Lightning in a Bottle Slideshow + Review Pt 1 / Lake Skinner County Park (Temecula, CA) / July 11-15, 2013
Published: July 26, 2013
Story by: Zac Cirivello
Photos by: Avi Gallant
For the past seven years, Lightning in a Bottle has been a cornerstone event in the once small pool of west coast festivals that combine music with a high density of art, workshops, speakers, and any kind of playspace. These events couple the music bill with an ethos of creative expression, environmental sustainability, personal and cultural growth and any other imaginable way to encourage folks to become a part of the experience, not just consume it. These events don't feel anything much like a conventional festival music festival, and for the last few years, as these events have been propagating wildly, Lightning in a Bottle has been continuing to raise the bar and has been regarded as one of the best.
As of this year's Lightning in a Bottle, The Do Lab has evolved LiB into a new kind of event entirely.
It is unique in its scope and presentation. Much larger than the typical two to five thousand person transformational festival, LiB has created a new precedent for a large scale event that resembles and feels more like an event such as Burning Man than a typical music festival. The Do Lab has taken some of the best elements of the transformational festival community and showcases them in an incredibly well-produced event that retains much of the integrity and community feeling of smaller events.
The new home for LiB, Lake Skinner Campground in Temecula, CA seems to be perfectly suited for the expanding needs of The Do Lab and crew. A main sprawling green is home to 3 primary stages and a number of smaller uniquely designed spaces with a vibe all their own. Beyond the green was a sea of camping, dotted with theme camps, renegade sound systems, and gems like the Oasis mobile spa. For anyone who wandered through the streets of the camping area and has been to Burning Man the comparison was unavoidable. Those clever enough to have anticipated the expansive size of the new venue (and lack of any major hills) had brought along transportation: glowing bicycles, personal artcars, and motorized wagons were all seen trucking down the dusty paths and across the field. The participants of Lighting in a Bottle understood full well that they were playing along, and not just paying for a ticket to see the headliners.
But the folks on stage most definitely held their own. Each of the three main stages offered a unique décor and lineup and featured an impressive punch of sound. Making the most profound presence with the use of a MASSIVE array from PK Sound, The Lightning Stage brought elements of Do Lab history together. Combining weathered planks of wood (harkening back to an era when The Do Lab built just about everything out of reclaimed pallets) with three large LED screens, the stage would shift from rustic to futuristic with each sunset. The massive dancefloor was contained by the Do Lab's recognizable massive scale bamboo and lycra fixtures that provided a much needed relief to the scorching southern california sun during the day.
The Lightning Stage was home to the biggest crowds of the weekend after opening big Friday afternoon with the Desert Dwellers followed by Random Rab with Cedar and then Emancipator. The daytime trio kept the scene a mellow openhearted one. At one point, Rab finished his set by welcoming Doug Appling and Ilya Goldberg (the duo about to take the stage as Emancipator) and performed a “barbershop quartet” of Rab's classic “Best Friend” to a sea of smiles and love. Top that all of with a performance by LA-based favorites the Lucent Dossier Experience, a hybrid act of sultry acrobatics, psychedelic carnival hyjinks and some seriously heavy bass, not to mention some impressive dance skills--the Lightning Stage definitely started things off right.
The stage continued to boast some serious talent for the rest of the weekend. With performers ranging from the powerful resonant intensity of Sorne to the turn-the-party-up-to-11 madhouse that was the scene for Saturday night's headliner Rusko. Other highlights included ESKMO and performance troupe Quixotic. Ambient instrumentalist TYCHO played a mix of old favorites and previewed and upcoming release and the stage offered a Sunday night closeout set from Ooah and MartyParty as PANTyRAiD.
Not too far from the Lightning stage, about halfway between it and everything else laid the Bamboo Stage. Crafted by the always impressive Bamboo DNA crew led by Girard Minakawa was a fanning of massive rounds of bamboo creating a wave stretching out over the musician and dancefloor. The morning hosted body, yoga, and movement workshops, and as the day got going, the party did too. Large water canons shot out over the dance floor creating a wet, wild, and eventually very muddy (but still awesome!) time had by most. The Bamboo stage was a full out onslaught of some of the best west coast bass music talent out there. jOBOT, Kaminanda, Andrellien, lowRIDERz, EPROM, Phutureprimitive and bunch more stellar musicians. This was bass head territory. The weekend included highlight sets came from The Polish Ambassador who in addition to his classic future space beats treated the crowd to a fews tastes of Wildlight, his side project with Ayla Nereo. Also a hit was a super slow and extra sexy trap-infused set by KASTLE, one of the fastest rising stars on the national scene.
The third “main” stage was the Woogie Stage. With a DJ booth constructed of woven wood and cloth, it fit perfectly as a nest halfway up in a groove of trees on the other side of the green. At night, an impressive array of lights and effects drew people in from all parts of the field. The stage offered a wide range of electronic styles from around the world from rising favorite genre bending Pumpkin and Berlin-born producer Acid Pauli to Swedish house from the likes of Joel Mull and Cari Lekebusch.
On each side of the camping green and of the camping area was offered a pair of more tranquil spaces for some mellower performance and relative relaxation. The Village was a space that offered primitive natural building workshop as well as workshops held my native elders of Apache, Mayan and others. The other slightly quieter are was the Temple of Consciousness. The Temple has been something of an LiB fixture, a space for reflection and regeneration. This years temple has expanded into a larger area with it's own stage, vending, workshop areas, yoga zone, multiple art installations and beautiful structures.
The artist Shrine returned to design the Temple stage and complimented it with a number of his recycled art shacks. Full of symbolism but open to interpretation this space was a great place to “get away form the frantic energy for a bit”. Also in the space were beautiful art installations from Scotty O'Keefe and Jesse Noemind, the recycled art pirates the Jenkstars, and more. The village held space for maybe the most potent conversations of the weekend featuring an impressive list of workshops and lectures. Visionary art legend Alex Grey held a number of workshops, including one about entheogens human culture and also about the Chapel of Sacred Mirror's project that he and his wife Allyson are hard at work on in New York. Other featured speakers and performers included David Wilcock, LYNX, Janover & ReSUNator, and Daniel Pinchbeck.
Each night at Midnight the main stages fell silent and festival goers wandered throughout the grounds, finding a amazing variety of smaller areas to explore. The real highlight of Lightning in a Bottle was these innumerable spaces of creativity that one could have explored for weeks on end. Whether it was the Shikai Hair Washing Station (because who does want to be pampered at a festival or the The General Store (where one could haggle, barter, dance, or drink to their hearts content) there was no shortage of possible adventures. At the far of the field, Silent Frisco by hosted a silent disco including among artists like tribal urban bass slayer WALA, featured nights of Talking Heads vs. LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead vs. Daft Punk.
Particularly fun was the Casino, which with its burlesque dancers, casino tables, velvet rope, and line out he door brought an authentic high class debauchery home to the festival turf. Vests and dresses ran table games of blackjack, poker, and roulette and you could buy in for chips that were cashed in for a raffle from festival vendors. Comedy, vaudeville, and burlesque came together onstage for the “New Fangled Opry” show that kept the tent packed until the wee hours of the morning.
Also worthy of at minimum a few hours was the Jive Joint, a ramshackle faux house porch front that seemed to predominantly graced by the hilarious ukelele clad beatbox performance wonder of Super Tall Paul and a rotating cast of truly remarkable characters. Blurring lines between themselves, the audience, coherency, and good taste, there wasn’t a single person there who wasn’t either up and dancing or sprawled on the floor laughing. Just past the Jive Joint was the exceptionally wonderful and most definitely unique Psychedelic Friendship Bingo. The scene was straight out of bizarro 1950's Vegas and thad he two most charismatic co-hosts that you ever did see leading festival staff, artists, producers, and participants in hour after hour of the greatest game of BINGO that has been in all human history. Ever.
In short, The Do Lab took what could have been an unfortunate setback, a 12:00am noise ordinance, and turned it into one of their greatest strengths. There's so much to do out there!Go and play! They provided a rich interactive landscape full of massive art and beautiful details. This was not an outdoor rave massive. This was not a mainstream music festival. LiB has the logistical resources to support a growing population of now about fifteen thousand people and undoubtably more in the years to come.The ultimate fear of a swelling population is of course a dilution of what makes the event truly special. For LiB, the ultimate challenge now seems to be taking this transformational festival culture and paving a path into the “mainstream” culture while retaining the hallmark authenticity of these events and of the community.
It's easy to get big and follow the model of any number of massive outdoor electronic music festivals, but LiB is born of a special breed, and he seems to be holding on tightly to that heritage. Through offering such a wide flavor of art and activities, or the Cosmic Kitchen learning facility, or empowering the MOOP squad to preach the good word of Leave-No-Trace, the Do Lab and the Lightning in a Bottle crew is making a statement about the kind of event they want to be, regardless of the size. What the future will be for LiB can only be speculated on for now. But from the look of it, they are entered a new era, far from their old homes of Live Oak Campground and and far from any event out there today. It seems like LiB may not only still be one of the best but its now in a league all its own.