I was unsure what to expect and honestly skeptical about all the hype surrounding Lightning In A Bottle before attending it for the first time. By the end of the long weekend, I was captivated with new experiences that opened my eyes to what an “arts and music” festival should really be.
“People will say ‘what just happened’,” after attending LIB said founder Dede Flemming. “LIB is filled with random moments in time, captured, like lightning in a bottle”. And here I am, saying “wtf just happened” as I revel in the experience.
The Do Lab produced Lightning In A Bottle 2015, which sold out for its first year ever. Over 20,000 people from 46 countries showed up to the middle of nowhere California along a dry lakebed to create the community that is LIB. While LIB started as a small mountain rave-birthday party, it’s amazing what it has grown into. While at least 1/3 more people than last year ventured out, the festival never felt crowded or diluted. In fact, the LIB team made the overall festival area more compact this year, but not once did I feel stuffed into a space.
Arriving Friday night, my friend and I were able to wander into Bass Camp where we set up our tent. Our new neighbors were welcoming, offered us a beer and struck up conversations. Our flashlights we brought ended up busted, and someone next to us gave us one of his — he didn’t even know our names yet. The energy of LIB was intoxicating. I went from nervous to comfortable so easily, and I had only just entered the campground. My weekend was just starting.
Night one was amazing. We were met by loud music from every corner, bright colorful lights, a starry desert sky and attendees in all sorts of expressive clothing and makeup. We met some new (now) friends at Odesza’s set that we ended up hanging out with each night after. Plastic flask in hand, (did I mention you could carry in your own booze??) I danced the night away with my new comrades who I’ll most likely meet up with at another festival in the future.
I really respect LIB’s policy to let us bring in our own alcohol throughout the festival. Their policy on drugs is of course a zero tolerance policy, but they take the upmost care to provide any assistance that may be needed to those who defy the policy.
“We want everyone to come and have a safe and amazing experience. We have a zero tolerance policy, but the reality is that’s not possible. So we prepare for that reality by doing everything we can so that everyone is safe and leaves alive,” said founder Dede Flemming in a Q&A session. This is the type of stance that so many more festivals should take, because no matter what, people will do whatever they want, the best a festival can do is prepare for this. LIB did a great job of having spots for free water refills all over, to the point that I never had to wait in a line like I would at many other shows. I was impressed.
The next day we woke up relatively early to head out and check out all of the art, classes and other exciting things LIB had to offer. The art at LIB was fully immersive. Every piece had amazing details that showed so much effort from the LIB creative team. One of my favorites was the Lost Tea Party by Wreckage International. With their tall limbs, they looked exotic against the dry lakebed. Everywhere you looked there was attention to the smallest details that showed the team wasn’t just setting up stages or dropping a few art pieces. They were thinking about the entire environment.
Speaking of the stages, I’d have to say the stages at LIB are some of my favorites, ever. Some production companies over-think stages and set up this art piece that is pretty to look at, but a bit too austere. The LIB stages are welcoming and filled with color. The Lightning Stage had some beautiful cloud-like cloth on the ceiling that flowed in the wind. They were simple while compared to an EDC stage, but they were inviting and radiated happiness.
Saturday’s lineup continued to please as we went from Lucent Dossier to Flume, and when the main stage shows ended we wandered over to the silent disco where there were 3 DJs playing. Nights at LIB quickly turned to day as the activities never stopped. All weekend long you could find somewhere to dance or someone new to talk to. Sleeping felt like a waste of time.
The next morning we woke early and headed to yoga. The thing about being up early at LIB, is that you find yourself surrounded by a younger crowd…I mean families with children. Initially I couldn’t understand why anyone would go to a festival with their children, but I found that once I was there, these kids affected into the community in a perfect way. They were a reminder to let your inner child out, and I kept thinking about how cool it will be for them to grow up having this experience. Their parents are giving them the freedom that festivals provide at such a young age. I can only predict these children will grow up more comfortable with themselves and with more caring hearts less judgmental to the world around them.
Beyond yoga we also took it upon ourselves to try some experiences that were outside of our comfort zone. We did a Sound Immersion Experience by Danny Goldberg & Guy Douglas for example. I also realized quickly that not all of the lessons taught at LIB were on the schedule or inside a space. All of our trash we personally sorted (recyclables, landfill or compost) – a lesson on the waste we create. Our camps were situated along a dried up lake- a reality check on our water waste and the state of our drought. LIB was opening my eyes even when I didn’t realize it.
I don’t want to forget to mention the food vendors working at LIB as well. Everything I ate at the festival was delicious. I’m telling you the truth when I say I had artichoke crab cakes, in the middle of nowhere. And the best part about all of the amazing food was how reasonably priced most of it was. You didn’t have to spend $15-$20 for each meal to be full, which was really great. New Belgium Brewery even concocted their own LIB Ale, which I can say from experience was delicious!
If you missed out this year or are already missing the energy, plan to buy tickets to Woogie Weekend in July. The Do Lab team announced this new festival they’re hosting while we were at LIB. It will be back at the original LIB location in Irvine (Oak Canyon) and is a spin off of the Woogie stage found at LIB. It will only host 4-5,000 people, so get your tickets before they’re sold out!