This past weekend, May 8-13, 2018, Lightning In A Bottle happened for the very first time at its new home in Central California at Buena Vista Lake. Having previously attended LIB in 2018 in addition to having the pleasure of attending this past weekend, I can easily and very honestly say that Lightning In A Bottle is the best music festival I have ever been to. From diving deep within myself during morning yoga, to learning sustainable and nourishing cooking ideas, to seeing huge artists such as Disclosure and G Jones, to wandering aimlessly through the nooks and crannies of the festival, to discovering friendships and relationships with artists that I never dreamed possible, LIB has once again left an incredibly lasting impact on my life outlook that is absolutely irreplaceable.
Finding A New Home
Beginning back in the 90’s as a single family’s celebration for their closest friends, LIB has spread its branches to become one of the most renowned festivals in California and even across America. Rooted in a foundation of strong relationships and a desire to inspire others to take ways of LIB beyond the festival’s grounds, LIB has stuck strongly to its core values and has remained a family organized festival. The unwavering belief this family has in creating a meaningful experience that goes beyond just a music festival can be felt in every inch of the festival grounds.
The basis of this aura of love and support begins first with the land. This past fall, DoLab worked tirelessly to uncover where the new home of LIB would be. Buena Vista Lake in Central California was chosen, and with this new location came sparkling water, rolling mountains, and a plentitude of giant bushy trees. Dede Flemming, one of the three brothers that founded DoLab, was excited to tell me that this location felt like a return to the original LIB in the early 2000s with constant shade from a healthy forest and flat land to roam around on all day. Establishing a close relationship with the land owners was of the utmost importance to Dede and his brothers. In addition to cultivating these relationships early on, way before the festival occurred, the natives were welcomed to the festival and participated by guiding a land welcoming ceremony. Dede hopes that Buena Vista Lake can be a lasting home for LIB but also acknowledges that change, as complicated as it may make things, is often good. I for one am glad that this change occurred and that LIB had a new home this year. The land itself is incomparable and I feel incredibly lucky to have been welcomed onto such a space.
The Set Up
Main Music Stages
There are three main stages as LIB that only offer music. These stages don’t open until the Friday of the festival, whereas other smaller stages open to attendees starting on Wednesday. The Woggie returns every year with its unforgettable brightly patterned leaf like structures and booty shaking house music. This year the Woggie was set up between luscious trees that provided some needed shade in the hot weather and overlooked the bright lake and rolling mountains to the left of the DJ booth. The Thunder stage returned with its overwhelmingly intricate shaded cover made by piecing together individual geometric tarps of different colors. If you found yourself craving some electronic music a bit on the harder side you could even listen to what the Thunder stage had to offer while floating in the lake or jumping off hammock structures stationed in the water. The third and final stage, Lightning, brought an entirely new stage design to a massive open grassy area on the far side of the festival. No longer covered, the Lightning stage bragged impressive LED screens, lights that lit up everyone is sight, and the well known dragonfly structures which were scattered throughout the crowd. Here you could find live performers and the bigger name artists such as Disclosure.
I may be partial, but some of the best things LIB has to offer are found on the small side stages scattered throughout the festival. Most of these stages offer activities during the morning and afternoon while the sun is high. These include cooking lessons and food teachings at the Learning Kitchen, guided meditation at the Meditation Grove, all different types of yoga classes from Bhakti to Kundalini at Yoga Luna and Yoga Sol, informative lectures at the Beacon, and art classes at the Artclave. When the sun sets and all LIB attendees howl at the sky, these stages turn into a dance party with small DJ sets and live performances. But LIB doesn’t stop there. There are more music stages including The Stacks, Favela, and Grand Artique, in addition to the Culture Hub, Earth Arts, Healing Arts, Cauldron, and Witch’s Hut. And these are just what LIB lists on their schedule. Wander around the festival grounds and you’ll stumble upon what feels like infinitely more stages and activities such as poker tables, dance parties at the Dirty Beetle, vendors right and left with interesting experiences, messages and goods, tea tasting, stand up comedy, and even a room filled with cassettes you can pop in a player and dance to.
I could spend the rest of this article just listing all the offerings LIB has that I stumbled upon and I probably would only be telling you a fraction of what is hidden in those trees. Four whole days at LIB and I still truly believe that I didn’t get to see everything there was. However, I will keep many of the things I did discover to myself for the magic of LIB comes from discovering those gems yourself.
Camping surrounded this year’s festival on all three sides (the lake being the fourth). Although you had little to no say where you were directed if you purchased a car camping pass, you had complete autonomy on foot where to set up camp for the weekend. Either way, I don’t believe that one camping area was better than another. Thankfully this year the land was very flat so there were no hills to be hiked trying to make it to the main festival grounds from camp.
Free water stations and bathrooms were stationed throughout the festival and the camping grounds frequently enough that you didn’t have to travel too far for access to either. Showers were available for a fee and an incredibly long wait. Most people throughout the festival brought shower bags or used their daily swim and a good deodorant rub as a shower. Food vendors were ample and very delicious. Originally a vegetarian festival, LIB recently introduced meat into a very small percent of their food vendors under strict guidelines. Therefore, not only was the food delicious but there were options for absolutely any foody out there. If you meal prepped and brought food with you, ice bags could be purchased throughout the camps to keep your coolers cold. LIB also had a few general stores within the festival in case you forgot anything from sunscreen to tortillas. Whether you turn to LIB provided options or to your neighbors for help, any problem you may run into while camping can easily be solved.
Why LIB Is Special
DoLab has managed to create a festival that can be a home for anyone and everyone. I do not use the word home lightly. Whether you prefer to be alone or with friends, are a child, teenager or adult, a yogi or a raver (or both or none at all), an introvert or an extrovert, or any other thing you may define yourself as, coming to LIB is like stumbling into a long lost memory, like a house you once lived in as a kid. Everything feels eerily familiar, strangers seem like friends you haven’t seen since high school or distant cousins, and the adventure and constant flow of new ideas feels absurdly natural, as if it’s what an average day looks like for you. Stepping onto this land seems to create a lightness that allows you to float through your day soaking up different experiences like a sponge.
LIB is special because it is unlike any other festival you have been to. It takes the beauty and abandonment of Burning Man, combines it with the festivities and artistry of Coachella, and then adds its own special grounded sense of support and love provided by everyone and everything around you. It demonstrates what an impact community, responsibility, and familial support can have on the world around you. LIB challenges you to take what you’ve discovered through a weekend of openness back into the outside world, back into your mundane daily life. This can be cooking ideas, meditation techniques, watercolor paintings, or acro yoga tools. In some people’s cases it is a group of best friends that will remain in their life for forever or even a lover that they will marry down the line. For others it is stories and experiences they will share with generations to come. Whatever it may be, it is purely up to you to make LIB your own journey. But one thing I can promise you is it is bound to be a surprise.
What I Learned
Every individual has their own extravagant story full of both the big and the very tiny special moments in the adventure that is LIB. One of my most favorite things to do after a festival is to listen to someone passionately tell me about those moments. To share one myself, one of my most favorite moments of the weekend was happening upon a moombah DJ and dance lesson. My friends had gone back to camp to put their tarp up since it was about to rain and I stood there watching a group of individuals and couples learning a set of partner latin dance moves. My soul sings for reggaeton, moombahton, and dance hal music, and as I stood surrounded by all these partners I could help by dance my butt off. Within a 30 minute period I had tens of people join me, flowing in and out, commenting, complimenting, starting conversations. 30 minutes of enjoying something for the pure sake of selfish joy and I had formed bonds with people I never would have met otherwise.
I believe that one of the biggest things I learned this past weekend is that we all have permission to make a festival how you want to make it. And by you, I really mean you. Not your friends, not what you think you should be doing, not what people on the internet tell you to do, but really what your heart wants to do moment to moment. Maybe you had plans to see a certain artist but you walk past a stage that you sings to your soul. You end up at the original artist you had intended to see, all the while wishing you were at the other stage, but fearing abandoning your friends or disappointing someone. What I discovered this weekend is you’ll be happier going off on your lonesome, enjoying what resonates with you, and meeting back up with other people afterwards. It is okay to be alone and it is okay to be selfish. We can be opinionated, make decisions for ourselves and not feel guilty about it. It is important to be with the people you came with and spend time with the people you love, but it is also important to adventure on your own and see what you want to see. In the end you will still have those friendships but what is left of LIB is your memory…so make it the best possible for yourself.
LIB Tips for 2020
A few tips I have for any first-time-LIBers are:
- Invest some time into researching about what to pack for camping…comfort can make or break your experience!
- Don’t be afraid to come alone or spend time alone. Often these times will be the most memorable experiences and relationships you will make.
- Do as much as you can but don’t forget to pace yourself. You have four whole days of fun!
- Be open to everything (including the people!) You may find your best friends here.
- Take your experiences, feelings, and thoughts further into the world after the festival has ended. Share with and inspire the people around you, and maybe try to make one lasting change to your daily life.
- Listen to the people around you with an loving heart.
- Don’t be afraid to feel new and confusing things. Embrace them!
If you have never been to LIB and are considering attending in 2020 I cannot encourage you enough to give it a try. If money is an issue there are a bunch of opportunities to work for the DoLab in exchange for your ticket! This is also an incredible way to get to know LIB from a different perspective and get to meet more people in the community.
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FestPop Staff Writer, Julia Osteen