‘Metallica Family’ invade Napa for BottleRock’s first night

'Metallica Family' invade Napa for BottleRock's first night

With its vineyard-adjacent setting, Williams-Sonoma-sponsored culinary stage, and what can only be described as tech-bro-turned-sommelier clientele, BottleRock Napa Valley seems like it could be, perhaps, the least metal of the major music festivals.

The band’s fans, complete with wraparound sunglasses and foot-long beards, poured into 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 group CHVRCHES and Austin-based art rock band Spoon seemed like more natural fits to the BottleRock mold. But there was no question who the main attraction was, with Metallica shirts outnumbering any other band’s by a factor of at least ten to one.

Many members of the audience that I spoke with had seen the Bay Area rockers, who just began their fifth decade of making music together, over 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

One woman standing next to me was a relative novice, having only gone to four shows before this one, but she had gotten to see the band in its’ 80s heyday.

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

With all the Metallica fans, the audience did skew a little older than for many of the rest of the performers – especially compared to the crowd at Norwegian DJ Kygo, who was playing at the same time on a different stage.

One middle-aged fan I spoke with said this would be his 21st concert and that he wouldn’t have considered going to BottleRock – which includes a spa, wine-tasting booth, and silent disco on the festival grounds – had Metallica not been playing .

Another Metallica fan who had been to over 20 shows told me, “it’s kind of insane how good of musicians they are.”

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

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

Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

But it wasn’t all hardened Metallica veterans. A young couple I spoke with said they’d driven over eight hours from San Diego to see the band for the first time.

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

The adoration went both ways, with Hetfield telling the crowd, who he referred to as the Metallica Family, how he’s “extremely grateful to be here after 41 years.” He noted that even after all this time, it still “blows my mind” that fans want to hear the band play.

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

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

Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

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

Our brains are on fire with the feeling to kill
And it will not go away until our dreams are fulfilled

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

Metallica closed with its two biggest songs, co-mega hits off their 1991 self-titled album (“Nothing Else Matters,” “Enter Sandman”) which fans sang along to, their voices already horse from two hours of screaming.


As the Metallica fans filed out, passing by stations serving sparkling rosé and Tomales Bay oysters, one got the sense that many might not be back for days two and three of the festival.



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