Take a second to think of a place where anything you could imagine happened. A place where wonder, dreams, and love are at the forefront of the minds of all of its citizens, as they co-mingle and converse like family. A place where you can truly be yourself and work towards being a better version of it. A place where the more you lose yourself the closer you come to finding out who you are. That place is Lightning in a Bottle, and for the eleventh year the little world that The Do Lab has created popped up over Memorial Day weekend and stole the hearts of tens of thousands people. For the second straight year we had the pleasure adventuring into this world for a weekend filled with music, learning, and personal growth.
It was on Saturday under the burning sun during the face melting sounds of Space Jesus did the conversation of personal Utopia begin. A girl approached us, misted us with water, and told us to take one of the many cards she had in a tray. After grabbing our cards we were told to read the back. My girlfriend’s card told her to go on an adventure to find her own personal Utopia, and once you find it add something personal to it. For those who don’t know a Utopia is an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. This term is often associated with societies, and the wonderful thing about Utopias is that since they are imagined there are infinitely many versions of what a Utopia is and can be. Somehow The Do Lab has…well to be cliché, captured Lightning in a Bottle and created a world in which it’s possible to find your own Utopia, capture it in your heart, be moved to change and bring that back home with you.
For many people, including myself their first taste of The Do Lab is their infamous stage at Coachella, and the moment you realize it’s the best stage with the best music at the whole festival, the next step is obviously to attend LiB. With each of the three stages oozing with amazing artists pushing the boundaries of what we know as music it’s a given that LiB’s musical lineup would pull a massive crowd. This year marked the first year that LiB sold out before the gates opened, and with over 20,000 tickets this year promised to be the biggest LiB ever.
We began our musical adventure on Friday at the Woogie Stage just in time to catch the smooth deep house sounds of Lane 8. When we got to there, much to my surprise I was greeted by an unfamiliar sight. Gone was the Bird’s Nest Woogie Stage of old, and in its place stood a mash-up of colorful pipes that could easily be mistaken for a psychedelic level of Super Mario. And although I absolutely loved the old Woogie Stage, this new version is nothing short of amazing. After that we made our way to Emancipator Ensemble, and although the music was beautiful we only stayed for a little bit because the bassy sounds of Ekali over at the Thunder Stage were calling our names.
Later we caught one of the baddest ladies in the game, Mija destroy the Thunder Stage yet again. Next up was the grimy bass and sexy sax of Big Gigantic whose set still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. Rounding out the night on the Lightning Stage was Grimes, but before that there was a very important message. Projecting on the screens of the stage appeared the kind old face of political revolution and promise of a better tomorrow. Bernie Sanders greeted the audience, spoke to us about his political platform and wished us a happy and safe festival before he was displaced by a tiny girl with a big red bow, a hidden demonic voice, and a command of ethereal sound that made for an incredibly powerful performance.
Saturday started with the funkiest Dirty Bird of them all, Justin Jay. For me it was hands down the best set of the weekend, the only problem was that it was at one of the hottest points in the day. That made drinking water even more important, and a few people failed to do so as I saw two people go down from the heat. From there we made our way to the Thunder Stage and it seemed no matter where we went there was good music. The end of Space Jesus moved us into an awe inspiring set from Autograf. Dynamic sets from Bleep Bloop, Haywyre, and TOKIMONSTA had us dancing and flowing well into the night after the sun had made its final descent behind the horizon. Before we closed out Saturday with one of the craziest sets of the weekend in Minnesota b2b G Jones we caught a little bit of Jamie xx; of all of the set conflicts that one hurt the most.
Sunday held the likes of a live performance from Russ Liquid Test, which absolutely blew me away, having never seen it before. After that we watched as EPROM threw a massive party an the Thunder Stage. Looking at the stage from the back was a sight to behold; as the lights flashed over the totems and the crowd moving in unison with the pulse of the bass. After that the Bay Area’s own Mr. Carmack made the Thunder Stage his personal playground throwing out knee quaking bass riffs across the dirt and dust. And to cap it all off Chet Faker provided a melodic groovy set perfect for reflecting on an amazing weekend with amazing people.
Music wasn’t regulated to just the main stages, the Favela and Pagoda bars both had stacked line ups well throughout the day and into the night all weekend long. This was joined by the Grand Artique, which could be festival in its own right. New to this year was the Lost Hotel which pumped out delicious beats and eats. I know I wasn’t the only one curious about those sexy eggs. Roaming the grounds again this year was the FUNN art car, and littered throughout the expanded camp sites were renegade stages a plenty that held host to a few surprise sunrise sets. Not only regulated to their performance on the Lightning Stage the Fungineers had their own living room for story time performances, which if you haven’t seen I definitely recommend you check out immediately. And our friends over at Noise Revolt even brought out their revamped version of the Revo Lounge that made the climb up the hill from bass camp to tiny camp less and less appealing with every beat dropped.
For most festivals that would be it, but LiB is about so much more than music. As California’s premiere transformational festival it is all about finding out that thing that makes you move and following it. New this year was the Wizards Den set with healing of the plant and sound variety. For those looking to improve their diet and nutrition the Learning kitchen was filled teachers to fill the hungry attendees’ minds with knowledge. The village provided a place to slow down and mingle those passing by, and of course there was Yoga. The temple provided the perfect place to get out of the heat and expand your mind. But it was in the slow moments that LiB really shown brightest. There were even a few memorials for the late LiB favorite Pumpkin. It seemed as if everyone had a story of how Pumpkin touched or changed their lives. For myself I began my relationship with my girlfriend during his set at LiB 2015. Having that memory made all the tributes posted around LiB that much more special.
Every festival can have music, stages, partying, and be super lit fam but not every festival can create a world where nothing is impossible. Where the white noise and the ability to find a quiet spot to think and reflect is just as important as who is on the line up. A great place to do that from is the Meditation Lookout that overlooks the entirety of the festival grounds and with guided meditation it truly is a place to get lost within one’s self. In every direction you looked nature married perfectly with wacky structures, and the back drop of the tree covered hills in the distance gave you the feeling of being in your own little world, secluded from the problems of the outside. The real treat, however was when the sun when down, the sky went dark, and the countless number of stars danced their way across the night sky with Mars leading the way.
Art was on full display as not only were all of the structures at LiB beautiful but the Do Art area and the Village had some of the most amazing paintings I’ve ever seen. Massive art installations were all around with the Long House sitting at the edge of the hill behind the Thunder Stage, a LED totem that stood by the ferris wheel, and the man sitting in deep reflection by the Mystery School. All this mixture of art had to the perfect world for creators and art pursuers Damascus Apparel, who had a booth and many shirts on display this year.
We had to limit ourselves from walking down the vendor Marketplace too often for fear of being tempted into spending our all of our rent and gas money on our growing Thirdeye Pinecone collection. New to LiB this year were Derby car races and a renegade bowling contraption that left those watching in shock and awe. And for more shock and awe LiB had its first fire circle, thanks to IgNight, featuring some of the most amazing flow artists.
I love LiB and it will always hold a special place in my heart. The opportunities to grow as a person and to learn from people from all walks of life is absolutely beautiful and The Do Lab and its crew tried their best to make this happen, but this year their message fell on deaf ears. LiB has always been about the environment, about making sure the site they are on is in better condition than it was when they got there. With plenty of trash cans everywhere I saw an increase of trash on the floor of the festival grounds and in the campsites. The worst offense of them all was the blatant disregard of the pack in pack out rule. People abandoned their trash at their campsites or left them in large piles on the corners of the street on the last day. By the time most people had packed up camp and left to sit in line to get out of the festival grounds; the once former campgrounds that had housed everyone’s’ tents now resembled a landfill.
The things to talk about and the things to do at LiB are limitless and my experience was just one of many that made up LiB 2016. LiB is about experiencing life in a conscious manner. It hopes to change our perception as to the way things are, to make us uncomfortable and challenge ourselves. It dares us to think outside the box to work towards fixing our future. But encourages taking the time to enjoy the little things, like the breeze in your face as you go ever higher on a swing set, the comforting embrace of someone you’ve just met, the deep meaningful conversations with friends, or the way your soul lights up when you make the person you love laugh. In an essence Lightning in a Bottle is a Utopia; for a few days a year a perfect place is created where nothing is limited but your own imagination.
Feeling those post LiB blues? Are you wishing that there was a whole other weekend dedicated to an LiB staple, featuring all of your favorite 4 on the floor style beats? Well you’re in luck! Check out the 2nd Annual Woogie Weekend happening this summer, the Do LaB’s premiere festival based on everybody’s favorite themed stage, The Woogie. Tickets are on sale now!