Looks are deceiving when it comes to BottleRock Napa Valley, the four-day music, comedy, food and wine festival in May that was suddenly announced in January.
Co-producer Gabe Meyers, 42 — who conceived the 60-band, 12-comedian event with longtime real estate partner Bob Vogt (who turned Napa’s languishing Uptown Theater into a popular concert hall) — admits that although they had been planning it for a long time, they were working under the radar and so the event seems like it “came out of nowhere.” When people inquire how long, he’s ready with the same witty response: “Since I was in utero at Altamont!” How did the non-LiveNation BottleRock land such headliners as Train, the Black Keys, the Violent Femmes, Kings of Leon, and the Black Crowes? It wasn’t easy, Meyers admits.
You were raised in Napa, but moved to Seattle for seven years to run a sports-media production company. What happened when you and your family moved back a few years ago?
I looked up my old friend and partner Bob, and we started WillPower Entertainment. We called it our “boutique production company.” We do concerts for causes. We’ve also done a lot of work for autism. WillPower is named for Bob’s son Will, who is 21 and profoundly autistic. But we knew that the town of Napa could support this, a first-year festival. Once we got past the hurdle of showing people the infrastructure and the accessibility that is downtown Napa, things started moving.
Was it tough going up against all the heavy-hitting local promoters?
The truth is, we had good, friendly, productive conversations with three production entities: Another Planet; C3 Presents, the guys out of Austin; and AEG/Goldenvoice. And we’re still talking with them. So it was interesting to get advice from the big guys. But our vision for BottleRock isn’t like anything they’re doing — a lot of festivals are 60,000 to 100,000 people in some massive location. Ours is more in line with the Napa Valley — super-premium wine with limited availability. So we’ve got a substantial four-day lineup, but a 35,000-people capacity in our 26-acre facility. It’s not a camping festival — it’s a destination festival.
How hard was it to lure the artists?
We had an advantage in having done some nice work at the Uptown — we had Beck play there, Willie Nelson, Band of Horses, 80 or 90 shows a year. Once you start to book a band or two that becomes viable, then others say, “Oh, well if Ben Harper and Bad Religion are playing. ...” Then pretty soon, it’s the Black Keys. We had a real run of B’s for a while!
Silverado Stage: Furthur featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Black Crowes, ALO, Moonalice
Chardonnay Stage: Tig Notaro, BIll Burr, J Chris Newberg, Anthony Jeselnik
Midway Stage: Primus, Café Tacuba, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, X, The Refusers, Cosmos Percussion Orchestra
Miner Family Stage: Avett Brothers, Violent Femmes, Richard Thompson Electric Trio, Delta Spirit
Silverado: Black Keys, Shins, Alabama Shakes, Flagship
Chardonnay: Jim Breuer, Demetri Martin, Natasha Leggero
Midway: Flaming Lips, Andrew Bird, Dirty Projectors, Allah Las, They Went Ghost
Miner Family: Matt Nathanson, Blues Traveler, Justin Townes Earle, Tristan Prettyman, Whiskey Sisters
Silverado: Kings of Leon, Jane’s Addiction, Bad Religion, RNDM, Best Coast
Chardonnay: Jim Gaffigan, Aasif Mandvi, Wyatt Cenac
Midway: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Dwight Yoakam, Allen Stone, Sharon Van Etten
Miner Family: Iron & Wine, Jackson Browne, Donavon Frankenreiter, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Tift Merritt, Martin Harley
Silverado: Zac Brown Band, Train, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Kacey Musgraves, Secret Sisters
Chardonnay: Rob Delaney, Greg Behrendt, Kristen Schaal
Midway: Cake, Wallflowers, Grouplove, Rogue Wave, Girls and Boys
Miner Family: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Brandi Carlile, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, Erin O’Hara