The ‘Metallica Family’ Invades Napa for BottleRock’s Debut Party

The ‘Metallica Family’ Invades Napa for BottleRock’s Debut Party

With its vineyard-adjacent setting, Williams-Sonoma-sponsored dining scene, and what can only be described as a tech-turned-sommelier clientele, BottleRock Napa Valley seems to be perhaps the least metal major music festivals.

Fans of the band, wearing wraparound sunglasses and one-foot beards, headed to wine country on Friday for the first day of the festival to see the heavy metal headliners.

Throughout the day, bands such as Scottish indie pop band CHVRCHES and Austin-based artsy rock band Spoon seemed to fit the BottleRock mold more naturally. But there was no doubt who was the main attraction, with Metallica shirts outnumbering any other band by a factor of at least ten to one.

Many audience members I spoke with had seen the Bay Area rockers, who had just begun their fifth decade of making music together, more than 20 times in concert.

Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs during BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs during BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

A woman standing next to me was a relatively newbie, having only been to four gigs before this one, but she had seen the band in its heyday in the 80s.

Despite being in their late 50s, the members of Metallica can still shred and headbang with the best of them.

Frontman James Hetfield stepped out shirtless wearing only an open denim vest, but managed to pull off the look despite being old enough to be the father (or grandfather) of many of his fellow BottleRock performers. Meanwhile, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett’s signature shoulder-length hair looks fuller and healthier than most guys half his age.

Metallica opened with “Hardwired” and the band was so in tune with the audience that Hetfield could step away from the microphone for minutes at a time as the crowd intoned the lyrics.

Metallica's Kirk Hammett performs during BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Metallica’s Kirk Hammett performs during BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

With all the Metallica fans, the audience was a little older than for most other artists – especially compared to the crowd of Norwegian DJ Kygo, who was playing on a different stage at the same time.

A middle-aged fan I spoke to said it would be his 21st gig and he wouldn’t have considered going to BottleRock – which features a spa, wine tasting stand and silent disco on the festival grounds — if Metallica hadn’t played.

Another Metallica fan who had attended more than 20 concerts said to me: “it’s a little crazy how good they are as musicians”.

Metallica performs at BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Metallica performs at BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

But they weren’t all hardened Metallica veterans. A young couple I spoke to told me they had driven over eight hours from San Diego to see the band for the first time.

“We’re only here for Metallica,” they told me confidently.

The adoration went both ways, with Hetfield telling the crowd, whom he called the Metallica family, how “tremendously grateful he was to be here after 41 years”. He noted that even after all this time, it still “blows me” that fans want to hear the band play.

Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett perform during BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett perform during BottleRock 2022 on May 27, 2022 in Napa, California.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Playing for just under two hours, Metallica worked through a setlist made up almost entirely of their greatest hits from the 80s and 90s. The band flexed their true faith in metal on songs like “Seek & Destroy”, managing to convey both the rage and the charisma needed to pull off such harsh words as:

Our brains are on fire with the feeling of killing
And it won’t go away until our dreams come true

But they also showed they weren’t one note down, with Hetfield and Hammett breaking out acoustic guitars for the more contemplative “The Unforgiven.” They also weren’t shy about indulging in the overindulgence that comes with being a headliner, playing “Master of Puppets” in its nearly 10-minute entirety.

Metallica closed with their two biggest songs, co-megahits from their 1991 self-titled album (“Nothing Else Matters,” “Enter Sandman”) that fans sang along to, their voices already freed from two hours of screaming.


As Metallica fans paraded past stations serving sparkling rosé and Tomales Bay oysters, it looked like many might not be back for the second and third days of the festival.



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