I want to preface this wrap-up of California’s Lightning in a Bottle 2015 by firstly saying a giant THANK YOU to the folks at the Confluence who invited us down to cover the festival. While Lightning in a Bottle (LiB) spans four days, I was in attendance for two days and one night to get a sample of what makes this festival so special. Started in 2000 as a private event, LiB became a public affair in 2004, taking place in Southern California up until 2014 when it was relocated to the Central Coast near Bradley, CA. There were a couple hiatus years but in essence the folks at the Do Lab, who host the festival as well as the Do Lab stage at Coachella, have been building momentum for 15 years. It’s easy to see why LiB is a destination festival and why there are people who return year after year as a compliment to the new and excited faces it sees every year.
Lightning in a Bottle is a transformational festival. I learned what this means last year after attending Northern Nights Music Festival. A transformational festival is much more than just a music festival. It’s a “counterculture festival that espouses a community-building ethic, and a value system that celebrates life, personal growth, social responsibility, healthy living, and creative expression” (taken from Elizabeth Perry’s article in Redefine Magazine). You’ll notice on the LiB schedule that music accounts for only half of the overall lineup – the festival is filled with things like yoga, seminars, meditation, and even culinary education. At the very same time that you could go watch a DJ throw down, you could walk into a tent and listen to a speaker talk about the importance of love and relationships. If neither of those options worked for you, you could head over to a different portion of the festival (“continents” as they were called), unroll your mat, and cycle through your yoga poses. These things, however, don’t include the hilltop meditation, the local vendors, the art installations, giant skee ball, or the food.
But for those like me who were there primarily for the music, there was no shortage of aural pleasures to be found. Around every corner there was a DJ either playing at someone’s camp, inside a bar, at a main stage, or in a silent disco. The artist lineup featured personal favorites like GRiZ, Flume, John Digweed, Shiba San, RL Grime, Koan Sound, Odesza, SNBRN, and plenty more. As always, I became more infatuated with some artists I had previously dabbled in, but whom I fell deeper in love with after hearing them live. I’m talking about guys like Lee Curtiss, Danny Howells, Lindsay Lowend, G Jones, and Stylust Beats.
There were three main stages of music: the Thunder Stage played home mostly to Bass Music – Trap, Dubstep, and Drum n’ Bass – and it looked very much like the stage from Coachella’s Do Lab. This was where I witnessed an awesome Lindsay Lowend set and even got to see him do some shuffling (see below). The Lightning Stage was effectively the main stage, where some of electronic’s most popular acts played (Odesza, SBTRKT, Flume, Tycho, Alunageorge, etc). Finally there was the Woogie stage. Hands down this was the coolest and most entertaining stage I’ve witnessed at a festival. The DJ booth was suspended in the air around a tree, almost as if a DJ Booth and a tree house had a baby and that landed in the middle of nowhere to put smiles on festival goers’ faces. While the Thunder Stage was my preferred spot during the day, the Woogie Stage truly came alive at night. I have to give huge props to Detroit’s Lee Curtiss and the UK’s Danny Howells for throwing down killer House sets that made the vibes in the crowd unlike any other around the festival. These two sets closed out the night at the Woogie Stage and while Howells was the ultimate closer, Lee Curtiss takes my vote for highlight of my [short] LiB experience (I lost it when the bass from Green Velvet & Patrick Topping’s “Voicemail” came in). It should be mentioned that the Woogie Stage was also the most visually stimulating, thanks to art installations surrounding the area. It was also damn LOUD with two gigantic speaker stacks at the front of the crowd.
@lindsay_lowend showed us he’s not just a killer DJ and producer, but he can do a little shuffle too. Saturday at the Thunder stage, Lightning in a Bottle 2015. @libfestival @thedolab @morgantbarnes @mkarts131 @adatesh #libfestival #lindsaylowend #lightninginabottle #lib #dolab #mdw #notcoachella #california
All in all Lightning in a Bottle is a festival most electronic music fans need to experience. I say most because I must reiterate the festival is not just about the music. LiB is what I would imagine a “Burning Man light” to be like. In fact, plenty of people I met at LiB had brought their Burning Man camps to the Central Coast, as you’re certainly dealing with the elements in a camping setting (hot days and cold nights). We saw many creative camp areas and I applaud LiB for being so environmentally conscious; the festival is the only one in the U.S. to win the Outstanding Green Award five years in a row. The people are what makes this festival so special and it’s a community vibe that I’m getting very used to, having now attended four festivals in this great state that have all been fantastic. I plan to be at Lightning in a Bottle again in the future and hope people do the same year after year.
Side note: if you’re looking for a transformational festival experience, perhaps on the more intimate side, check out Northern Nights Music Festival happening July 17-19 in the Redwoods of Humboldt County, CA. It was one of my favorite weekends in 2014 and I can’t wait until this year’s edition.