The emergence and growing popularity of transformational music festivals in the past several years offers a poignant outlet for creating a more conscious foundation of human community based on self expression, collective collaboration, and a combination of numerous mediums to climb to a higher order of creativity.
Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) is a pristine example of this, and has been California’s premier electronic music festival for a number of years. LIB artfully fuses the tribal, yet progressive, vibe of Burning Man with a structured and transcendental lineup comparable to any top electronic music festival in North America. The combination results in something that not only offers a weekend of nonstop dance floor mayhem, but also an opportunity to explore yoga and meditation modalities, expand your perspective at one of the many workshops stacked with awesome speakers — or even go to a late night burlesque show if the mood strikes. LIB just opened up a new venue that’s within close proximity to an extinct lake in central California, boasting ample space and breathtaking views, giving attendees peace of mind and the freedom to take in as much love and positivity from the weekend as they please. The music lineup alone was enough to draw me into this festival, with an eclectic mix of electronic music from around the world. LIB featured 3 main stages, and plenty of smaller stages, many of which continued after the official schedule ended until well after the sun came up the next day. Each stage was unique in architecture, allowing the experience and environment to vary greatly from stage to stage. The constantly shifting dynamic grabbed my attention, keeping me in a state of perpetual awe for, on some days, over 18 hours straight, from 12pm to 7am.
The Lightning Stage
The largest and most opulent of LIB’s stages, the Lightning Stage looms majestically over the shores of what was once Lake San Antonio, and was the spot to see many of the biggest names at the festival, including Moby, Little Dragon, Phantogram and Beats Antique, to name a few. The combination of the incredible architecture and amazing sound provides a surreal and visceral experience, and I caught myself at many moments in a state of ecstasy just from the sheer aesthetic pleasure emanating from this stage. With such a varied and dynamic lineup, you could spend most of your time just hanging out at this stage, all while never feeling the need to move.
The Bamboo Stage
This stage showcased a wide variety of EDM from around the world in an array of genres, including downtempo, glitch, neo-soul, and straight up trap. Some of the highlights from this stage include Kalya Scintilla, Cashmere Cat, Sugarpill and Tokimonsta, but with so much amazing talent showcased, listing all of them here would be pedantic. This is another stage that adds that unique character to LiB, and it’s safe to say it provides the best you could ever see on a stage made entirely of bamboo.
The Woogie Stage
Possibly the DoLab’s greatest masterpiece is this Tech-House Oasis. Woogie is complete with misters, giant LED shade canopies, and a multicolored stage suspended in a tree. This stage, which happened to be about 100 yards away from my camp, boasted a mind blowing sound system, and a relentless lineup of House and Techno music legends, including Claude Vonstroke. This stage opened up my ears so much more to the potential of well composed tech-house music, and what it can do with a good sound system to a bunch of eager booty’s on the dance floor. At a first glance of the schedule, its hard to grasp the depth of the experience that LiB has to offer.
Beyond the 3 main stages, LIB boasts a host of smaller stages, bars, workshops and plenty of ad-hoc stages constructed by the festival goers themselves, reminiscent of the kind of stages you see at Burning Man. There are also multiple stages specifically for workshops, and some that double as both. My favorite of all of these is The Temple of Consciousness, an eloquently constructed and shady forum that offers an incredibly diverse and interesting lineup that included everything from yoga, to Aztec Dance classes, and even a talk on music therapy by none other than Moby himself.
Though LIB offers all of these amazing opportunities individually, the most incredible thing about LIB is the opportunity for growth and learning that is largely unparalleled in music festival culture these days. It’s not only an amazing music festival; it’s a think tank, a yoga retreat, and, most importantly, a damn good time. It’s a place in which we can all see the positive potential in human community, and re-discover the love that exists within all of us that is consistently shrouded by the separatist society that we live in. I believe on a very deep level that places like this are an important cultural catalyst, and that when we look back on this time, we will look at events such as this and know that this was the seed that we planted to make a better world for ourselves. The things you take with you from an experience such as this, extend well beyond just the weekend, whether it be a single concept, a new modality of thinking, a plethora of positive new relationships, or the overflow of good energy and feeling of possibility that stems from attending. All weekend, I felt as if I were a part of something bigger, that my being there is good for not only myself, but for the inspiration it provided to effect positive change to our society as a whole.
Going to Lightning in a Bottle is a means to help us realize our full potential, and with our continued support, we can only hope that one day the entire world is transformed into such a utopian dreamland.
Top Ten Musical Moments At Lightning In A Bottle 2014
10. Late Night Radio – Personally, I’ve been following LNR for over a year now, and in that time, he has evolved to new heights and has covered more ground than the majority of artists in the scene right now. From the first time I saw him, opening for GRiZ in Denver last spring, until now, his sound has transformed from a fun dance party which had a lot of potential, into an elegantly expressive statement of dance music. His tracks have groove, musicality, and catchy melodies that not only leave you dancing, but wanting more and more. His set at Bamboo was the perfect way to get my body moving on Sunday, and my only hope is that we see him back next year with a primetime spot, and this creative powerhouse can get the attention and energy that he deserves.
9. Phantogram – The only negative thing about Phantogram is that they were not on my radar prior to LIB. This stellar American psych-pop duo were an ideal way to spend a Sunday night at LiB. The weather was perfect, the good vibes were unparalleled, and my senses were being continually washed clean by the beautiful vocals and lush textures of Phantogram.
8. Fort Knox Five – An artful fusion of classic dance-floor music, such as funk and breakbeats, overlaid with modern sound design and production, Steve Raskin and Jon Horvath clearly wowed the audience during their set on Sunday. Their tasty opening remix of the Beatles “Come Together” gave us a foreshadowing of the kind of creativity and talent that these guys had in store, and I was increasingly more and more impressed throughout the set, as they weaved in and out of different styles and periods of music. They have the ability to drop remixes of every genre, from Queen to DEV and everything in-between, while still maintaining a keen sense of continuity through their ingenious production and mixing techniques. These guys brought the kind of heat that the audience at LIB clearly couldn’t get enough of.
7. Random Rab – This is definitely not the first, or last time I will see a Random Rab Sunrise Set, and I recommend you all follow suit. Performing on Sunday morning at “The Drift,” a late night stage made of driftwood at what was once the bottom of Lake San Antonio, Rab filled the lakebed with so much love I felt I was going to burst at times. His sound is always impressive, as his production and decades of musicianship have resulted in complete mastery of his craft. His unique, transcendental sound is incredibly emotive, with gentle, organic textures and cascading vocals that always helps me to remember how much more of a beautiful place the world is than we give it credit for in our day to day lives.
6. Lucent Dossier Experience – Performance based, multidisciplinary concerts are one of the most promising and exciting things I see in electronic music these days, and if anyone is carrying the torch for such an artistic and logistical feat it’s Lucent Dossier. Trying to imagine what is going to happen next is a futile effort, as the show is constantly changing in a multiplicity of mediums. Imagine dancers spinning around in giant pieces of sacred geometry made of metal which descend from the ceiling, dancing with fire between two gigantic psychedelic sculpture monoliths on either side of the stage, while being narrated by uplifting and inspiring monologues regarding human potential and expression, all to the tune of some of the most majestically produced bass music I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t seen it, put this on your bucket list. Lucent Dossier is raising the bar for what humans can do on a stage.
5. Claude VonStroke – Claude VonStroke may have been my tipping point from the being a casual listener of tech-house music to being a huge fan. His contagious beats pulsed throughout the fat sound system at the Woogie Stage on Friday night like a ferocious robot heartbeat. The hard-hitting drums, pristine bass and funky synths had me getting down like Donkey Kong, and I can say with conviction that it was my favorite set at Woogie all weekend.
4. Little Dragon – The festival was abuzz regarding Little Dragon Saturday night, as people discussed their prolific set, still enjoying their music high. Their catchy melodies and dancey grooves captivated the audience and was the favorite set of many people that I spoke to throughout the weekend. One of the main things I enjoy about LIB is getting to see headliners that aren’t already playing a ton of other festivals around the country. This was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing Little Dragon at an American music festival, and I hope that the stellar vibes elicited from the crowd during that set will coax them to come around a little more often.
3. Desert Dwellers – Like Random Rab, Desert Dwellers are famous for their sunrise sets, and Saturday morning at the Lightning Stage exceeded my already large expectations. Hailed by many as the pioneers of the yoga beats movement, their music is a beautiful coalescence of many cultures, genres, and traditions. They artfully engineer their unique sounds into a flawless mix that triggers a powerful emotional response in listeners and instills an irresistible desire to dance. The distinct subculture that has evolved around Desert Dwellers provides an interesting dichotomy of spirituality and a kickass dance party. During their set I saw everything from an impromptu yoga session to a group of guys beer bonging whiskey in the back. Whatever your idea of a good sunrise set is, Desert Dwellers will be sure to accommodate. Just don’t drink the whiskey before you join the yoga circle.
2. Beats Antique – I have seen Beats Antique at the top of several other top tens, but its because they’re truly that great. This performance in particular was the best I have seen yet from the Beats crew. Never before have I seen a Beats Antique show that was so tight and professional. From the choreographing of the dancers, to the impeccable production techniques of David Satori, to the deep pocket of Sidecar Tommy, their sets continue to climb higher and higher into the upper echelons of bad-assery and musical finesse. Their clear motivation to evolve and set themselves apart from the mediocre is why, even after seeing quite a few Beats shows in the past few years, I keep coming back for more and loving it every time.
1. Kraak and Smaak – Picking a top set for this festival was no easy task, but after much deliberation I had to settle on this powerhouse of funk that is Kraak and Smaak. Before LIB, I had never even heard of them, but decided to check them out at the recommendation of a friend. It’s a special moment when you stumble across a great new act at a festival that keeps you reeling for hours, or even days afterwards. They seamlessly integrate elements of funk, nu-disco and electronica that ushers listeners into a fresh new sonic territory. The musicianship was stellar from every member, with lush, well produced synths, mind-bendingly in the pocket bass playing, and solid, groovy drums. The continual rotation of live singers throughout the set kept the flow dynamic, and had the audience completely captivated the entire time. Unfortunately, LIB was their last US set on this tour, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for next time these Dutch masterminds of funk make their return. It’s not something to be missed.