VIEW PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT HERE
Like a group of roaming nomads, The Do LaB has changed the venue for Lightning In A Bottle festival year after year. However, they may have finally found their new home this past Memorial Day Weekend at the San Antonio Lake recreation area in Bradley, California. Located roughly half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the destination festival brought out a very dedicated crowd. Although there are several pros and cons to the new location, overall The Do LaB finally found a place where they can have true freedom and grow their event.
Unlike other music festivals where there are security guards around every corner and invasive checkpoints, Lightning In A Bottle festival feels much more like a community event. It’s not invitation-only, but everyone seemed to know each other. The good vibes and respect for one another were very apparent. One particularly remarkable sight was witnessing so many strangers help each other out when moving camping equipment from the parking lot up the very steep ditches.
Adding another touch of unity were all the creative and unique costumes worn at the event. Much of Lightning in a Bottle’s community dressed up like they packed for Burning Man, and the vendors were definitely selling some of the finest fashion for Black Rock City. The crowd is very different from the usuals at EDM events; I really didn’t see droves of kandi kids or raging bros in neon tank tops and snapbacks.
The aesthetics of Lightning In A Bottle are what truly make it shine. In addition to a beautiful view of the valley and clearly seeing the stars at night time, there were loads of gorgeous art installations, parading groups of stage performers, and artists painting on canvases all around the grounds. Delivering terrific art and decoration is surely what The Do LaB does best. They made a real effort to make every spot on the map look pretty, and the main road called Monkey Business had plenty of art along the way.
The best decorated stage was arguably the Woogie, which featured a DJ booth nestled in a huge oak tree. Around it were a dozen or so colorful art structures that together formed a small forest. Moreover, one of the most beautiful pieces of art was an enormous golden temple in the shape of a triangle. Just being around this towering object produced some very tranquil feelings.
Lightning In A Bottle has outstanding taste in music as well. Rather than the sound of big room house thumping on a huge mainstage, The Do LaB honed in on a few niche music styles. There was trap and bass music at the Bamboo stage, deep house and techno at the Woogie, and a variety of live electronic music acts on the Lightning mainstage.
The lighting production was excellent, and the Meyer Sound System at the Bamboo stage was definitely my favorite. No matter your distance from the DJ, the bass could be felt perfectly. Another excellent treat was this after-party type of stage located in a ditch that bumped deep grooves late at night after the primary three stages finished.
There were so many amazing sets over Memorial Day Weekend, but the three that impressed the most were Phantogram, Claude Vonstroke, and especially Cashmere Cat, who turnt everyone way up on Saturday night. Polish Ambassador, Gramatik, and the Lucent Dossier Experience were all a lot of fun, too.
Another way that Lightning In A Bottle differs from other festivals is that its food is both delicious and healthy. There was true variety for fans of vegan and organic foods. Another plus was that it never felt too crowded at any stage; you never felt packed like a sardine. You could easily move in fairly close to your favorite artist on stage.
Being its first year at his location, Lightning In A Bottle still has plenty of room for improvement. In addition to some strong winds, this festival has some of the most challenging uphill terrain. Not every steep ditch had a stairwell, so this place was definitely a challenge for some with plenty of hiking up and down ditches to get from stage to stage and to the campgrounds. Although it was a healthy workout, it was quite difficult for those without a car camping pass to transport camping supplies from the parking lots to their campsites when arriving and leaving the festival.
Another suggestion that might suit it well for next year is to construct more shade structures. The sun got brutally hot on Sunday, and it was tough to find unclaimed shade by the music stages for laying down and relaxing. It would also be nice to have more trash containers, especially near the sets of port-a-potties by the stages. Although it was much cleaner than other festivals because of the environmentally conscious community, last year had less moop, aka trash, on the ground.
Lightning In A Bottle is a must-go for those who love to get weird and connect with others. Whether you want to dance to electronic music, practice yoga, or engage in spiritual mediation, you’re going to have a great time at this very different and unique music and art festival. Although it involves quite a bit of endurance, the amazing event offers far more freedom, a more mature and wholesome community, and a camping experience you surely won’t forget.