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2 Days at BottleRock Napa Valley

Matisyahu at BottleRock 2014.

Matisyahu at BottleRock 2014.

What a difference a day makes. This year, I attended the first two of three days of the mega music festival BottleRock Napa Valley. It’s the largest event ever to hit the heart of Napa, CA, the still small-feeling town that somehow agreed to again host the event after last year’s famed financial turmoil and logistical woes ranging from crowd control to noise complaints. This year, a new organizer and scaled-down offerings tried to keep the peace, and they succeeded-mostly.

Day One- May 30:

The weather was the first surprise of the weekend; Friday offered a cool, even breezy afternoon that turned to a chilly evening. Four stages played to 24 bands throughout the day. It was a relatively calm affair that likely saw far less attendees as maybe organizers had hoped. For the most part, the logistical aspects of food and drink lines and bathroom cleanliness was kept in good order, and I saw many festival goers themselves helping to throw away garbage and just be generally decent. Maybe Headliners like the Cure and Sublime with Rome(the guy, not the city) simply brought out equal parts of older and more sedated fans who were content to throw down blankets and relax. Either way, lots of great music happened throughout. Jewish rapper and reggae star Matisyahu delivered an effortless and nicely rocking set of smooth jams and authentic beats, many from his upcoming album, “Akeda,” out on Tuesday, June 3. TV on the Radio wowed me with a continuously intensifying set of their eclectic indie rock and soulful electro pop. Gin Blossoms made the Napa County fairgrounds very “county fair” feeling with their set, but all had a great time. Overall, crowds seemed to not know or care about how much has been made (most of it in jest) of the crop of 90’s radio rock leftovers that filled out the lineup. They sang right along with “Follow You Down” and clapped, mostly in time, with the band through their back catalogue of, ahem, lesser known hits.

Delta Rae SIngs their heart out.

Delta Rae SIngs their heart out.

TV on the Radio's lead singer Tunde Adebimpe casually wows the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

TV on the Radio’s lead singer Tunde Adebimpe casually wows the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone gets into the groove at BottleRock 2014.

TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone gets into the groove at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure really was the gem of this show for me. They are a longtime favorite of mine, yet I’ve only been able to see them live twice before, and it’s been 7 or 8 years since the last time. They were amazing. No way around it. They sounded great, and their setlist was a mash of surprises and staples from their 30 plus years of new wave post punk emo goth melodic pop angst. Robert Smith’s hair was a glorious tangled web of aquanet and Napa winds and Simon Gallup’s tight denim and slicked back hair still make him look like he stepped out of a 1982 Clash video. It was sight to behold. The Cure opened with “Shake Dog Shake,” a surprise choice off their 1985 album, The Top. They played for 2 and a half hours with hits old and new, and I realized how much I do in fact like their more recent material, pitch perfect pops songs and raw, soaring rock riffs. Smith also allowed himself to show off a playful side, dancing and making faces throughout the set, they and everyone else was having the time of their lives. It was only when the festival had to cut the power at 10pm (a price to pay for hosting your outdoor fest in a Napa neighborhood) that the Cure finally left the stage, and only after the crowd of perhaps ten thousand helped Smith finish singing the band’s encore of “Why Can’t I Be You?”

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

The Cure at BottleRock 2014.

All in all, a nice easy festival experience that I looked forward to repeating again with BottleRock Day 2. I had no idea what I was about to experience.

Day Two- May 31:

“Third Eye Blind can suck my dick.”

Of all the things that I could not have expected happening on BottleRock day 2, Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell talking mad shit about his apparent rivals has to be at the top. You see, these two 90’s rock throwbacks were playing at the same time on Saturday, only one was one the Main Stage, and one wasn’t. Guess who wasn’t. Still, Smash Mouth rocked the house like I could never have expected. I was having fun, dammit! At a Smash Mouth set! My God, I had to get out of there! But I could barely move, suddenly finding myself in the middle of a horde of festival goers packing us tighter and tighter with every song. And then it hit me, there’s a shit-ton of people here today!

Estimates on Saturday were leveled at around 30,00 festival goers. Now, Friday could not have had more than ten thousand attendees, but this day was different. The whole vibe of Saturday was opposite that of Friday. It looked like a younger crowd, beefier, more apt for alcohol. Beer and wines lines were a dozen deep by 2pm, twice that by 4pm. The food trucks felt the pinch as wait times for orders hit a half hour. Bathrooms got gritty. The whole thing got gritty. Suddenly, people were competing for space, competing for views. There was a tension in the air, at least on my radar.

Trebuchet play BottleRock 2014.

Trebuchet play BottleRock 2014.

The day started out well enough, Petaluma band Trebuchet played a fun set of folk rock with great harmonies and cute little ukuleles. Brooklyn indie duo Matt & Kim were the highlight of the early afternoon, running out to meet the crowd from the main stage and practically beaming throughout their energetic and hip set of synth rock. Drummer Kim Schifino’s smile infected the whole crowd, and I’ve rarely witnessed a duo able to get a party going more effectively than these two. L.A. noise punks No Age blew out some eardrums, but sounded awesome on the smaller stage, right before Smash Mouth started taking jabs and downing drinks that weren’t Coca-Cola. After that, the mood seemed to change, couples were bickering more around me. People were stumbling, either from not eating right or not hydrating enough in the sun after drinking heavy craft beers and strong Napa wine. I started to watch my step, if you know what I mean.

Matt & Kim get the party going at BottleRock 2014.

Matt & Kim get the party going at BottleRock 2014.

Weezer plays BottleRock 2014.

Weezer plays BottleRock 2014.

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo rocks out at BottleRock 2014.

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo rocks out at BottleRock 2014.

De La Soul connects with the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

De La Soul connects with the crowd at BottleRock 2014.

But, I’ve totally buried the lead here. Day 2’s headliner was the recently reunited hip hop dream team of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, aka Outkast. The duo have been headlining all the festivals lately, and the general consensus is that they were the big “get” of BottleRock this year, playing it over other major Bay Area festivals like Outside Lands. They were crazy, introduced to the audience in a giant glass case like Magneto at the end of that first X-Men movie. Soon enough, they escaped their confines to perform a blistering, dizzying and all-out electrifying set of hits. The other big evening act was classic rock sister act Heart. Let me tell you, Anne and Nancy Wilson still got it. They sounded amazing, looked spectacular, it was a rock and roll show every step of the way. They, too, got the cut-off treatment at 10pm. But that slight wasn’t nearly as bad as when attendees tried to get out of the festival that night, as 30,00 people attempted to form ONE line that led to shuttles taking folks to the parking areas located out of town. I got the bright idea to leave a little bit early, and still took a good 45 minutes to go from festival gate to car door. I heard reports of people waiting three hours, and fights breaking out over line cutting and such. Not a good way to end the day.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

Outkast at BottleRock 2014.

OutKast at BottleRock 2014.

OutKast at BottleRock 2014.

I’m actually glad that I did not get to go to the third and final day of Bottlerock. I know there’s some great acts playing, like Deerhunter and Thee Oh Sees; there’s also some horrible bands playing, like Spin Doctors and Barenaked Ladies. It would have been awesome to see LL Cool J if  for no other reason than to say you did it. But, after two long days of escalating madness, its best I stay out of wonderland this last day. I must say it was much more fun than I anticipated, although I knew for a fact I was going to love the Cure already (biased reporting I know, sue me). Would I try it again next year? Maybe, we’ll have to see the lineup. If you can get Crash Test Dummies to come out for 2015, you’ve got my ticket already spoken for.

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Top Ten Reasons Why the Cure Does Not Suck!

Nine hours in to the new decade and I just got dissed. What’s worse is I had zero comeback. Nothing. I was stunned, not only because someone was calling me out on New Year’s morning, but dude. Nobody, but NOBODY says the Cure suck. And here’s why:

10. Boys Don’t Cry

Yes, I see the irony in acting like a whiny little baby, and then start off with “Boys Don’t Cry,” but that’s just how it’s going to be. One of the catchiest pop riffs ever, the song is simple, yet wholly memorable, tapping into truth and insight in two and a half minutes. And Robert Smith was barely 20 when he wrote that. It only gets better from here.

9. the hair

Oooohhh, the hair. Good God, it’s just so… so… big. I guess once you go Aquanet, you can’t go back. I don’t know, for me the hair is awesome. All of that effort, so many hours and curlers and shit, just to look like that. You know what that is people? It fucking dedication to the cause! You know what? Same goes for the eyeliner! You go, goth!

8. the year that was 1982

Besides sporting one of the best title/cover combos in music history, this album defined the Cure as a post punk innovator and pioneer in 1982. Nobody sounded like this when the album hit our shores (maybe Joy Division), full of tribal drums and brutal wails, its almost like an early 80’s precursor to today’s black metal.

And now for something completely different.

No this video itself is not from 1982, but the song is. Two reasons to post this video. Not only is “Let’s Go to Bed” a critical point in the bands time line and growth, but DAMN! look at Robert Smiths short short haircut! Holy Geez.

So after Pornography, there was a bit of a detox that needed to happen. The band was in bleak states, almost breaking up in the process. Smith, on his own, set out to “write the antithesis for what the Cure stood for ” at the time. What emerged was a highly energetic, danceable, and goddamn fun as all hell song. It became so popular that Smith would feel comfortable in the future to write such greats as “Why Can’t I be You?” “Friday, I’m in Love” and “In Between Days,” all amazing songs.

7. Robert Smith’s awesome F-Bombs

It doesn’t happen often, in fact it’s quite rare. But once in a great while Robert Smith will just drop the most amazing F-Bomb in his lyrics. Most notably on “The Kiss,” the opener to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.

Oh, it’s a dark intro, building and building. You can tell things are bad as Smith starts in with “Kiss me kiss me kiss me/Your tongue is like poison/So swollen it fills up my mouth”

But when he really gets into it, you just want to stand back, give the man some room, and he needs it as he explodes with “Get it out get it out get it out/Get your fucking voice out of my head.” It’s probably the single most satisfying F-Bomb in music. So good.

6. Cult Hero

A quick little side band to show you. Cult Hero was formed briefly in 1979, right before the Cure became known for Three Imaginary Boys. The Cure was basically joined by Smith’s sisters and a local postman, and released two incredible songs, “I’m a Cult Hero” and “I Dig You”. Just listen to ’em. You’ll love it.

Tracks 11 and 12.

While you’re at it, just listen to the whole Seventeen Seconds album. I am.

5. Simon Gallup

When you think of the great duos in history, Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, Donald Trump and his toupee; few things go together as well as Robert Smith and Simon Gallup. The Cure’s bassist for most all of their thirty years, Gallup was even Robert Smiths best man. That, and he’s one of the most imitated, influential musicians out there. Make no mistake, more than one of your favorite bassists had Simon Gallup in the back of their mind when they bought their first four string.

4. Close to Me


Speaking of Simon, how ya like that bass line from “Close to Me?” My personal favorite video of theirs. It speaks for itself.

3. 4:13 Dream

That’s right assholes. I love the latest Cure album. The most common complaints about the group usually focus on their recent output. For some reason, starting with Wild Mood Swings and Bloodflowers in the 90’s, the Cure sound was no longer cool. WTF?

I love that Smith and these guys (by the way the current lineup is maybe the best for outright musicianship) are still at it. If the Rolling Stones or motherfucking KISS with their stupid as fuck FACE PAINT AND HIGH HEEL BOOTS are still cool in their old age-and they’re not, really- then the Cure, who have never tried to retire only to come out of it and play for more expensive ticket sales, are still cool.

The band still sounds just like the Cure on this highly underrated album, from the pretty, sappy pop of “The Only One,” the heavy use of chimes and the rock solid riffs on every track. It’s at least worth checking out, sure this isn’t a masterpiece, more just a minor work from a master, but whatever, whatever. It’s good.

2. that South Park episode


You know that episode where Mecha Streisand is terrorizing South park? And the only man who can save us is Robert Smith. Apparently, Trey parker and Matt Stone would agree with me that…

1. “Disintegration is the best album ever!”

It is you know. Combining the early gothic stuff with a melodic undertow and sublime songwriting, there is nothing, not one second of this album that I don’t cherish. Please, please listen to this album once in your life, preferably in a dark room with the sound turned all the fucking way up. Superb. This is why I like music.

So there you go mean girl who thinks the Cure suck. Take that. You have successfully revived my complete and utter devotion to a group that I had sort of stopped thinking about for awhile. Thank you for reminding me why I proudly wear my hoodie, and by the way, you suck!

-Charlie

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