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

With its vineyard-adjacent setting, a culinary stage sponsored by Williams-Sonoma, and a clientele that can only be described as tech bro-turned-sommelier, BottleRock Napa Valley may seem like the least Metal main music festival.

Wearing wraparound sunglasses and a foot-long beard, the band’s fans flocked to wine country on Friday for the festival’s first day to watch heavy metal headlines.

Throughout the day, bands like Scottish indie pop band CHVRCHES and Austin-based art-rock band Spoon seemed more suited to the BottleRock model. But there’s no question who’s the main attraction, Metallica shirts outnumber any other band’s shirts at least 10 to 1.

Many viewers I talk to have seen bay area A rock band, who just started their fifth decade of making music together, with more than 20 concerts.

Metallica's Lars Ulrich performs during BottleRock 2022 in Napa, CA on May 27, 2022.

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich performs during BottleRock 2022 in Napa, CA on May 27, 2022.

Tim Mosenfeld/Getty Images

The woman standing next to me was a relative novice who had only played four shows before this, but she saw the band at its heyday in the 80s.

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

Frontman James Hetfield came out topless with nothing more than an open denim vest, but despite being old enough to be the father (or grandfather) of many of his other BottleRock performers, he was still able to shed the look. Meanwhile, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett’s signature shoulder-length hair looks fuller and healthier than most people 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 a few minutes at a time as the crowd chanted lyrics.

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

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

Tim Mosenfeld/Getty Images

For all Metallica fans, the audience is indeed slightly older than many of the other performers – especially compared to the crowd at the venue Norwegian DJ Kygowho play on different stages at the same time.

One middle-aged fan I spoke with said that this would be his 21st concert and that he wouldn’t consider going to BottleRock — which includes a spa, tasting room and silent disco — without Metallica playing. — .

Another Metallica fan who has played over 20 shows told me, “It’s crazy how great their musicians are.”

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

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

Tim Mosenfeld/Getty Images

But not all Metallica veterans are strong. A young couple I spoke with said they drove more than eight hours from San Diego to see a band for the first time.

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

Worship goes both ways, Hetfield told the crowd, which he calls the Metallica family, and that he is “very grateful to be here after 41 years.” He noted that even after all this time, it still “blows me out” 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, CA.

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

Tim Mosenfeld/Getty Images

In less than two hours of playing, Metallica ran through a tracklist made up almost entirely of the biggest hits from the ’80s and ’90s. The band shows its metal sincerity on songs like “Seek & Destroy,” managing to convey the rage and glamour the lyrics need, such as:

Our brains are burning with the feeling of wanting to kill
It won’t go away until our dreams come true

But they also showed they weren’t monophonic, with Hetfield and Hammett breaking out the acoustic guitars for the more meditative “The Unforgiven.” They also didn’t shy away from the over-indulgence that comes with being the headliner, playing “The Puppet Master” for nearly 10 minutes throughout.

Metallica ends with two of its biggest songs, their 1991 self-titled album (“Nothing Else Matters”, “Enter Sandman”), sung in the company of fans whose voices have gone from two hours of screaming stand out.


As Metallica fans lined up from the station for sparkling rosé and Tomales Bay oysters, it was felt that many might not be back for the second and third days of the festival.