(Photos by Casey McCune)
After attending Lightning in a Bottle Festival the past four years consecutively, I admittedly hesitated on returning to LIB this past Memorial Day Weekend thinking I wouldn’t get much out of it, but the little voice inside guided me to go anyways. Thankfully I listened to the guidance and went with the flow, soon realizing I was exactly where I needed to be once I was there.
This year, I made it a priority to attend more workshops, panels, and classes than previous years. This time around, I received a well-rounded experience, but I'm also in a very different place now than I was in previous years, which allowed me to be fully open to and immersed in all that Lightning in a Bottle has to offer. LIB was a sort of gateway festival for me five years ago. I'd been attending festivals and raves for years, with LIB being my intro to 'transformational festivals' and the beginning of a new world for me. Now it feels so comfortable, I’m more at home surrounded by thousands of weirdos than anywhere else!
Here’s a look at why this year's LIB was my favorite yet!
Variety Of Music
Memorable musical acts included the vivacious women’s rights activist, Madame Gandhi opening the lightning stage on Friday and Rufus Du Sol closing at night. After a beautiful ending by Rufus with one of my favorites “You Were Right,” my bf and I followed the sounds of good music and stumbled upon Mark Farina playing at The Community Lodge, who’s set had been moved last minute. Lucky us, because we lost track of time jamming out to Mushroom Jazz for quite a while. When you can let go and just be in the flow, things work out better than you could have planned. This simple, yet powerful realization continued to be the recurring theme of the weekend.
The energy at the Woogie stage was always on par with Marques Wyatt, Hernan Cattaneo, Stephan Bodzin, Richie Hawtin and many other legends at the decks. Things at Favela Bar were always happening no matter the time of day, a steady crowd was always getting down to good music by the likes of DJ's including Ben Annand, Halloran, and Patricio. Live electronic duo Vallis Alps played a dreamy smooth pre-sunset performance on Sunday as the day was just beginning to cool down with a light breeze. I love discovering talented new acts at festivals, and Vallis Alps were the obvious choice from LIB. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about their performance!
Ending Prohibition Panel
As an advocate for harm reduction at festivals and drug policy reform, I applaud the Do Lab for their efforts in working with DanceSafe and The Zendo Project onsite at their festivals, and also in supporting harm reduction and drug policy reform with various panels on the subjects this year. We attended a very important and informative panel titled “Ending Prohibition,” which featured Mitchell Gomez and Emanuel Sferios of Dance Safe, Morgan Humphrey of the Drug Policy Alliance, Sara Gael of Zendo, and the festival lawyer Cameron Bowman. Panelists dove into the history of drug prohibition and the money driven reasons why they are still illegal today in our progressive society.
An interesting topic discussed concluded that at the root of prohibition today, is the race issue. Minorities are purposely led to use drugs to fuel and finance the U.S. prison system, which leads to a vicious cycle of lifetime drug use. The conversation ended by discussing how we can make strides together towards a post-prohibition world by educating others on the history of drug criminalization, the healing powers of psychedelics, and doing our parts to end racism.
Despite the Do Lab’s best efforts, sadly a life was lost at LIB this year. Unfortunately, this further proves the importance of harm reduction education amongst festival attendees, but this will only happen once the dance music community demands festival promoters recognize that lack of harm reduction is a real issue. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the Do Lab’s continuous effort in this space and support them in their ongoing mission of making LIB a safe place for all. After all, it’s no coincidence that a death or multiple deaths at certain festivals is disturbingly not surprising, but it comes as a shock at LIB.
Wanting to see more of the festival's offerings this year, I took the time to explore the sideline activities scattered throughout the festival grounds, which made the overall experience that much more satisfying. This included a random karaoke stage complete with a sequin backdrop, draping disco ball and a costume wardrobe for those daring enough to get on stage. The stage was set in a ditch under a bridge, making for great entertainment to all those over the bridge. Another favorite was puppet performances by the fungineers, which included adult rated skits by a creative unicorn, rapping flowers and a sexy dinosaur. I’ve seen the fungineers before but found myself laughing until my cheeks hurt this time around.
As always, the tea shala provided a cozy space to wind down after a long day or night and sample delicious reads poured by a tea master in the Chinese tradition. An onsite 360 dome hosted a virtual reality film ‘Samskara’ by artist Android Jones, a mind-boggling transcendent journey through time and space. Each night, the black rock observatory opened and provided a crystal clear view of Saturn through a telescope. For the first time since it’s inception, LIB had a lake this year thanks to the recent California rainfall. As expected, the lake brought a new dynamic to the festival with people dancing on floating art installations, tubing into the lake on water slides, cooling off from the heat or spending the day in floaties with friends floating across the lake without a care in the world.
Points Of The Compass Experience
This year saw the retirement of the Temple Of Consciousness and The Village to make way for a brand new offering known as Points Of The Compass. Re-imagined offerings included educational workshops, speakers, and healing experiences. The six main points of the compass were scattered throughout the festival, with re-imagined offerings including educational workshops, game-changing speakers, informative panels and healing experiences. Interesting topics included “The Mycology of Mushrooms,” “Conscious Entrepreneurship,” “Intro To Humanism,” “Mayan Cosmovision” and much, much more.
Although I didn’t get to experience as much of the Compass Experience as I had hoped since there’s so much to do at LIB at any given time, I did find happiness in sitting in one of the Mayan Cosmovision discussions with Mayan Elder Ta Ta Pedro. Being that I have an affinity with the Mayan history and culture, it was fascinating to hear an elder of his stature speak at a festival, of all places. He spoke (in Spanish) about applying Mayan beliefs to modern daily life with the kind of grace and eloquence you could only expect from someone with the knowledge he holds.
Addressing Women's Inequality In Music Panel
Last but definitely not least, one of my favorite moments was sitting in on the Women In Music Panel: Addressing Inequality, curated and moderated by Do Lab’s assistant music director, Megan Young. Megan led a great discussion on multiple topics of inequality with various female artists, agents and managers who all shared the same sentiments that women are severely underrepresented in the dance music industry. Over half of festival attendees are women, yet females are vastly underrepresented on festival stages with women accounting for only 22% of acts from 10 major music festivals in 2016, according to an analysis by the Huffington Post.
Last year I wrote an OpEd about the struggles of women in dance music, so this panel was obviously right up my alley. The major takeaways from the discussion for me was the idea that the only way we’ll achieve women's equality is by courageous men standing up for the women they believe in and encouraging other men to support women in the industry. Also, the understanding that women need to support each other and not bash each other, although this is a societal issue and not just limited to dance music, is a very crucial factor to women's equality overall indeed.
Whether you’re a seasoned festival goer or brand new to the scene, you’ll find there really is something for every personality at LIB. Don’t be afraid to find your own vibe and create your own experience, whatever that may look like. Everyone has the experience they need at that particular point in time, and will all leave LIB with something different, positive or negative. If you were in attendance, I hope this resonates and you’re inspired to apply your experience to daily life going forward. If you were not in attendance, hopefully, this inspires you to change that next year!
If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of the magic at LIB, or already can’t wait for next year, 2018 pre-sale tickets are on sale next week, June 10th. Find out more here.
LiB gallery by @gettiny