Battle of the Wristbands: How to Choose Between GA and VIP at BottleRock 2018

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“We call it the first taste summer,” says Justin Dragoo, the BottleRock Napa Valley curator  the Napa, Calif.-based music festival that runs May 25-27. But that taste can be one two very different flavors, depending on your wristband. Ahead the 2018 event, headlined by Bruno Mars, The Killers and Muse, Dragoo breaks down how he rolls out the red carpet for VIP guests, drawing inspiration from California’s luxury wineries, Los Angeles Lakers games and runway fashion shows.

PRICE
General admission: $379 for a three-day pass
VIP: $16,975 per couple, including a four-night stay at Meadowood Napa Valley

GETTING AROUND
General admission: Pack sneakers. With an estimated 35,000 attendees per day and more than 34 acres, BottleRock has GA concertgoers rushing back and forth among five stages to catch over 80 performers.
VIP: “You travel the same path that artists do,” entering through a private fast lane, zipping among VIP lounges by golf cart and taking advantage a secret access corridor between the main and second stages.

STAGE VIEWS
General admission: 
Push by sweaty strangers until you reach the barricade — atop someone’s shoulders, if you’re lucky. “We’re careful not to oversell tickets so it doesn't become too crowded,” says Dragoo, “but you might have to fight your way forward].”
VIP: Dance it out side stage, watch from the soundboard or front-row viewing spots, or reserve one 32 NBA-stadium-inspired suites. Plus, maybe meet your favorite artists in a low-key backstage space: Fans aren't “shoving their way in to try and get an autograph.”

WINE & DINE
General admission: 
“We want GA to feel like VIP, too,” says Dragoo, so he urges all VIP food and drink partners to cater across festival grounds. Brave the lines for 40-plus gourmet vendors, because “if you have an amazing chef in a restaurant, why not bring] those same people to a festival?”
VIP: Let Meadowood chef Alejandro Ayala handle your meals and wash them all down with a wine or champagne tasting, like one that compares Dom Pérignon and Cristal. “There are only a few master sommeliers in the whole world. Luckily, Napa has lots them.”

COOL DOWN
General admission: 
“Most our new investment buys were put toward the GA,” says Dragoo. That includes planting
a brand-new grassy lawn across the grounds. It’s up to you to scavenge for the least muddy patch — bonus points if there’s shade involved.
VIP: Grab an artisanal cocktail (and some AC) at the VIP Village oasis, where you’ll be treated to acoustic performances and DJ sets. “We compare the VIP package] to a luxury vacation,” so don’t forget that complimentary spa treatment back at the hotel.

This article originally appeared in the May 5 issue Billboard.