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Three Days of Music at BottleRock '24!

Ed Sheeran, Pearl Jam, Nelly, Megan Thee Stallion, Mana, Stevie Nicks and so much more!

For the last eleven years, Memorial Day weekend in Northern California has been BottleRock weekend. This past Memorial Day was no different. 120,000 people attended this weekend long festival with 77 musical acts on four stages, performing throught the three days. Celebrating music in the beautiful Napa Valley, coupled with great food and drink is always a good time.

The bands playing were many and the music was constant, from noon until ten. Starting with Day 1 Friday May 24. Stevie Nicks headlined opening day and some of the bands prior to her performance on the five stages were Bebe Rexha, Grace Bowers, The Takes, Chris Shifflett, Chevy Metal, Naima, Nelly, Megan Thee Stallion and more. If the music on the stages aren't your thing there is also a 'silent disco' going on all weekend and many interesting activities in the spa building including massage, the culinary stage and even activities for the kids. The food and drink was plentiful, and as it's Napa Valley the quality of the choices on offer were outstanding.

The crowd seemed very well behaved over all three days. There were only two instances that I witnessed of someone being pulled from the crowd for bad and/or drunk behavior. And everyone that I came into contact with was friendly. I saw so many friends, familiar faces, and met many new people during the weekend as well.

On Day 1 I made sure I was at the Chris Shiflett set as I am a big Foo Fighters fan. He played a bit of country-ish music at first but eventually he rolled into a rockin set. After Chris Shifletts' set was Chevy Metal at the Platinum Stage (smaller than the two largest stages). Nothing was a bigger regret that I didn't get to see as was Chevy Metal. The media didn't get enough notification about the bands and the players in the bands prior to the event. Perhaps in future this can be corrected to help with media coverage. We got some correspondance from the publicists but the information that may have helped about the bands prior to the event was sparce. The main reason that I regret not seeing the Chevy Metal set, was that Shane Hawkins (son of Taylor) was the drummer. I heard about it only after they played. I saw some footage from other photographers back in the media building, and if I would've known Shane Hawkins was their drummer I most certainly would've been at the Prudential stage with my lens focused on the drums. Especially as I was there for Modern Drummer Magazine and of course The Music Soup.

As one cannot be everywhere, there were a few others that I would've liked to have seen on the day such as Grace Bowers, Naima and Con Brio. Friday I did see and photograph Nelly and Megan Thee Stallion prior to the Stevie Nicks set.

I also attended the Culinary stage where Tommy Lee was, and Neil Patrick Harris also made an appearance. Both Nelly and Megan Thee Stallion were very entertaining and played to very vocal crowds who seemed to know all their songs. The headliner on Friday, Stevie Nicks unfortunately requested no photographers so I didn't get the opportunity to capture her from the photo pit, and I had to shoot from a long way away from the terraces. She sounded great and her set was well chosen songs. At 75, she's still rockin it and from what I could see, she looked beautiful too. My highlight of the first day was at the very beginning of my day, after the Chris Shiflett set, I was making my way through the crowd to the media building and passed another photographer in the thick surge of people. A minute after passing him, I realized who it was, and I turned around, ran back through the crowd and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Danny is that you"...he turned around and confirmed, that yes it was, and we chatted for a few minutes. That photographer was none other than the great Danny Clinch!

He is the photographer for Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam amongst many other A list rockers. And my all time favorite music photographer and one of my first inspirations in this business! I even shared a story with him about when I wrote him a letter about a decade ago asking if I can shadow him and learn everything he's willing to teach me on his photo shoots. During our chat, he suggested a selfie and then we both went our separate ways only to meet up a few more times through the weekend, whilst shooting in the pit together.

A few hours later when Danny walked into the pit for Nelly, he saw me, gave me a little wink, and we chatted about our photo gear. I also shot with him in the pit during PEARL JAM! Shooting photos in the pit with Danny Clinch for Pearl Jam was definitley one of my highlights, the only moments better, were when I met him in that crowd early in the day after the Shiflett set. We all have inspirations and people we admire in this life....Danny Clinch is at the top of my list and to be able to have met the man himself and shoot with him, are indeed special moments and memories I will always hold dear to my heart.

Day 2 at BottleRock was Pearl Jam day for me! However, there were loads of other bands on too, as well as culinary entertainment with Steph Curry and Bradley Cooper.

Other bands I saw were Cold War Kids, My Morning Jacket, Mana, The Record Company, and bands I wanted to see but times clashed with other bands were Mondo Cozmo, and Tower of Power, and others playing that day. I was impressed by Mana which is a band formed back in 1981 from Mexico. They played just before PJ on the main stage. Their band members were all pro and drummer Alex González, was excellent, and very entertaining. The twirling of his drum sticks were often and precise and his drumming was hard hitting and laid down that great backbone for their music that I love so much!

Another band on day 2 that seemed to be a big crowd pleaser was My Morning Jacket. Some friends I was with thought their set was outstanding. I prefferred The Record Company. This is not the first time I saw The Record Company, I like their music and they they are consistent and always good.

Later that day the promoters told me to look and see if I'm on the list of photographers approved to shoot Pearl Jam, and thankfully I was! Not all the photographers were allowed to shoot all the bands. But I am very grateful that I was on the list for Pearl Jam! During the Pearl Jam set Bradley Cooper came out and sang a song with Eddie Vedder. Cooper and Vedder performed the song written by Jason Isbell, “Maybe It’s Time” from Lady Gaga and Cooper’s 2018 film “A Star is Born”, and he also stayed closeby to help the band close out their BottleRock set with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”. And joined Eddie in throwing tambourines into the crowd. Pearl Jams' entire set on BottleRocks' main stage was truly fantastic and a great end to the Saturday music festival in Napa.

Throughout the weekend, I was trying to capture as many artists and great drummers as possible. But when it came to the music I was there for Pearl Jam and Ed Sheeran. Two of my personal top ten artists of all time. The last time I saw Pearl Jam was at the Oakland Arena two years ago, on May 12 2022 . 'Twas a great show, but Matt Cameron their drummer, (and one of my favorites), was out with Covid that night, so in my opinion without him on the drums, PJ lost its 'oomph'. The songs were the same and Eddie Vedder, McCready, Gossard and the rest of the band were still awesome. But without their drummer it didn't sound the same, (to me). So this year at BottleRock with Matt Cameron on the throne, their set was back to being nothing but epic Pearl Jam. They sounded like the Pearl Jam we all know and love. And for the first three songs, (which is what the photographers get to shoot from the pit), I got to shoot with none other than my favorite rockstar photographer, Danny Clinch, making this shoot even more special to me.

On Day 3 Ed Sheeran headlined and I was ecstatic to see him. Last time I saw Ed Sheeran perform live was in 2011 at the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa during a lunchtime gig. There was only a small handful of people there to watch. So few, that me and Ed went outside to the back of the pub for a drink and a chat after his short twenty minute set. I had just returned from the UK and he was already massive there. I asked him why he thinks he didn't hit big here in the U.S., (yet) and he told me it was probably because his lyrics were "too racy". Ha! And then, within a month or two of our chat at the back of the pub, he and his music absolutely exploded in this country too.

On Sunday at BR, I met up with the friends who hired him for that tiny solo performance back in 2011, Natalie and Vinnie, (below) owners of RRBC, and the three of us were really looking forward to seeing him again that night at the festival. When I look back on my shots during his 2011 Russian River Brewing Company performance, he looked so young and innocent. He had no idea he would be exploding in this country at that time. During his set on the Sunday headlining at BottleRock he commanded the stage and the huge adoring crowd loved him. Very different than the six or so of us that showed up to see him in Santa Rosa that afternoon in 2011 at the Russian River Brewing Company!

The attendees at BottleRock sang along to every song on his set list. After his first song, Sheeran explained to the crowd how his music works. It's just him, his guitar, the loop pedal and a small keyboard on stage with him. He showed us how the music he makes on his loop pedal is made only in the moment and will not be the same ever again. His performance was stunning. Just Ed, his guitar, loop pedal and keys. When he slaps the guitar he makes the beat. He gave us all exactly the performance we were there for. Being a solo musician on the main stage can probably be a hit or miss. For Sheerans' performance on that big stage, by himself his performance could not have been more powerful. The only hiccup Sheeran had was that his keyboard didn't seem to work Photo credit: Natalie Cilurzo at first, for the song Shivers, but his tech soon corrected the issue and his performance from then on was perfect. The booking team for BottleRock could not have chosen a better act for their final artist on the Jam Cellars stage that night! Sheeran closed the weekend with such a sweet set and songs familiar enough to get the entire crowd singing along. Last time I saw that kind of a sing-a-long was a couple years ago when Foo Fighters closed the evening at BottleRock after the electricity had been pulled due to Napa City 'noise laws' holding to their ten o'clock deadline. Even after the plug was pulled and there was no amplification, the crowd finished the Foo Fighters finale for them. It was a beautiful thing to be part of a sing-a-long like that! As was Sheerans' sing-a-long (with the electricity still working)! A couple hours prior to his solo set at BottleRock, he made a surprise appearance onstage playing with The Offspring for the eighth song in their set. Apparently The Offspring is one of his favorite bands and he rocked out with them on his electric guitar, something one doesn't get to see him do very often as he's usually playing acoustic. Although it sounds like a weird pairing - it worked and he obviously enjoyed every minute onstage with them, and the feeling looked mutual. The Offsprings' entire set was epic. They all looked great and sounded amazing! Other bands that played on Sunday were Norah Jones, Dominic Fike, The Beaches and more. Stephen Marley and Queens of the Stone Age played at the same time as Ed Sheerans, on other stages.

A few other ther acts to mention from the weekend weekend were T-Pain, The Kid Laroi, Queens of the Stone Age, Stephen Marley, Tower of Power, The Silverado Pickups, Brittany Davis, Con Brio, Moonalice, Bully, Mondo Cozmo, The Record Company and loads more.

If you haven't yet experienced BottleRock and you don't mind huge music festivals with thousands of people, I highly suggest it be on your list of festivals that you hit at some point. In the meantime, below are only some of the photos that I shot over the three days in Napa. Enjoy! ....I did! If you'd like to purchase any photos published in The Music Soup, please send an email to:

Day 1 | BottleRock 2024 © Cheryl Alterman Photography 2024

Day 2 | BottleRock 2024 © Cheryl Alterman Photography 2024