“Transformative.” It was a word spoken with sincere regularity by many over the course of Do LaB’s annual flagship festival Lightning in a Bottle and with good reason. When the dust settled and the music quieted early Monday morning, the vibe was euphoric and meditative. We’d all been through an experience, not just a music festival.
This LiB magic is certainly nothing new. Numerous attendees had been celebrating their third, fourth or even fifth festival; citing the weekend’s unique blend of music, workshops, art and yoga that makes LiB a true festival unicorn in a sea of boring horses (for lack of a more appropriately LiB metaphor).
The festival’s second year in Bradley, CA proved both a bane and a blessing. Despite several near sell out years in the past, 2015 did actually hit capacity. And you could tell. Both of the main stages were ‘claustrophobically’ packed during the headliners, something that simply did not plague prior years. It was easy to lose your group in the crowd, something that the limited lighting and ample dust did little to mitigate. Several were heard uttering the dreaded word “Coachella” to describe the crowded stages and it pains me to agree with its accuracy.
Furthermore, food lines were ludicrously long during lunch hours. We’re talking 30-40 minutes to get a burrito. No bueno. While every festival has it’s growing pains, the crowds and lines were a sad thorn in the experience, especially when compared to previous years.
Despite this, Lightning in a Bottle somehow still feels like a uniquely small festival. The sprawling grounds at the San Antonio Recreation Area were absolutely incredible; with stages and exhibitions in seemingly every nook and cranny of the festival. From the calming serenity of Meditation Lookout to the dance party of the Woogie and everywhere in between, you could walk around here for hours without seeing the same thing twice.
The weather fluctuated between uncomfortably warm and uncomfortably cold throughout the entire weekend, fortunately never hitting the scorching highs of Coachella or the freezing lows of something like Treasure Island Festival in the Bay area.
While yoga was definitely a huge draw, the world class music was the star of the festival. Highlights included mind-blowing performances by Do LaB regulars The Lucent Dossier Experience and William Close and the Earth Harp Collective as well as rowdy electronic performances from Flume, RL Grime and Odesza among many others.
The Do LaB put this festival on by themselves and an insane amount of work is no doubt involved in the endeavor. Was it a flawless weekend? Of course not, no festival is. But with each successive year, Lightning in a Bottle comes closer and closer to a true festival utopia. A festival with the freedom to truly lose yourself over the course of five days. All before finding yourself yet again once you reach the finish line; feeling refreshed and relaxed, ready to take on the real world with a renewed sense of optimism. Magic indeed.