Here’s a fun thing to do in the Bay Area summers: go see live music! I love going to Bottlerock Music Festival in Napa every spring, and if you’ve never been to a proper festival, you really are missing out on a cultural phenomenon.
Sunshine, good music, unique eats and drink vendors everywhere? What could possibly go wrong? Here are some music festivals coming up in the second half of the summer in Northern California:
Stern Grove Music Festival
I encouraged everyone to check out this free festival in San Francisco in a previous blog, and my urging stands! It goes through mid-August!
Festival Napa Valley
This takes place from July 12-21, so you still have time to squeeze it in! Opera, jazz, wine, food, and a gala hosted by Seal. Seriously! Check it out.
From July 25-28, you can enjoy live music in a family-friendly setting on the banks of the Yuba River near Truckee. What a scene! More info here.
Petaluma Music Festival
On August 3rd, you can benefit the Petaluma public school system by attending this one-day festival with four stages of music. Very cool!
This is the big one – the annual 3-day festival extravaganza in Golden Gate Park is worth every penny! This year, enjoy Paul Simon, Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots, and more! Visit the website here.
Music festivals are all the rage these days. Chances are that if you know a few people under the age of 40, at least one has been to OutsideLands, Coachella, or EDC. Bottlerock is the adult version!
I love going to Bottlerock. It’s a 3-day festival in Napa that offers a small camping option (about 20 minutes from the grounds), but is a close enough drive that you can sleep in your own bed each night, as long as you’re willing to brave traffic on the way in. Fridays are my favorite day because the crowds are smaller and the traffic lighter. This year I am again going on Friday, because I love Imagine Dragons and One Republic.
This year, they’ve announced the lineup and it looks pretty good again. They usually attract big names to the headliner’s stage, and they pair it with a unique Chef’s Stage experience that brings out the biggest celebrity names! It takes place May 24-26 this year. Last year, Shaun White was on the Culinary Stage with his mom (see attached video) and the cooking was a snow theme, they threw out snowballs – those Hostess cupcakes you had as a kid – and did some crazy stuff with cotton candy. Always interesting. This year, I think Alice Cooper will be a fun experience.
One really awesome thing about BottleRock is that, being in Napa Valley, the food and drink options are unbelievable. You’ll spend a little bit extra on your meals, but you’re getting legitimately delicious food instead of your typical festival fare and a place to sit down and eat it.
I’d highly recommend trying to snag last-minute tickets if any are still available. If not, make plans for next year! It’s always around Memorial Day weekend. If you are going on Friday, let me know! Maybe we’ll see each other there.
We touched on this event in my recent music festivals blog, but I had to expand it into its own feature. Because BottleRock is constantly the best day of the festival season each Spring! This was my third year going and what I like about it the best is that for the most part, it is a laid back concert scene. People either hang out on their blankets in the back, sit it the wine lounges or jostle to get up front. Even if you are up front it is still fairly chill
This year’s lineup included Bruno Mars, The Killers, Muse, Incubus, Snoop Dogg, Halsey, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Idol, and dozens more. I did one day at BottleRock (Friday) and took in Incubus (the lead singer Brandon Boyd has charm and sex appeal; I couldn’t stop looking at him! Did you know Incubus means “a male demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women?” I also saw The Struts (a band I hadn’t heard of, but the singer reminded me of Freddy Mercury), FLOR (the long-haired redhead pictured below was a great new band), and The Chainsmokers. In hindsight, we maybe should not have gone with The Chainsmokers instead of headliner Muse – I didn’t realize The Chainsmokers were a DJ duo, but they rocked it and that was the one place where the people were very pushy. It was a younger crowd and lots of lights and smoke as shown above. We got a little bored with Earth Wind & Fire, but really liked the jam of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
One of the best things about BottleRock is that it’s a combination of music and culinary excellence for an entire weekend. Being in Napa makes it a requirement to have awesome food and wine to go with the music (but they really do come up with an awesome music lineup every year). So in addition to seeing some great shows, we saw Shaun White, a 3-time gold medalist in snowboarding on the Culinary Stage. It was awesome – they had a winter-themed cooking show that included cotton candy made into huge snowballs and they were tossed into the audience where the promptly broke apart spreading blue cotton candy around. At the end, they were tossing Hostess snowball packages out to the audience.
Words can barely do this experience justice. Check out the art and experiences created by various vendors in the following photos. You can’t beat sitting in the grass under the sun with a glass of red, watching a famous band play live music to thousands of people. If you haven’t been yet, plan ahead for next Memorial Day weekend – it is always Friday/Saturday/Sunday and tickets sell out quickly. So, prepare to make that short drive up to Napa to experience BottleRock!
One of the best parts about summer in Northern California is that it’s pretty much perfect weather all the time. Even the notoriously-chilly San Francisco has a legitimate summer for a couple months at the tail-end. If you’re a fan of music like me, this is a perfect season for festival-hopping!
Last weekend, BottleRock in Napa took place and they had another fantastic lineup. I went on Friday which was a birthday gift from my friend Veronica. It is one of my favorite festivals – more to come on a future blog. Between the music itself and the amazing Napa-esque food and drink scene, you can’t go wrong at BottleRock. There are a few other great festivals in the Bay Area you should definitely check out, too. Here are 5:
Outside Lands (Aug. 10-12 in San Francisco): Another wildly popular festival that attracts top names in the music circuit to its stages in Golden Gate Park. This year, you can see Florence and the Machine, The Weeknd and Janet Jackson atop the list.
Stern Grove (June 17-Aug. 19 in San Francisco): Stern Grove is a free (!!!) annual festival that has hosted names as big as Stevie Wonder in the past. This year, two of the biggest names will be M. Ward and Ziggy Marley, also playing in Golden Gate Park.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (Oct. 5-7 in San Francisco): I’m pretty sure Hardly Strictly used to be literally strictly bluegrass. But nowadays, the free show in – you guessed it – Golden Gate Park welcomes all genres. This year’s lineup includes Brandi Carlile and The Wood Brothers!
Country Summer (June 15-17 in Santa Rosa): Let’s mix it up a bit. Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, Toby Keith and Maren Morris are the highlights of this country festival in Santa Rosa. I’ve never been, but if you like country, this line-up kicks it!
Berkeley World Music Festival (June 1-3 in Berkeley): We can’t have an arts/culture/music blog without including the funkiest Bay Area town around. This is going on RIGHT NOW, but it’s free and you can bring the kids to experience music from all over the world!
Looking for something to do on a lazy weeknight in Walnut Creek? Maybe craving another local live music show after your BottleRock or OutsideLands weekends? Well, you’re in luck!
Broadway Plaza is hosting its Summer Concert Series every Thursday night of this month. Each concert is free and open to the public from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
You’ve already missed one show on August 4th, but you can still catch:
Foreverland on August 11th
Mustache Harbor on August 18th
Tainted Love on August 25th.
Also, don’t forget the Party in the Plaza on September 1st: it’s a special event featuring a concert with Mark McGrath and Pop Rocks! For more information, click here.
This year’s event will be located in Broadway Plaza’s brand new Event Plaza, which is near Macy’s and the newly opened Broadway Lane.
They don’t allow outside food or beverage, but will sell both at the shows! Of course, you could always wander over to pretty much any bar or restaurant for a drink or a bite afterward from that location, too.
Walnut Creek continues to find cool ways to get its people outside this summer – enjoy and have a great time! Just bit bummed about not bringing my cooler, but maybe that keeps it free!