Music review: Crowds electrify, gum up Day 2 of BottleRock in Napa – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The enigmatic wordsmith Andre 3000, from BottleRock’s Saturday headliners Outkast, certainly knows what a tired, dusty festival audience needs.

“I know y’all can’t wait to get home and take a shower!” he announced from the main stage on Saturday night, leading into the group’s hit, “So Fresh, So Clean.” And just like that, the diverse crowd came together in a gigantic celebration of music’s ability to erase borders. Throughout Outkast’s set, the same phenomenon of musical unity occurred over and over, with complete strangers dancing together to hits like “Hey Ya!,” “The Way You Move,” “Ms. Jackson” and a ferocious set opener of “B.O.B.”

Such a communion of massive numbers came at a cost, however. For the first time this weekend, BottleRock 2.0 on Saturday reached the crowded, frenetic energy of last year’s festival.

In the early afternoon, David Graham from BottleRock’s Latitude 38 Entertainment estimated the day’s attendance at 30,000. During crush hours, however, it felt more like 45,000 people swarmed the festival grounds. Molasses-like bottlenecks of sunscreen-drenched bodies were common throughout the afternoon. Lines for bathrooms grew to intimidating lengths. Wait times at food trucks reached 30 minutes.

Following the last song of the night, at least 2,000 people were stuck in a line waiting for transport to parking lots.

Those who braved the claustrophobic atmosphere were rewarded with a combination of new indie bands, classic hip-hop acts and a slew of 1990s leftovers, including Third Eye Blind, Blues Traveler and Smash Mouth.

Early in the day, Cracker ignited the ’90s-retro vibe with a churning version of their buzz-bin hit, “Low.”

The overriding ’90s bent to the festival’s lineup has been the subject of mockery by critics and fans alike, but it proved to be immensely popular at the Napa Valley Expo on Saturday. After all, the types of fans who are old enough to have disposable income but young enough to endure the rigors of a huge outdoor festival came of age, mostly, in the Clinton era.

A case in point was Smash Mouth’s set, which attracted an overflow, packed-to-the-gills crowd. Smash Mouth is now a regular at county fairs, but roughly 90 percent of the audience knew and sang along to every single lyric of the band’s aging hit “All Star,” and went similarly crazy for the band’s covers of the Monkees, the Kinks, AC/DC and others.

Smash Mouth vocalist Steve Harwell didn’t mince words over being scheduled to play at the same time as Third Eye Blind, suggesting from the stage that the San Francisco-based “Semi-Charmed Life” hitmakers perform a crude act unprintable in a family newspaper.

Families were at BottleRock in force. Christine and Adam Chalmers, from Orinda, brought their 11-month old daughter Ainsley, who danced in her stroller to lively indie duo Matt & Kim.

“Our biggest concern was it’d be too loud,” said Adam Chalmers, 41, before pulling out noise-canceling headphones. To prepare for the fest, the couple played Matt & Kim’s music for their daughter, and it showed in her dance moves. “She’ll know some Weezer, too, probably,” Christine Chalmers said.

Also wandering the vibrant grounds was former Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia, who now makes wine in Napa Valley. “It’s the same mental approach, where you basically have to look at every year as a separate year,” the ballplayer said of switching careers. “Making wine, you might have a bad year, so you just look forward to the next one. Just like baseball.”

Los Angeles punk duo No Age made a ferocious noise, as did Weezer — for a handful of seconds, at least. Set opener “My Name Is Jonas” was interrupted by a sudden power failure which wasn’t rectified until the end of the song. (Just like the Cure’s set the night before, the audience was all too happy to fill in the lyrics.)

Hip-hop fans like Yuba City’s Frankie Saraiva, 26, looked forward to the positive vibe of De La Soul, who turned in a stellar set watched from the side of the stage by L.L. Cool J and Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest. Meanwhile, other attendees were simply happy to be in the presence of rock royalty. Morgan Hedden traveled all the way from Washington, D.C., to see Weezer at BottleRock, and by Saturday night, the 21-year-old already had a celebrity encounter under her belt.

“The Third Eye Blind guy,” Hedden declared. “I touched his butt.”

On a secondary stage, Heart became the second band this weekend to have the plug pulled on their performance because of a strict 10 p.m. curfew.

But it was Outkast, who most pundits predicted would save their reunion tour for the larger Outside Lands festival in San Francisco, who brought BottleRock to a tremendous, palpable climax for thousands of people in the Expo’s field.

Certainly, the locale of the Bay Area propelled the group.

“When we first came out,” said rapper Big Boi, “they thought we was from the West Coast. They thought we was from Oakland! KMEL was the first station to play our records.”

“It’s good to be back,” he said.

BottleRock continues Sunday with headliner Eric Church. For tickets and more info., see http://www.bottlerock.com.

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