Lightning In A Bottle: A Transformational Experience For Newcomers And Veterans Alike

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All Photos: Jordan Calvano

Time and time again, The Do Lab has demonstrated its dedication to providing an almost unrivaled festival experience via its flagship event Lightning in a Bottle. This year was no exception. With a record turnout of over 20,000 people, 2015 marked the first year the festival had ever sold out.

Despite its increasingly large attendance, Lightning in a Bottle has managed to maintain a very intimate setting for its attendees every year since its inception. Not many festivals can boast such ample dance floor space that festival goers can walk right up to the front of the stage with ease. This luxury is due in part to The Do Lab’s strategic relocation of the festival many years to accommodate a larger audience.

With humble beginnings in its oft forgotten public birthplace at Gold Creek Ranch in 2004 and then Santa Barbara in 2006, the festival has since migrated to Irvine and Temecula, now settling upon Bradley, CA in its current incarnation. Sitting almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this new location provides an equal opportunity for bay area and LA residents alike to attend.

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Woogie Lifestyle

This year’s festival saw a few notable improvements to last year’s LIB. Previously, traveling from stage to stage involved treacherous treks up and down large ravines which became physically exhausting over the course of 3 days. Luckily, this year The Do Lab decided to install a number of bridges between stages which greatly reduced travel time and created a great opportunity for high-fives between bridge travelers.

Lightning in a Bottle’s former bass haven, The Bamboo Stage was no more, replaced by The Thunder Stage, which many recognized from The Do Lab’s appearance at Coachella. The Do Lab’s home for deep/tech house music, The Woogie Stage made its return with a seemingly bigger more secluded area than before. The festival’s headliners played at the massive Lightning Stage which had transformed from an open air space to a slightly more shaded area via the feathered structures hovering above. This stage hosted the many breathtaking livetronic acts of Lightning in a Bottle.

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Woogie At The Woogie

In addition to the main three stages, LIB had two more side stages, The Favela Bar, and Pagoda Bar, which were home to a number of talented DJ’s not listed on the initial LIB flyer such as Stephan Jacobs, Chris B., An-Ten-Nae, Ste-Louse, Kraddy, Grimecraft, and Sugarpill.

Aside from musical acts, the festival also hosted a plethora of speakers and workshops which give it its “transformational” quality. The Village and Temple of Consciousness areas offered a wide range of experiences from Dream Hacking, A Sex Love & Porn Panel, a talk from author Daniel Pinchbeck writer of "2012: The Year of the Mayan Prophecy," and even Reggae Yoga.

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Woogie Family

Although LIB began on Thursday, some attendees arrived as early as Wednesday to secure prime camping spots. Thursday saw the majority of Lightning in a Bottle’s attendance arrive over the course of the day, gradually filling in the wide-open camping areas. Do Lab favorites Stephan Jacobs and An-Ten-Nae kicked things off thursday night at the Favela Bar with two back to back sets of intense yet groove fueled bass music.

Friday began with a light, ambient set of deep house tunes from jackLNDN over at the Thunder Stage. This was something of an anomaly for the Thunder Stage, which typically leaned more toward melodic, psychedelic trap and vibrant future bass music.

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Small Sampling Of Lightning's Art

Due to a heavy influx of people at The Woogie for Thomas Jack, Sohn played to a smaller crowd than usual at The Lightning stage. However, this didn’t stop him from throwing down one of the weekend’s best performances. He ran through his catalog of music quickly yet succinctly, his soothing vocals backed by complex synth work and undulating bass lines. His sound set the perfect aural backdrop as the sun set over the Lake San Antonio festival grounds.

Made In Heights, composed of DJ/Producer Sabzi and vocalist Kelsey, took the stage next, kicking up the energy level to a more dance friendly speed. The duo’s live indie-electronic vibe followed the mood set by Sohn perfectly and their synchronized dance medleys were mesmerizing to say the least. Next up was a mind boggling performance from Bubble Gutter, which was for lack of a better analogy, something akin to Yo Gabba Gabba on acid…in the best way possible.

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You Get Used To The Trek

Crowd favorite Odesza created a rush to the Lightning Stage, which saw audience members erupting in excitement for songs like “Say My Name” and “All We Need." SBTRKT closed out the main stage with a wild set peppered with analogue synth improvisation, while GRiZ held a bass heavy funk fest over at the Thunder Stage.

Even after the music ended on the main stage, there were still a number of activities that Lightning in a Bottle’s late night crowd could get into. The silent disco at the Favela Bar went until the wee hours of the morning, and there were plenty of art installations to explore as well. One such notable attraction was the giant matroyshka doll with hollowed out insides that provided a calm oasis to anyone feeling a little over-stimulated at The Woogie Stage.

Another festival favorite was the collection of four giant tea pots propped on stilts about 15-20 ft in the air which could seat up to 12 people. The best part of this elevated tea party was joining a group of strangers who always seemed to have a limitless source of entertaining stories about their experiences at the festival thus far.

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Goldroom Bringing The Summer Vibes

Saturday brought on a slew of new artists ready to prove themselves to the LIB masses. G Jones delivered a brutal, unrelenting bass music beating to the Thunder Stage, premiering a few of his newest collaborations with the legendary DJ Shadow. Goldroom brought his signature coastal sound to the Lightning Stage complete with lush, tropical visuals transporting the audience to a vibrant paradise. Flume was another fan favorite blending his original tracks with some prime festival material such as RL Grime’s “Core." Although FKJ wasn’t able to perform at The Woogie for his scheduled set, he did show up for a surprise 1 AM DJ set at The Favela Bar.

Sunday’s finest included a genre-bending set from Stwo who seamlessly transitioned between house music and off kilter-Mr. Carmack style bangers. Snakehips followed with a wide variety of tracks ranging from their latest “Dimelo” to timeless hip-hop classics like UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem." Shiba San got things moving over at The Woogie Stage with a two hour set of Dirtybird style deep house.

Finally, RL Grime closed out the weekend to a crowd so dense that it spilled out from the Thunder Stage into the surrounding areas. His medley of festival trap mixed with a few lesser known heaters (Swick and Lucid’s “Liquid Rubber” for instance) offered a great sort of closing ceremony for festival goers.

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The Work Of Android Jones

Although for some it serves as a hedonistic semi-limitless paradise, for many Lightning In A Bottle offers an easy entry point into the surreal world of transformational music festivals. Whether they stumbled upon a flyer at The Do Lab’s Coachella stage or were convinced by a friend’s endless praise of the event, a countless number of newcomers attended and were thusly inundated in this new lifestyle.

Almost everyone who attended gave morning meditation, yoga, or some other form of workshop or activity a shot, and more often than not, they realized they enjoy it.

Clearly, there’s more to LIB than the played out, empty substance fueled rave experience, even for those who come seeking it. The promotion of self-love and respect for one another is truly and deeply felt here as opposed to certain rave-centric festivals which often claim similar experiential values or ideals but fall short in delivering this experience.

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Thunder Stage Going Up

After an intense four days of dirt, sweat, and dancing, it was hard to imagine leaving this lifestyle as well as new festival friends and relationships behind to return to normalcy. Yet when Monday morning rolled around, everyone managed to pack up and head out with the intention of returning next year or even sooner for The Do Lab’s upcoming Woogie Weekend.

Transformational festival is an excellent term for what LIB attendees experienced. Everyone left a little better off, ready to create a positive change in the world the same way that the festival affected them.

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Woogie At Sunset

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