As R&B singer Maxwell wrapped up his headlining set at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena close to 10 p.m., when the town’s noise ordinance policy goes into effect, the controversial comedian and emcee of the three-day festival returned to the stage and noted that Napa Valley is “a place not renowned for its diversity.”
“This is the Blackest weekend it has ever seen,” Chappelle told the audience, ruminating on the significance of staging a concert with rap, jazz and R&B performers in Northern California’s exclusive Wine Country. “This culture is wherever we put it — whether it’s New York or LA or the vineyards of Napa, it’s wherever we say it’s going to happen. I’m so happy it happened with all you guys this weekend.”
He then promptly encouraged the Grammy-winning pianist and festival artist-in-residence, Robert Glasper, to join him onstage as well.
“Robert, real quick, let’s be late. They’re not going to kill us,” Chappelle said. “We’re going to close this festival. We got to. Trust me on this. The keyboards are right there, Robert.”
Turning his attention to the crew, Chappelle continued, “Don’t power him off. Turn him back on!”
Chappelle apologized to festival organizers but seemed intent on continuing the show, as he did the previous night when he encouraged hip-hop duo Black Star to play well past 10:30 pm
“Napa Valley, forgive us for disrespecting your noise ordinance,” Chappelle said, becoming agitated. “It’s not noise. This is the best that America has to offer in music. What a festival. What a weekend. What a group of people standing in front of me.”
Sensing hesitation from the festival staff and crew, his anger grew.
“They won’t do it,” he said. “Could you imagine if Martin Luther King wanted to do the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech but they wouldn’t turn the sound on?”
Encouraged by the crowd, he called out again for Glasper: “Robert, sit on the piano and hope for the best. We’ve got to close the festival. I’m only here because of you. Make some noise for your bandleader, Robert Glasper! You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it, please. Whoever is in charge, get us out of here the easy way. Robert, Robert, Robert, Robert, Robert.”
Chappelle then threatened to “never return” to Napa Valley if Glasper was not allowed to return to the stage.
“I’ll never drink a cup of wine from this dusty ass field,” he said. “I’ll drink Italian wines, French wines, and South African wines.” You cannot shut down Robert Glasper, ever. Let that be known.”
Eventually, some other musicians joined Chappelle for a low-key jam, temporarily allaying his anger.
“Guess what everybody? We just made history,” he said, sounding temporarily satisfied.
But after a few moments, Chappelle once again urged Glasper to join him onstage.
“Yo, Robert Glasper has got to close this festival,” he insisted. “Napa Valley, if you kick us out we’re going to do it in another valley. You’re not the only valley in town.”
Glasper finally returned to the stage to appease Chappelle, leading him in an impromptu vamp for a few minutes, which seemed to finally do the trick. By 10:15 pm, everybody was off the stage.
“Napa Valley, we’ll see you next year,” Chappelle said in parting.