The sound wall along Silverado Trail is going up.
Giant stages are being assembled, with requisite sound, light and video components, including fiber optics installed. A food and wine pavilion has been created, complete with newly fashioned redwood picnic benches.
Generated by more than 100 workmen, the hum of activity at Napa Valley Expo is building up to perhaps the biggest event ever uncorked in wine country.
BottleRock Napa Valley — a five-day festival featuring headliners of rock, pop, country, folk and rap music — is almost here, with Top 10 indie hip-hopper Macklemore and musical partner Ryan Lewis slated to deliver their catchy ode to secondhand swag at a festival preview Wednesday night to some 8,000 fans.
BottleRock has been gaining strength since last summer when founders Gabe Meyers and Bob Vogt began putting their musical dreams on paper.
By February, they let the public in on what they’d been up to over the winter months, announcing they’d secured the services of the likes of Kings of Leon, the Black Keys, the Zac Brown Band, the Avett Brothers, Train, the Flaming Lips and The Black Crowes for their entry into the rock ‘n’ roll festival world.
Almost all their permits now in hand and boots on the ground at Napa’s 26-acre fairgrounds, Meyers and Vogt are overseeing a small army of works prepping the site for the arrival of up to 35,000 music lovers per day, a crowd traffic engineers and local law enforcement hope to shuttle in and out of town without incident.
“I enjoy walking into a property like this, learning what the producers are looking for and then creating a new community,” said George Edwards, a partner in Burlingame-based Delicate Productions. He’s been doing this since he and 16 buddies teamed up to produce Supertramp shows starting in 1979.
Edwards calls himself BottleRock’s technical producer. He has staged the half-time shows at the past eight Super Bowls as well as a number of Grammy telecasts.
As a crew erected scaffolding for an 18-foot-tall soundwall that doubles as a visual barrier along Silverado Trail, Edwards talked about his current assignment.
He immediately addressed the producers’ concerns about being “good neighbors. We come in here and get it done — but we also want to be compassionate because we want to come back. It’s important there be noise mitigation.”
He’s convinced a new soundwall will help diffuse the sound generated on the event’s largest stage, labeled WillPower, where a number of BottleRock’s headliners are scheduled to perform.
“Would I rather be in the desert at Coachella or here in the Napa Valley?,” was Edwards’ rhetorical reply to a visitor on the grassy plain expected to hold between 20,000 and 25,000 souls this weekend.
“In this job, I’m not paid for an opinion, I’m paid for results,” he said.
Edwards did provide one mind-boggling bit of information. “The amount of power it takes to run this festival could power an entire block in Manhattan,” he said. “And we’re doing it all with generators.”
He talked about how fiber optics installations — some permanent, some just for this festival — will allow technicians to display music from all the stages on screens set up all over the fairgrounds.
Edwards said the stages have been anchored in appropriate locations to avoid major sound bleed, as well as to create as little noise pollution as possible beyond the expo.
Other members of the BottleRock team are preparing areas for food trucks and readying the grandstand to house Whole Foods Market Garden, where dozens of area restaurants are setting up shop for the festival’s run. A beer garden has been established and wine tents have gone up. Water stations have been established as attendees will not be allowed to bring any food or drink into the site, only an empty bottle to fill with water on site.
Bands like the Kings of Leon, Jane’s Addiction and the Zac Brown Band are playing on the WillPower stage — 90 feet wide, 60 feet deep and 45 feet tall — located in the area generally reserved for parking during the Napa Town & Country Fair. Edwards said the space can accommodate up to 25,000 people. The slightly smaller CitiStage will feature performances by the Flaming Lips, Cake and the Wallflowers.
“A lot of the acts on the Miner Family Stage (the permanent Plaza Stage) are enthused to be playing for smaller crowds than they’re used to in these big summer shows,” said event spokesman Tom Fuller. “Fans will be able to get up close to the artists who generally appear in big halls.” Slated to perform on the Miner stage are Jackson Browne, Brandi Carlile, the Avett Brothers and Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Fuller was also pleased that city public works employees have installed new sidewalks along Juarez Street, across Third Street from Napa Valley Expo. That’s important, he pointed out, as the drop-off point for shuttle buses is the former JV Warehouse site on First Street between Juarez Street and Silverado Trail.
Close to 400 members of the media asked for credentials to cover BottleRock, Fuller said. Only half got them, he said, including from media as diverse as the BBC and Rolling Stone.
“It’s exciting seeing this coming to fruition,” Meyers said. “Turning (dreams) into a festival doesn’t happen overnight ... it’s fun to see it unfold. It’s super-gratifyfing to be working on this with many, many Napans and others from Northern California. It feels like a family already.”
To that end, with his goal clearly in sight, Meyers hosted the BottleRock team at Napa Valley Expo on Saturday. “I’m cooking for 100,” he said. The menu — Cuban roast pork sandwiches with jalapeños and ceviche from Bistro Sabor. “It’s our last meal together before the event.”