BottleRock Napa Valley Festival

by George Petersen
in Production Profile

Zac Brown at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsFor four days in May (9 to 12), 26 acres on the grounds at the Napa Valley Expo fairgrounds in the city of Napa, CA, were transformed into a completely different kind of festival experience. Forget the dusty, crowded fields of many huge tribal rock gatherings. While basking in the glow of the sun that made this area into one of the world’s great wine regions, BottleRock Napa Valley festival attendees could enjoy an amazing culinary experience (supplied by world-class restaurateurs, 60 vintner partners and artisan microbrewers) while taking in performances by some of today’s hottest musical performers and comedians. Very civilized, indeed.

Andy Turner, FOH A1, WillPower Stage. Photo by Steve JenningsZac Brown at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsOutlining the basic concept prior to the event, BottleRock co-founder Gabriel Meyers noted: “The Napa Valley has set such a high standard for wine, food and hospitality, that we felt the time is right to add an amazing music festival to the mix. It will be great to see foodies, wine lovers and BottleRockers exploring the valley by day and then coming together in downtown Napa for an evening of after parties. BRNV will be a different kind of music festival by virtue of its location in the Valley and downtown Napa.”

Sebastien Poux, FOH A1, Plaza/Miner Winery Stage. Photo by Steve JenningsAs another plus for attendees, the entire event takes place some four blocks from restaurants, art galleries, wine tasting rooms and hotels in the downtown area.

BottleRock’s lineup of more than 80 bands was no less impressive, including (alphabetically): Alabama Shakes, Bad Religion, Ben Harper, The Avett Brothers, The Black Crowes, The Black Keys, Blues Traveler, Jackson Browne, Cake, Brandi Carlile, Dirty Projectors, The Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Kings of Leon, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, Primus, Richard Thompson, The Secret Sisters, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, The Shins, Train, Vintage Trouble, Violent Femmes, The Wallflowers, X, Dwight Yoakam, Zac Brown Band and many others.

Avett Brothers at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsTaking on the Herculean task of supporting the festival’s five stages, which ran from midday to 10pm every night — with sound, as well as with lighting and video — was Delicate Productions ( We spoke with Delicate president Jason Alt about some of the logistics, challenges and issues presented by handling such a large event, which is difficult enough, but even more complex when it involves doing an inaugural festival on its first run.

Jason Alt, president, Delicate ProductionsThe Delicate Touch

Sergey Bailleul, FOH A1, Citi/Midway stage. Photo by Steve JenningsDelicate’s role in the festival came about largely through the efforts of George Edwards, the general manager of Delicate’s San Francisco office. Edwards and Delicate had earlier worked with BottleRock organizers Gabe Meyers and Bob Vogt of WillPower Entertainment on the system installation at Napa’s Uptown Theater, and helped turn that venue into a successful operation.

“From the early stages of us getting involved with them, they kept pitching this idea of having a music festival in Napa,” says Alt, who has more than 20 years of experience in event production and touring, and oversees Delicate’s offices in both Northern and Southern California. And last December, after initially deciding to produce a large festival as a fundraiser for a variety of charities, things moved fairly quickly. Meyers and Vogt had never produced a festival, and turned to Delicate for guidance, direction and of course, technical expertise.

WillPower (main) stage setup at FOH for Jane's Addiction“We helped them in the early stages of going through bands’ riders, telling them, ‘Look, it’s a festival. Don’t offer them anything! Make them use whatever we are going to supply,’ — and that kind of stuff. We became the sound, lights and video production vendor for the entire festival, because we are a one-stop shop.” For BottleRock, WillPower had developed a partnership with digital streaming company Musiek Media Group (, so the video production side was turned over to Musiek to handle the I-Mag side of it. “But we ended up still executing the LED, all the lighting and all the audio for five stages,” Alt explains. “It was a massive undertaking, with 50 employees from Delicate who went out and executed in all three disciplines.”

WillPower StageBlack Crowes at BottleRock. Photo by Steve Jennings.The Audio Side

The decisions regarding the audio system involved a collaboration between Edwards, Alt and Brian Basilsky, Delicate’s head audio engineer. “All the system design was done by Brian,” Alt explains. “We had a Martin Audio MLA [Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array] system on the main stage, with MLA Compacts for delays; an MLA Compact system for the second stage with DSX subs; a conventional Martin LC rig for the third stage, a Martin LC rig for the comedy stage and a small trapezoid WT3 system for the fifth stage. It was Martin products everywhere, all the way around.”

Charlie Musselwhite at BottleRock. Photo by Steve Jennings.The Delicate team was confident in Martin Audio — and particularly MLA systems — from the start. “Because of the artists we had and the diversity of what was going on, the MLA met everybody’s needs. Zac Brown is touring with MLA, but crews from every artist that performed were excited to see MLA as part of the festival.”

However, this went well beyond simply wanting to tout Delicate’s sizeable inventory in Martin Audio gear. According to Alt, “the MLA system definitely helped us in overcoming some of the challenges at BottleRock. The festival was at the fairgrounds, right in the heart of Napa — it’s literally right across the street from homes.

Primus at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsOne of the challenges was steering sub-bass away from the street, which is 150 feet from stage right. We actually achieved that and stayed within the decibel limit of the county ordinance, which was kind of amazing. Seven hundred feet out, you were covered with audio; and 705 feet out — because of the steerability of the MLA box — it started to die off. So by the time you got to the property line, it was within the Napa County ordinance for acceptable noise limits. It’s an impressive system, being able to make those kind of adjustments. Because of atmosphere, people were still hearing audio, miles away, but we got hardly any noise complaints. The system made it really easy to control SPLs — even though it was open space, and could keep the audio very confined to the areas we were trying to cover.”

The Citi/Midway StageFlaming Lips at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsAnother issue came from the festival’s “jigsaw puzzle” arrangement of the various stages in adjacent areas that were also shared by vendors, exhibits and other performance areas. “The main stage splayed out north towards the street. And right next to that was the Citi Stage, which aimed at a more industrial part of Napa. Yet we set the coverage so the audio fell off right before, at the fence line. We were also cutting it down before the vendor booths, so the listening experience wasn’t as aggressive, and people who were buying wine weren’t getting bombarded by audio.”

Controlling the Bottom End

Janes Addiction at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsAchieving directionality with mid-high boxes is one thing, but low frequencies can present a completely different set of issues. “On the Main Stage, we steered the audio almost 45 degrees on the sub-bass, to keep it away from the houses that were stage right. We really didn’t do any steering control on the Citi Stage, but it definitely came in to play on the main stage, and we achieved a 35 dB drop-off at 50 feet from stage right. A big part of that was having Ferrit [audio specialist Martyn Rowe] come out to help. His expertise in steering low-end helped us with achieving some goals that were a little unrealistic, yet we still seemed able to make them! We had very few complaints on the low-end, even though out past the front of house position, we were still throwing low frequencies forward in a nice cardioid pattern — about 700 feet — really impressive.”

Wallflowers at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsFlown or Grounded?

The original plan called for flying all systems except for smaller local band stage. However, with any festival things can — and will — change at the last moment. The system for the comedy stage ended up in a stacked configuration, because “the venue could not come up with precise rigging calculation of what the beams would hold, so we went with ground stack there.” Another change came about with the main stage, which used an asymmetrical hang. “Normally, you do a main left/right hang and then an off-left, left and a right-right hanging,” says Alt. “In this case, there was no reason to do a right-right hang, because that would aim at people’s houses. So it was literally just a left-left hang of six Martin Compacts.”

Kings of Leon at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsThe Console-Go-Round

Today’s big festivals often turn into a unending marathon of changing consoles for each act. “Minus a few headliners, there wasn’t the usual barrage of everybody bringing in their own monitor or FOH console,” explains Alt. “It was pretty mellow on that level. A few of the headliners brought in and a few of the support bands 
brought in stuff. For the most part, it was an Avid Profile at front of house for each stage and Yamaha PM5D on the monitor side. There was about 45 minutes of turn-around between each band, so we did single consoles. This made it easy to not have to do two consoles on each stage, and play that back-and-forth. We did supply consoles for The Black Keys. We sent a Midas and a DiGiCo SD8 for them, but that was the only artist that had any other specific requirements above and beyond what we provided for the festival.”

Vintage Trouble at BottleRock 2013. Photo by Steve JenningsSpeaking of consoles, this was definitely a big show, with plenty of work for everyone. Local console rental specialists Hi-Tech Audio ( supplemented Delicate’s Avid Profile and Yamaha PM5D-RH consoles with DiGiCo SD8 and SD11 mixers and a number of Yamaha boards for submixing and the smaller stages. “They also used my Yamaha DME matrix mixers [running custom-designed switching software] as the tie-in for multiple house consoles,” notes Louis Adamo of Hi-Tech. “I’ve just added Yamaha’s new MY-format Lake processing cards into them, so we also had Lake EQ available within the matrix units.”

The Delicate crew really appreciated the upgrade. “Rather than using a Lake just for EQ, says Alt, “it was processed internally using the card, which makes for really easy and seamless integration across the system.” According to Adamo, there’s another advantage as well. “We supply a lot of consoles, so we like to make it as easy as possible for sound companies to rent lots of consoles from us,” he adds with a grin.

PWS served as RF jockeys dealing with five stages and more than 800 frequencies for the week. Pictured here, Janes Addiction. Photo courtesy of PWS.The Wild World of RF

PWS setup on the WillPower stage. Photo courtesy of PWS.If you’re doing a show in an RF congested area (i.e., Manhattan or Los Angeles) pro users often go into it expecting the worst and are prepared for anything. So if a show is Napa — a largely agricultural center with no major industry or airports — then surfing the RF waves should be smooth sailing. But outward appearances can be deceiving, and the festival site proved to tricky indeed. Not only would detailed wireless coordination be essential (with five simultaneous stages in a relatively small area), 80 bands, hundreds of musicians, a massive influx of local and national media covering the event — and one slight hitch.

Richard Thompson at BottleRock 2013, photo by Steve Jennings“During the planning for the festival, we realized that it’s sitting right next to a large Pacific Gas & Electric power sub-station with big transformers and open power lines. We were kind of nervous, so not only did we do RF examinations, but EMF examinations as well.” Professional Wireless Services (PWS; was brought in to handle the RF side.

Zac Brown at BottleRock 2013, photo by Steve Jennings“With five stages and more than 800 frequencies for the week, pre-planning was key in avoiding any interference issues, allowing us to react to any potential frequency problems ahead of time,” says PWS general manager, Jim Van Winkle. “As this was the first year for the event, we tried to get as much information as possible ahead of time from the vendor, artists, engineers and media so that when our team arrived on-site, we were ahead of the game. This way, we kept any potential challenges or issues to a minimum. In addition, as with any event this size, we worked closely with the audio vendor, Delicate Productions.”

Four PWS staff members were on-site throughout the five-day celebration. “We stationed a dedicated frequency coordination expert at each of the three larger stages to mitigate any issues that may have presented themselves. In addition, we regularly checked in on the other two stages,” adds Van Winkle. “We also used spectrum analyzers during the festival to determine occupied bandwidth and track interference sources, putting them on a safe frequency once we located them. An event of this size is always challenging, but once again, the PWS team did a fantastic job and the show went off as expected.”

Alt was pleased with the results — not only in terms of RF audio, but also data communications. “We were little concerned about getting some interference, especially with the MLA, with is network-based,” he says, “but as it turned out, we got absolutely none! We had no co-ordination issues. We had no RF issues. Even with a lot of frequencies [from all sources] bouncing around in the Napa Valley.”

Alabama Shakes at BottleRock 2013, photo by Steve JenningsThe Secret Sisters with Brandi Carlile at BottleRock 2013, photo by Steve JenningsThe Recording Angle

The performances were recorded for archiving and streaming by Clair Broadcast, who was hired through Musiek. The live sound coordination was fairly straightforward. “There was a multi-track recorder for each stage done via fiber, that was done at each location. They just took a split from us. From the technical side, it was pretty uneventful.”

According to Alt, there were also no issues with the recording crew in terms of microphone selections. “There was nothing out there than anyone was boutique about with the normal AT-4050 stuff and the higher-end Shure stuff. The wireless was mainly Sennheiser G3 IEMs; we saw a few Sennheiser and Shure 1000’s; but all the handheld wireless we provided was Shure-based.

Train at BottleRock 2013, photo by Steve Jennings"We provided each stage with a rider-specific microphone package. It was redundant on every stage, so we had three bands deep worth of stage packages. We had enough time to do a smooth changeover. Everything was miked up, so there was no ‘festival urge’ or ‘festival patching’ — everyone got whatever their input list was. Even the record truck took the split the same way, so everybody’s input list was everybody’s input list.”


“I think that a lot of people never expected the festival in Napa to work at all, but the response from the industry really stood some people on end,” Alt says. “It was a very high-end, very adult festival, especially after coming from Coachella, which is... not so adult, although it has its crowd. With BottleRock, if you look at the lineup, the vendors and the food and wine selections you’ll see it was a very mature kind of thing.”

But besides being proud of the excellent job his crew put in, Alt also gives accolades to the MLA system. “What’s great about that system is the controllability, which made it work so well in this application. MLA has been amazing to work with and the support we received from Martin Audio was an integral part of the success of the event. We’re already working on 2014!”


BottleRock Festival Audio Crew

BottleRock P.A. Crew

  • Lead Audio Systems Engineer: Bryan Bazilsky
  • Audio System Tech: Makoto Araki
  • Audio Production Coordinator: Meegan Holmes

Silverado/Willpower Stage

  • FOH A1: Andy Turner
  • System Tech: Craig Robertson
  • Monitor A1: Steve Walsh
  • Stage Patch: Manny Barajas
  • Stage Patch: Peter Baigent

Midway/Citi Stage

  • FOH A1: Sergey Bailleul
  • System Tech: Matt Fox
  • Monitor A1: Manny Perez
  • Stage Patch: Kyle Anderson

Plaza — Miner Family Winery Stage

  • FOH A1: Sebastian Poux
  • Monitor A1: Jeremy Morrow
  • Stage Patch: Chez Stock

Chardonnay — Comedy Closet Stage

  • FOH A1: Lindsay Smith

Local Stage

  • FOH A1: Kim Greiss


BottleRock: The Gear


P.A. System

  • Main Hang: L/R hangs with (16) Martin Audio MLA
  • Downfills: (4) Martin Audio MLAD
  • Left Side Hang: (6) MLA Compacts; (no right side hang)
  • Front Fill: (12) Martin Audio W8LM
  • Ground Subs: (24) Martin Audio MLX Hybrid
  • Delay: (16) MLA Compacts

FOH System

  • Consoles: Avid Profile 48/24; Yamaha PM5D-RH; Midas PRO6
  • Audio Distro: 300’ 56-channel snake; 56-channel 2-way splitter and 20-ch remote boxes
  • FOH Drive: Dolby Lake LP4D12 processors; Lake PC Tablet; Lake/Cisco wireless router; rackmount computer with SMAART and calibrated mic

Monitor/Stage System

  • Consoles: Avid Profile 48/24; Yamaha PM5D-RH; DiGiCo SD8
  • Monitors: (14) d&b audiotechnik M2 wedges
  • Drum Subs: (4) Martin Audio WS18X
  • Side Fills: L/R hangs of (4) Martin W8C; (4) Martin W8CS Compact Subs; (2) Martin WS218X subs
  • Mics: Standard festival mic package
  • RF Mics: (6) Shure UHF-R w/SM58 capsules


P.A. System

  • Main Hang: L/R hangs of (18) Martin Audio MLA Compacts
  • Front Fill: (4) Martin Audio W8LM
  • Ground Subs: (12) Martin Audio DSX

FOH System

  • Consoles: Avid Profile 48/24; DiGiCo SD11
  • Audio Distro: 300’ 56-channel snake; 56-channel 2-way splitter and 20-ch remote boxes
  • FOH Drive: Dolby Lake LP8D8 processor; Lake PC Tablet; Lake/Cisco wireless router; rackmount computer with SMAART and calibrated mic

Monitor/Stage System

  • Console: Yamaha PM5D-RH
  • Monitors: (12) Martin Audio LE700 wedges
  • Drum Subs: (2) Martin Audio WS18X
  • Side Fills: L/R hangs of (2) Martin Audio W8C; (2) Martin W8CS Compact Subs; (1) Martin WS218X sub
  • Mics: (2) standard festival mic kits
  • RF Mics: (2) Shure UHF-R w/ SM58 capsules


P.A. System

  • Main Hang: L/R hangs of (7) Martin Audio W8LC line arrays
  • Downfill: (2) Martin Audio W8LDCs
  • Front Fill: (4) Martin Audio WT2
  • Ground Subs: (12) Martin Audio WS218X subs

FOH System

  • Consoles: Yamaha PM5D-RH; Midas XL88 Matrix Mixer
  • Audio Distro: 300’ 56-channel snake; 56-channel 2-way splitter and 20-ch remote boxes
  • FOH Drive: (2) Dolby Lake processors; Lake PC Tablet; Lake/Cisco wireless router; rackmount computer with SMAART

Monitor/Stage System

  • Console: Yamaha PM5D-RH
  • Monitors: (10) Martin Audio LE2100S wedges
  • Drum Fill: (2) Martin Audio F1T; (2) Martin F2B subs
  • Side Fills: L/R hangs of (2) Martin Audio W8C; (2) Martin W8CS Compact Subs
  • Mics: (2) standard festival mic kits
  • RF Mics: (2) Shure UHF-R w/ SM58 capsules


P.A. System

  • Mains: L/R stacks of (4) Martin Audio WT3
  • Ground Subs: (2) Martin Audio W8LS

FOH System

  • Console: Midas Verona
  • FOH Drive: (2) BSS FCS Dual 1/3-octave EQ’s; BSS FDS366 digital crossover

Monitor/Stage System

  • Monitors: (4) Martin Audio LE700 wedges
  • RF Mics: (2) Shure UHF-R w/ SM58 capsules


P.A. System

  • Mains: L/R stacks of (4) Martin Audio
  • Ground Subs: (4) Martin Audio W8LS subs

FOH System

  • Console: Yamaha O1V96 24
  • FOH Drive: (2) BSS FCS Dual 1/3-octave EQ’s; BSS FDS366 digital crossover

Monitor/Stage System

  • Monitors: Martin Audio LE700 wedge
  • RF Mics: (2) Shure UHF-R w/ SM58 capsules


FOH Mixers Speak Out!

Along with dozens of performers, there were also dozens of FOH engineers. We checked in with some of them to get their impressions about the festival.

Eric Roderick, The Zac Brown Band. Photo at BottleRock 2013 by Steve JenningsEric Roderick, The Zac Brown Band

“For a first-year festival, I was very impressed with the attention to detail in all areas. From the artist compounds and catering to the production elements and staging, everything was top-notch. Delicate, as usual, was on top of their game in providing quality audio and lights. I was very pleased to mix the show on Martin MLA’s. MLA is my P.A. of choice and Delicate did a great job dialing it in. The Zac Brown Band has carried MLA (provided by Special Events Services) on its full production tours for the past two years, and was the first in the United States to do so. I’m glad to see that MLA is catching on as we run into more and more MLA rigs on the road.”


Brent Rawlings, FOH engineer for The Kings of Leon, with systems engineer Mark Brnich. Photo at BottleRock 2013 by Steve JenningsBrent Rawlings, The Kings of Leon

“What a beautiful setting for a show. I truly had a great time. The festival runners were a little confused, but that’s about the only minor flaw. I’m 43; I’ve been at it for more than 20 of those years and have listened to a lot of speakers. The MLA was like watching hi-def TV for the first time — it was amazing. I told the current sound company catering to the band how much I enjoyed these. They said the only downside was weight, networking and a lengthy setup time. However, MLA is up there with d&b and L-Acoustics for the most amazing speakers I’ve listened to and worked on in a while.”


Justin Glanville, The Avett Brothers. Photo at BottleRock 2013 by Steve Jennings.Justin Glanville, The Avett Brothers

“BottleRock was a lot of fun. The weather was nice, as long as you had a nighttime sweatshirt to cover up your daytime short sleeve shirt. I saw a few bands that I have always wanted to see, mainly X, and the band selection was nicely diverse and focused. The bands I saw gave dynamic, fun performances. I love mixing on the MLA’s. We recently started bringing an amazing production company, SES, on the road with us and we tour with the MLA. It seems to be very consistent and very precise when it comes to coverage. The ability to ‘steer’ this system gives you the control to arrive where you want and how you want — whether its the front row, back row or even the hard-to-reach wing areas.”


Jimmy Acevedo, The Wallflowers. Photo at BottleRock 2013 by Steve Jennings.Jimmy Acevedo, The Wallflowers

“We had a great time at BottleRock. For a first-time festival, it truly ran very smooth. All the nice touches were in place, from catering to dressing rooms and well-run stages! The P.A. was dialed in by the time I got my hands on it. Along with my stage of Heil mics, we had maybe the best-sounding show of our three-week run.”