Roughly four hours from Paso Robles resides the iconic wine country of Napa Valley. Napa is well known for its flourishing community of vineyards and wine entrepreneurs and, since May of 2013, the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival. This year’s festival on May 24-26 marked 10 years of the biggest acts in the world coming together in the heart of Napa to celebrate the love of music across a variety of generations.
The festival hosted a variety of acts, from up-and-coming indie artists to world-renowned headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers. San Luis Obispo’s own band The Honeyboys were also on this year’s lineup, making history as the first SLOcal band to perform at the festival.
Continue reading for a daily recap of BottleRock’s 2023 festival and to hear from artists Maude Latour, The Band High Noon, Ayleen Valentine and The Honeyboys about their experiences throughout the weekend.
The first day of BottleRock 2023 was quite sunny as fans rushed in to see what was in store for the festival’s 10-year anniversary setup.
The first visual presented when walking onto the grounds were massive letters in the grass that spelled out “LOVE.” After walking past food vendors, festival goers were met with large expanses of fresh grass fields that allowed attendees the ability to stand or relax while taking in the music.
The Band High Noon kicked off the festival at The Truly Stage with a performance filled with songs off of their debut album, “Swell.” The up-and-coming band is composed of Napa locals, which made for a unique concert experience as other locals came walking up to experience the music and gather as a community.
The strong brother-like bond between Ian Devereux White, Brandon Cherry, Ryan Neergaard and Nik Blakenship was ever-present backstage and on stage.
“If you’ve ever watched the movie step brothers … Ian and I were hanging out with some friends one night and he brought out his guitar kind of the same way Will Ferrell brings out the samurai sword.”
The 21-year-old musician Ayleen Valentine was the first to take on the JaM Cellars Stage on Friday. Valentine, who produces all of her work, came out in a black lace ensemble with her MacBook ready.
Backstage, Valentine had a confident yet laid-back demeanor that made for a lovely conversation about her art. Unsurprisingly, she said that producing her own work is an essential part of her creative process.
“With every aspect of my artistry, I’m a very controlling person; sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes not so much. In this case, I just really wanted to be hands-on, so I just looked everything up on YouTube and learned pretty quickly how to use Premiere,” Valentine said.
Later in the day, experimental pop artist Jean Dawson performed one of the most energetic sets of the weekend. Large Mickey Mouses projected on the Verizon Stage, which referenced the cover of one of his most recent singles, “‘XCAPE’, PT. 1 JEAN DAWSON AS ‘PHOENIX.’”
Dawson, sporting a kilt, stopped at one point during his set to allow a young crowd member to join him on stage to dance. She stayed on stage for one song while Dawson dubbed her “the most important girl in the world.”
Later in the afternoon, Starcrawler performed the only set of the festival that heavily leaned into traditional punk. The chaotic set was defined by frontwoman Arrow De Wilde’s exuberant stage presence.
She often physically responded to the music with full body movements — sprinting across the stage and doing artfully exaggerated backbends throughout the set.
After the sunset, it was time for The Smashing Pumpkins’ headlining performance. Led by frontman Billy Corgan in a dark cloak and wicked face paint, the well-established ‘90s band had the crowd yelling along to their cult classic hits including “Tonight, Tonight” and “1979.”
The sun continued to blaze down on the valley for day two of BottleRock, which was opened by folk and rock artist Paris Jackson. The daughter of Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe came out at half past noon wearing a cropped Bright Eyes band tee, playing a 45-minute set that included her 2022 hit “lighthouse.”
Later in the day, Maude Latour performed an hour-long set with unreleased tracks at the time, like “Twin Flame,” in celebration of her 4th festival appearance. Latour dedicated her second song to the queer community and trans youth, encouraging crowd members to unapologetically be who they are.
Before her soundcheck, Latour’s excitement radiated throughout the media room. Her confidence and joy about being at the festival was contagious.
By mid-afternoon, Nile Rogers and CHIC hit the JaM Cellars Stage to perform several hits that he wrote with other artists over the years, including “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and his recent Grammy award-winning collaboration with Beyoncé, “CUFF IT.”
Later on, a large crowd gathered to see Keanu Reeves’ band, Dogstar, perform for the first time since 2002. The grunge-era alt-rock band played several new unreleased songs including “BLONDE” and “LILY.” Reeves could be seen with a big smile as he played bass for the hour-long set.
The festival also provided fans an opportunity to see Reeves at the William and Sonoma Culinary Stage. Throughout the day different musicians would be assigned a chef to walk them through a cooking lesson.
John and Roger Taylor from Duran Duran took to the Culinary Stage with chef Andrew Zimmern, who joked about headliners not being allowed to use sharp knives before their performances at BottleRock.
As the sun began to slowly set, Tove Lo turned up the crowd’s energy with an action-packed set filled with thought-provoking visuals and sensual songs, including her 2015 hits “Talking Body” and “Habits (Stay High).”
The show included several references to the female form. Cartoon breasts and her iconic vulva logo were displayed on screen throughout the show. Tove Lo also flashed the audience her breasts.
The artist ended her set with “No One Dies From Love,” which she dedicated to the queer community in a similar fashion to Maude Latour earlier in the day.
Performing at the same time as Tove Lo across the grass fields of the festival grounds, the San Diego band Thee Sacred Souls drew in a crowd with their love songs that were reminiscent of ‘60s and ‘70s soul and R&B.
Lead singer Josh Lane made the performance memorable for the audience by keeping it interactive between and during songs. During the breaks, he explained the meaning of the songs and some of the stories behind them. More than once, Lane also left the stage and joined the audience where he continued singing.
When the sun fully set, headliner Duran Duran opened with their 1984 hit “The Wild Boys” with several futuristic visuals behind them, like a spaceship. Staying on theme, lead singer Simeon Le Bon came out wearing a black tee with a neon green figure on the front.
The band performed their ‘90s hit “Ordinary World” in honor of Ukraine, pointing out that the country has been at war with Russia for a year and a half now.
The band also brought out Tove Lo to perform their collaboration “GIVE IT ALL UP” for the first time in front of a live audience. Le Bon told the audience to make sure they pronounce her name correctly, stating, “It’s not ‘Tove Low’ it’s ‘Too-ve-loo.’”
The JaM Cellars Stage was filled to the brim with fans anxiously awaiting performances from artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers and 2023 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee Sheryl Crow throughout the majority of the festival’s final day.
Cal Poly-formed band The Honeyboys performed an early afternoon set sporting beekeeper uniforms in front of a sizable crowd on the Truly Stage. The boys performed songs off of their brand new EP “Find My Way to You,” along with some of their singles like “Davinci” and “I Just Wanna Know.”
In April, The Honeyboys sat down with KCPR and talked about their BottleRock 2023 lineup announcement. Meeting again backstage on the day of the festival felt a bit surreal, and the band reflected on that.
Lead singer of The Honeyboys Ari Eisenberg said this won’t be their last time performing this year. The group is set to join forces with the Orange County band Creative Differences for a tour.
“We’re really excited for that … we are going to do a two-week run starting in San Diego and going all the way up to Canada,” Eisenberg said.
Quinn XCII performed at the Verizon Stage with a blend of pop and hip-hop songs, including “My Wife & 2 Dogs,” which he dedicated to his family. He later surprised the audience by bringing 49ers tight end George Kittle on stage to perform a satirical version of Cher’s “Believe.” Fans had a good laugh watching Kittle sing into the mic with autotune assistance.
Many attendees stayed after Quinn XCII’s performance to watch Wu-Tang Clan directly after him. The iconic ‘90s group hosted a large crowd and a crowded stage, with 13 performers on stage at one point.
Closing the festival was Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose audience filled the entire JaM Cellars Stage field. Some crowd members had to stand next to the bathrooms due to the congestion. The stage was immersed in colorful lights and visuals as the band performed some of their most iconic songs like “Californication” and “Under The Bridge.”