview, lead singer and songwriter Rateliff described the band as “a mix of Sam & Dave and The Band. I wanted a bit of honky tonk, a bit of working-class soul, with rock in there. And I wanted the opportunity to write songs that people connect to in a personal way that isn’t generic.”

While Rateliff’s singing may echo folks like Levon Helm or Joe Cocker or Van Morrison, his soulful voice is distinct and not imitative. And he has some fun dance moves that evoke none other than James Brown. It’s a safe bet that this band’s performance at BottleRock will be a blast.

Gary Clark Jr.

BottleRock CEO Dave Graham says that Gary Clark Jr. “is arguably the best guitarist on the planet right now.” An Austin, Texas native who was widely regarded as a teen prodigy, Clark grew up soaking in the Austin music scene — and not just the blues, though that is his foundation and the core of his performances and reputation. You can hear the obvious influence of the first generation electric bluesmen in his playing, and the impact of Austin’s Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix as well.

Clark won the 2014 Grammy for the Best Traditional R&B Performance and won the Blues Music Award in 2014 and 2015 for the Best Contemporary Blues Artist. Over the past decade he has shared the stage with a who’s who of blues and rock artists including Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Dave Matthews, Freddie King, Dave Grohl and Joe Walsh. He has released five albums over the past seven years. His most recent is 2019’s “This Land.”

In 2017, Clark, in collaboration with electronic music producer Junkie XL, made a radical cover of John Lennon’s “Come Together” for the soundtrack of the film “Justice League.” This exposed the young bluesman to a vast audience beyond his usual fans. BottleRockers will no doubt get a live performance of this blistering musical hybrid.

Juanes

Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristizábal ) is a Latin rock and pop superstar. He is the most nominated Latin Grammy artist in history with 20 wins in addition to two victories in the “mainstream” Grammy Awards. As a measure of international popularity, he has a social media following of more than 25 million fans.

His seven studio albums have sold more than 15 million copies. The most recent is 2017’s “Mis Planes Son Amarte (My Plans are to Love You)” While Juanes is a fluent English speaker, he sings almost exclusively in Spanish. The Colombia-born singer/songwriter explains that, for him, the process of translation to a second language hinders the real-time emotional expression of the songs.

Throughout his career, Juanes has been a social and political activist. He founded the Mi Sangre Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting victims of anti-personnel landmines in Colombia. His work on behalf of landmine awareness and injury prevention extended internationally, and in 2006 Time Magazine included him among the 100 most influential people in the world.

A few other Saturday highlights

For hip-hop fans, four-time Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum rappers Cypress Hill will open for Pharrell Williams.

Chevy Metal, Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins’ band, will perform late Saturday afternoon. In years past at BottleRock aftershows, this band has attracted some glittering walk-ons.

And speaking of possible unscheduled collaborations, Gary Clark Jr. and Lukas Nelson have a history of sitting in with one another. You never know…

For detailed performance schedule and tickets ($159 Single-Day General Admission passes are still available), see BottleRockNapaValley.com.

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

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