Foo Fighters, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Maroon 5 are headlining the fifth annual BottleRock Napa Valley festival, Latitude 38 Entertainment announced Tuesday.
The deep, star-studded lineup continues with a powerful roster of major artists that includes Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Modest Mouse, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The Roots, Band of Horses, Fitz & The Tantrums, The Devil Makes Three, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Gavin DeGraw, Mavis Staples, Ani DiFranco and over 60 more.
Three-day passes for the May 26-28 event go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m. at BottleRockNapaValley.com.
“We’re continuing the approach that we’ve taken before,” said Latitude 38 CEO Dave Graham, “which is to have an eclectic lineup where there is literally something for everyone, from a 9-year-old to a 90-year-old.
“We also wanted to make sure that the lineup was on brand with the Napa Valley and the expectation that people have relative to the valley in terms of its beauty, its world class wine, its worldclass food. The lineup itself has to be world-class.”
“We stepped it up this year,” he said. “While last year they were incredible and well-received, this year we have arguably the biggest headliner lineup in the country.”
With 11 Grammy wins and a huge fan base, Foo Fighters is among the most sought-after rock bands in the world. “A lot of things had to come together in order for Foo Fighters to play Napa Valley,” Graham said.
“Dave Grohl was here in 2013 for the festival and he had a chance to experience it. We ended up connecting with Taylor Hawkins, their drummer, last year. We had him on the Culinary Stage and ended up befriending him and his wife, who loved BottleRock.”
“Their main agent was also at the festival last year and had a chance to experience it,” he added. “He became very comfortable with it, what it’s about, how it’s run. The Foo Fighters are in the studio all next year recording a new album and BottleRock may be their only show in 2017 in North America.”
Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty, like Stevie Wonder last year and Robert Plant the year before, is the legend at the top of the lineup. “When you look at Tom Petty, he’s celebrating his 40th year,” Graham said. “He’ll be touring a lot in 2017. People are rumoring that it could be the last big tour for the band (the Heartbreakers). We’re honored to have him. He’s the man.
“We went to Maroon 5 because they are big and we feel we have the demographic that will definitely love to see them. This will be the first time they’ve ever played a U.S. festival. Gwen Stefani and No Doubt did really well at BottleRock. This is another high-quality, high-profile pop band. This is part of ‘something for everyone.’”
In an interview in his office in downtown Napa, Graham riffed at random on the rest of the lineup. “We’ve got one of the greatest indie rock bands of our generation, six studio albums, and that’s Modest Mouse … In the Americana and roots genre, there’s probably no bigger band right now than The Devil Makes Three … We could not be bigger fans of Michael Franti, his personality and his music. He is the unofficial ambassador of BottleRock.
“… Being able to have Charles Bradley is extraordinary, he’s an icon … Of course, Mavis Staples … and Andra Day, the potential to be the next generation Mavis Staples … some of the unexpected, funnest shows that you’ll see this year will be a mix between Saint Motel and Saint Lucia … Oh, and Fitz and the Tantrums, that one’s going to be crazy.”
At BottleRock 2016, the young British rockers, The Struts, was the relatively unknown band that caused the biggest sensation. Graham speculated on the 2017 equivalent. “I would say it’s going to be a mix between The Strumbellas and Judah and the Lion.”
With regular-priced ticket sales about to start (three-day passes Wednesday, single-day passes later in the month), Graham talked about the recent online discounted pre-sale of three-day passes.
“The demand was much greater than we anticipated,” Graham said. “We made many more tickets available for the pre-sale than in the previous year and despite that, the demand outweighed the supply, to say the least.”
Many buyers, particularly those seeking three-day VIP passes, faced “sold out” messages, despite being online at the moment the sale began. Frustrations were heightened when these passes began to immediately appear on Stub Hub and other reseller websites. Fans expressed their suspicion that perhaps the primary seller (Eventbrite) had been hacked or that Latitude 38 was intentionally selling to resellers.
Graham expressed confidence in Eventbrite’s cyber-security, and that a breach was very unlikely. “I don’t want to rule that out. We just haven’t been able to uncover any evidence of it. Our ticketing company was able to show that there were some known scalper purchases but at the end of the day that number was limited to 6 percent.”
The BottleRock CEO was emphatic that they do not work with resellers. “We placed zero tickets on Stub Hub,” he said. “We did not do that, absolutely not.
“We definitely heard loud and clear the frustration, and we’re frustrated as well. We tried to do a good thing and it ended up biting us. We’re going to fix it somehow. We’re trying to figure out a way to make everyone happy, or as many people as happy as possible.”
As for the 2017 festival lineup, Graham said he and his Latitude 38 partners, Justin Dragoo and Jason Scoggins, “don’t book what we like, we book what we think is on brand and will entertain the most, given what’s available in the market.
“We knew what was going to happen with Florence and the Machine last year. We knew that a lot of people were seeing her for the first time and we knew there was a high likelihood that something magical was going to happen, and it did. But you can’t sell it, you can’t say ‘you’re gonna love it.’ It doesn’t matter.
“I’m most excited about those kinds of situations, where I know, for example, that there are a lot of people in Napa, say an older crowd, that may not be familiar with Foo Fighters, and they may listen to their music and say ‘Wow, these guys are loud.’
“But Dave Grohl gives it all, he leaves nothing on the table. Even if someone isn’t into their music or has never heard of them, they’re going to look at this guy and go ‘Wow, that’s a rock star.’
“That’s what Justin, Jason and I really enjoy the most. It’s watching people experience it.”
David Kerns is a Napa-based freelance journalist. You can view more of his work at DavidKerns.com.