Nestled between California’s two flagship cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, lies a tiny little town with a population of 93, as reported in the 2010 United States Census. For the last two years, however, Bradley has been considered home to people from all over the world for a Memorial Day weekend celebration known as Lightning in a Bottle (LiB). The four-day camping festival that is centered around art, music, and wellness transcends beyond the traditional festival atmosphere by providing a one-of-a-kind experience that is highly praised, yet still up-and-coming.
Think of it this way: if Coachella’s desert dance party and Burning Man’s self-sufficient society met halfway, that sweet spot would be what LiB is. What began as a private birthday party started by the Do LaB’s three Flemming brothers, DeDe and twins Josh and Jesse, has grown to become a fully fledged festival ever since its public debut in 2004. LiB, which has been awarded as the Greenest Festival for the 5th year in a row, has attendees set up camp and live within a community on the compound. When they leave, everything they brought will be taken back with them, leaving no trace of this pop up society behind. The only thing that remains are the memories shared on those camp grounds.
From Santa Barbara to Silverado, the home of LiB has bounced around all over California before settling in their newest Monterey County location for the 2014 festival. While the Do LaB team was excited to host a larger space to accommodate more bodies, they were faced with some unforeseen troubles, and thus, unhappy campers.
For this year’s festival, which sold out for the first time ever, the team intended to right the wrongs, and the outcome turned out to be a smashing success. The most notable difference between the first and second years at the new venue was the installation of bridges over ravines, making for easy travel. Last year attendees were required to scale up and down ravines to get from one section of the venue to another, which noticeably depleted the overall energy of the festival. This year people were excited and energized, ready to fully engage. With tickets sold in 46 countries to a third more attendees, it was very clear that this year would be the biggest ever in LiB history.
One of LiB’s most unique aspects is the endless amount of activities, more than most other festivals. While most festivals are centered around music, LiB is centered around each and every attendee, providing a truly unique experience that varies from each individual person to the next. The Temple of Consciousness held a variety of talks, speakers, and classes on mental and physical wellness, holistic living, and spirituality. The festival’s yoga tents had classes for those to center themselves in the midst of all the dust and bustle.
But what attracts most attendees is the amazing and diverse musical lineup, comprised mostly of electronic, dance, and performance artists. This year’s lineup was headlined by English producer SBTRKT, Australian producer Flume, and San Francisco’s Tycho, with supporting performances from artists like RL Grime, AlunaGeorge, and Odesza. LiB’s three stages, Woogie, Thunder, and Lightning, were enjoyable in their own individual ways, representing different vibes.
The festival’s critically famed Woogie stage returned in full force to provide a designated dance experience that is completely unique to LiB. The Woogie, which is situated in a tree, features a prominent platform for producers like Thomas Jack and Shiba San to rock out on. Fans would boogie underneath the Woogie, and there always seemed to be enough room for everyone to get their groove on, making it the perfect stage for dedicated dancers. At night the lights around the Woogie would frame the stage in a way that would make it look as if it were floating, giving the smallest stage a supremely assertive presence that everyone enjoyed.
This year LiB retired the Bamboo stage to introduce the Thunder stage as the new home for bass artists. Though the small, rickety wooden stage is no longer, it has been replaced with a robust resort for bass to thunder throughout. From the musical livetronica stylings of Griz to the trap turbulence of RL Grime, the Thunder stage roared heavily, commanding attention as the newest addition to the LiB family.
Lightning, the biggest stage of them all, had unparalleled diversity, ranging from hip-hop (Zion I) to performance (Lucent Dossier Experience) artists. Tycho, who designed the merchandise and poster artwork for this year’s festival, closed out the weekend, leaving guests with a new sense of self and a readiness to return back to their normal lives.
The festival ends in a similar way for the Do LaB team in what DeDe calls their “Tuesday Takedown.” The crew cleans up and disassembles the festival structures, and then they watch their final sunset of the year. There’s hugging, crying, and the sharing of experiences between the 100 people who made LiB all possible.
In a way, this Tuesday Takedown is a summation of the festival in itself — people coming from all walks of life to create, celebrate, clean up their community, only to return again in the future to the same place and familiar faces, as well as new ones.
At LiB there’s something for everybody — and while the meaning of the festival’s name is up to interpretation, it can be simply defined as this: “Lightning in a Bottle” is a moment in time that is captured and treasured, never to be experienced again. The thousands of individuals that come to LiB are all open and ready to experience the unknown, and leave with a new sense of belonging to something greater, something good. The heat and dust weren’t enough to stop LiB’s desert dwellers from dancing underneath the sun and stars, and its end is certainly not enough to stop the good vibes and stories from being shared. Until next year, LiB.
PHOTOS BY: LAURA TSU