At 54 years old, I’ve become a home body. My house is my happy place, and it’s where I most often seek solace from this world. Add to that the fact that I don’t like crowds, and view most large events – wine tastings included – with the same excitement as I do your standard root canal, and it’s a wonder I do anything socially that isn’t an obligation. However BottleRock, one of the nation’s most high-profile music festivals, was reason enough for me to wander off beyond the front door recently for three days of musical exploration, culinary adventures, and…well…just a rollicking good time.
BottleRock has hit its stride with 40,000 music lovers in attendance for this year’s sold-out, three-day musical extravaganza. Unfolding over Memorial Day weekend, BottleRock transforms the Napa County Fairgrounds – a normally mundane collection of unadorned buildings, bleachers and dried-out fields – into a lush village offering a multitude of singular experiences.
Food lover? Then head over to the Culinary Garden, equipped with ample picnic tables and umbrellas, for fried chicken by Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, or other specialties by Marimoto, Bouchon Bakery, La Toque, the girl and the fig, Goose & Gander, Brix Restaurant, Cole’s Chop House and Cook Tavern, to name just a few. Many of the Napa Valley’s best restaurants were in attendance.
Care for a cold one? Hop Valley, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Loma Brewing Company, Modelo, Napa Smith, Newcastle Brown Ale, Ninkasi Brewing Company, Lagunitas and others were pulling tabs all weekend. Cocktail? Hendricks Gin and Ketel One Vodka offered aesthetically pleasing pop-up bars. Wineries, including Blackbird Vineyards, JaM Cellars, Luna Vineyards, Napa Cellars, Raymond Vineyards, The Prisoner Wine Co., Rombauer Vineyards and Schramsberg among others were there. The Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage featured chefs, musicians and actors enjoying each other’s culinary creativity in front of large, enthusiastic crowds. Chef Adam Richman joined Jeff Goldblum and Too $hort on stage, while Gail Simmons, Ludo Lefebrve and Hubert Keller joined Eric McCormack for a Burger Battle Royale.
There were numerous water stations throughout the sprawling venue, providing free clean water to attendees. Banks of clean bathrooms were easy to find, while friendly volunteers and security staff made themselves available to assist festival goers without seeming too obtrusive. Though it sounds like a cliché, BottleRock really does appeal to people of all ages. Children are welcomed, and there’s even a Family Zone available just inside the main gate offering activities for little ones throughout the day. A SoFi Spa on Main Street offered tired festival goers revitalizing foot and body massages, facials, and hydration therapy. Entire families, teenagers in large groups, senior citizens and just about every age in between were there to let loose, have fun, and most of all, listen to some great music. Neil Young + Promise of the Real, Bishop Briggs, Cypress Hill, Logic, Pharrell Williams, The Dandy Warhols, Elle King, Flora Cash, Gary Clark Jr., HalfNoise, Imagine Dragons, Lord Huron, Lovely the Band, Mumford & Sons, Napa Valley Youth Symphony, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Paul Oakenfold, OneRepublic, Santana, Shannon and the Clams, and Vintage Trouble were only a few of the many bands performing across eight stages from noon onward each day. If you’re a music, wine, beer and food lover and enjoy a few creature comforts, this is the ideal music festival for you. Though my ears, heart and soul enjoyed a deep cornucopia of musical offerings, I did have my favorites…
Chatting with Flora Cash: Go Forward Slowly
Though many music lovers will know Flora Cash for their break-out 2018 hit “You’re Somebody Else”, I first fell in love with their 2016 album “Can Summer Love Last Forever”, a romantic, gauzy, delicate offering that recalls The Cocteau Twins, Fleet Foxes and Tame Impala. A husband and wife team, Cole and Shpresa Randall first met virtually on Soundcloud a number of years ago. After months of sharing music on-line, Shpresa flew from her native Stockholm to meet Cole Randall in Minneapolis, and from then on they became inseparable. Today the artistic duo resides full time in Sweden. I met up with them after their moving, quietly energetic performance at BottleRock, during which the crowd swayed and sang along: “I saw the part of you/That only when you're older you will see too/You will see too…”
RH Drexel: Can you talk a little about ‘Can Summer Love Last Forever’ and the inspiration behind what is essentially a very intimate album exploring the highs and lows of romantic love?
Cole Randall: Oh my goodness. At that time in our lives, we felt very cozy. We hadn’t met that long ago. We were just coming off the honeymoon phase of our relationship. When we made that album – and the title alludes to this – we were just realizing that this relationship is going to take some work. Summer love is puppy love. The question is ‘can puppy love last forever.’ And I would say, ‘Not necessarily,’ but that’s not a bad thing. The album came from a period when we were just realizing this and dealing with this.
RHD: And with your current album, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever (And It’s Fine)’, you kind of answer that question.
CR: And it’s fine. That’s the important caveat.
RHD: Yes, I think it reflects a maturity in both individuals in a romantic relationship when they can move forward after the initial glow of new love has waned.
CR: If it lasted forever, then there would be no growth. No evolution. You can look at it as impermanence or as evolution. I think we came through that period of disenchantment and arrived at a place that’s even better, and more stable. We got through that hard time of when you realize, man, my partner has problems and I seriously have problems!
Shpresa Randall: Both of us have problems. It’s important to understand that nothing is perfect all the time. We live in a social media world where everything is roses and butterflies all the time. But things are not always like that. And we grew through those problems. And, daily, we still have problems here and there, and it’s important to know that there will be problems and you can work through things.
CR: We’re sort of tracking the evolution of a relationship, in a sense.
RHD: I want to talk about that a little because you really are exploring the contours of your relationship for your listeners. There’s a lot of intimate and vulnerable soul-mining occurring in your songs. Do you ever look at each other and say, okay, this is too personal. We’re not going to put this particular experience in a song?
CR: It happens, but we’ve agreed with each other that, as much as we can be honest, we should just do it. Let the thing be whatever it is.
SR: All of us are human. Everybody has similar – not exactly the same, but similar – problems they’re going through, and it’s important to talk about it and be honest about it. If we can solve our problems, others can too. It’s okay. We all go through anxiety, fear…all these things, and it’s important to talk about it.
RHD: I find that a very humane approach. Your music makes me feel less alone, so thank you for sharing yourselves with your listeners.
CR: Honestly, as much as people thank us for sharing ourselves with them, we’re grateful that people respond and appreciate it. It’s nice that it means something to people, because you never know…
RHD: When you’re writing together, you’re sometimes writing about things that are hard to talk about as a married couple, much less create about. Do you dance around certain topics? Or do you just say, ‘Hey that thing you did that pissed me off turned into this lyric.’
SR: (laughing) That happens.
CR: We have a lot of honest conversations with each other. Pretty much nothing is left unsaid. Everybody has their own private reality where there’ll always be a little bolt around that, but we try to talk everything out. If there’s a lyric that alludes to a previous relationship or a weird subject, we talk it out, and in the end we both have the right to express that. Everybody else will have their opinions and try to limit what other people do, but we can’t do that to each other.
SR: That’s the only way this thing works. Because we’re together 24/7. Yesterday was the first time I was away from him in the last two months – for an hour.
CR: I thought she got kidnapped!
SR: I was shopping.
CR: Her phone wasn’t working. She was late for sound check. She promised me that she wouldn’t be. So I thought, someone’s thrown her in the back of a car, and I’m going to have search Sacramento [where they were performing the previous night] and look for her. It was a scary moment.
SR: Because we are always together. We talk about everything, and everything is open.
CR: And they’re not always pleasant conversations. Things don’t always have to be, as Shpresa said, roses and butterflies, but you have to have a framework where you can discuss everything and anything, and then let the chips fall where they may.
RHD: Switching gears, I love your song ‘California.’ As a Californian, it reminds me of being a teenager and rushing home so I could close myself up in my room and listen to the Cocteau Twins. The emotional texture of their music was so new to me that it offered what I felt was my own little world – a reprieve from this harsh world. And your music does that for me…provides me with that reprieve wherein I feel young again, and it’s nice to feel young again. I know you don’t talk about what Flora Cash means…the name of your band. You’re very private about that, so may I tell you what it means to me?
SR: We would love that.
RHD: For me, I love nature. It’s my safe place. And your music has a very delicate nature to it. Like sunlight through leaves. Your music also allows me to feel vulnerable, which is also something nature does for me. So that’s what Flora means to me. The Flora and fauna of this world. And what motivates me least in this world, probably to my detriment, is money…commerce. So Flora Cash, for me, puts nature before commerce.
As we wrap up our talk, Cole and Shpresa relax in their in their well-appointed cabana in the Artist’s Village at BottleRock. Despite having delivered two performances that day – a main stage concert and a smaller acoustic set – they appear fresh, rested and ready for the next adventure together.