Out in California upon Lake San Antonio lays Lightning in a Bottle. With numbers pressing around 20k attendees this year, LiB has come a long way from its humble beginnings at the turn of the century as a simple renegade out in the hills. Today, LiB provides activities such as yoga seminars, meditation circles, and even a learning kitchen for a variety of different kind of meals. Every which way you looked, there was assuredly something interesting to do as well as countless musical attractions.
The Do LaB, the minds behind LiB, had musical entertainment delivered in spades. The there main stages aptly named Lightning, Thunder, and the Woogie all hosted world class musicians with the likes of Flume, John Digweed, Odesza and AlunaGeorge all dropping in to showcase their talents. Such was the depth of talent on display that he on-site bars were set up like stages themselves housing artists big enough to headline smaller events. Protecting festival goers from the blistering sun the canopied bar areas were well thought out and in had an atmosphere all of their own.
The services provided by LiB were an experience themselves. Vendors offered free meals to those willing to volunteer their time for an hour to organizations like Dance Safe, the Zendo Project and the Plur Angels. Safety and fun aren’t two words that often go in hand but – and this is the point that really needs to be reinforced – these organizations are important and far from being a negative buzzkill provided an are an example of how it should be done, aiding any party goer who may have bitten off more than they could chew without judgement. Through successfully encouraging people to mind their trash and providing clearly visible waste disposal stations, Lightning in a Bottle also definitely earned its title as one of the greenest festival in America.
Having established a fierce reputation for it attitudes towards the arts, we approached LiB with high expectations as to what we could expect on the art front. We were not disappointed. Multiple installations and pieces dotted the landscape either dazzling under the sunlight by day or glowing beneath the starlight at night. Down by The Woogie, dozens of artists set up shop working on murals, sketches, paintings as they inked their hearts away to rhythmic tunes and the pitter patter of those passing by. Skyscraping teapots bore hammocks and provided shade to tired festival goers. There was even a house built upon a truck bed wandered the grounds that provided yet another dance floor for people to groove upon.
Several influential painters and builders made their mark in various areas at this years festival with architect Shrine On having built an ornate temple amongst one of the food courts with two gorgeous rams upon an ornate temple adorned with rows over rows of wind chimes made of recycled cans. Andrew “Android” Jones set up his own gallery set, full of his works inspired by of his biology and bionics, culminating in wondrous cityscapes and intricate interpretations of living beings melded with circuity.
Lightning in a Bottle boasts one of the friendliest crowds you could possibly ever come across. You could almost see the positivity permeating the air. In every direction was a smiling face and a hand willing to be of help. Strangers created bonds with other strangers and shared goods to those less prepared. Walking through bridges built by the Lightning team helped navigate the uneven festival grounds.
The good vibes continued to expand deep into the campgrounds, away from the festivals main attractions. Communities were formed between neighboring tents and provided an amazingly welcoming environment. If an attendee happened to have the bad fortune of bringing a faulty propane stove, you could feel confident that there was likely a neighbor willing to accommodate. If there was someone who may have been underdressed for the temperature drop when the sun went down, rest assured there was someone willing to offer a seat in their tent and a comfy blanket to have a moment to warm up.
With such great people all around, the scene was ripe for some excellent situations that would not have the steam to happen in other places. A single person bellowing a coyote howl at a setting sun could very well result in hundreds, possibly thousands of other howls from end to end of a camp ground.
The people themselves were an amazingly colorful group. Boasting ticket sales from 40+ countries from all around the world, there was someone at Lightning from every walk of life present and didn’t feel out of the question that the man painting a mural by the Thunder stage had travelled all the way from Africa just to be right there.
Music at LiB was top notch. Each stage was a visual eye candy. Starting with the Woogie Stage, the flagship stage for the Do LaB’s newest venture, was host to several spiraled tree like structures with misters built into the trunks, which was a godsend in light of the unforgiving sun. In the DJ booth was an amazingly delightful treehouse that held such talent like Thomas Jack, John Digweed and Shiba San.
The Thunder stage, familiar to some as ‘The Renegade’ from Coachella, was a homey enclosed winged structure spanning out of a wonderful dreamcatcher like centerpiece behind the stage. Acts on this stage included artists such as RL Grime, Gladkill and Koan Sound. Memorable moments included Griz bringing brass fire on Friday with his infamous saxophone accented beats, and Lindsay Lowend delivering an impassionate speech for artists to never let themselves get defined by a single genre. Thunder definitely put out the vibe of a family affair in its tightknit community atmosphere.
The biggest treat was the centerpiece of the festival, The Lightning stage. Truly amazing DJ acts blessed the stage with out of this world sets from the mysterious SBTRKT, and the elegantly indie ODESZA. Lucent Dossier provided an exhilarating blend between a musical performance and a contemporary circus act heavily involving giant artistic props, live fire, and visual narratives. William & the Earth Harp Collective having had their harp integrated into the very superstructure of the Lightning stage with William’s daughter making a guest appearance with a mind blowing aerial hammock routine. Literally every aspect of the main stage oozed creativity and superbly enticed every sense it could reach out to.
All that accompanied with the various talents of many other smaller named artists preforming on any of the official onsite bar/side stages and the unofficial talents preforming in their own respective camps provided a proverbial buffet of sounds to enjoy. We’ll certainly be back in 2016.
Words & Photos By: Kyle De La Calzada