Written By: Scott Bernhardt
It was early Thursday morning. The line of cars awaiting entry to the festival grounds was piled up two miles deep into the misty hillsides of Bradley, California. Among the tired travelers exiting their parked vehicles, a man walks up to my window to say, "Hey, how about an apple?" It was 7:42 am and someone had already put a smile on my face. I happen to be an easy laugh, but his unwashed corduroys over a bare chest and a pair of green goggles did me in.
I was expecting to get a little rest while in line, but the excitement was too raw and the impending entrance too close. I pounded a Gatorade and crept my way through the line and onto the festival grounds. After finding a lucky spot that happened to be one of the last parking spots near where I intended to meet my friends at a predetermined campsite, I began unpacking my overstuffed car onto a dolly too small for the journey. In the distance, I could just make out the top of the billowing Thunder stage, a well-known staple of Do LaB events.
I started with an ambitious load of a large Rubbermaid bin under my cooler, with my tent and camera bags over my shoulders. After my first 50 feet, my cooler tips off the edge of the pile and crashes into the fine dust, along with all its contents. Within seconds, a man named Shiva comes to the rescue. "Here, let me help you." He reaches down and begins to repack my eggs into their flimsy carton. Shiva grabs my tent and puts a hand on the re-adjusted dolly tower, and walks with me to an undisclosed location over a hill. I would return to his car several times throughout the weekend to check up on him.
Maybe it was just chance, but these are the kinds of people that you will find at Lightning in a Bottle. Sure, not everyone is so kind as to help with such a large task, but you can find more helping hands at this festival in particular than many others I've attended over the years. LiB makes it painfully easy to meet new people and develop lasting relationships. Take one look at the activities schedule and you'll see more to do than anyone could possibly get to. There's Yoga from sunrise to sunset, off-road derby races, giant skeeball, meditation groups, cooking classes, a library, puppet shows, gong baths, variety shows, metal working, bonfires, and the list goes on. I'm confident that one could spend the entire weekend exploring all these possibilities and have an incredible time, aside from even seeing any of the music at one of the many stages.
Their updated structures this year stood out on the canvas of the land, with their bright colors announcing themselves proudly. The Woogie stage, crowned with a giant mirror ball, drew from a similar vein this year as the other stages as far as design. In the past, it has taken on various forms, but the more enclosed look this time gave it an intimate feeling. Even the merch booth had a uniquely Do LaB look, like a giant artichoke hustling shirts and hats to the dusty travelers.
Sure they had Bassnectar, the prolific low-end Phenom blasting his signature ear splitting tracks on the main stage, but what really grabbed my attention this year were the up and coming artists that would force you to alter the schedule so you could stay to hear what they would play next. Acts like Ninth Child, Stélouse, and Asadi drew me in and kept me at their stages.
The special guest spots this year also held a large role in delivering some name brands at unexpected times. The Glitch Mob, Tokimonsta, a Bonobo sunrise set, and what turned into a Minnesota b2b Jackal set really put a cherry on top of the whole weekend.
Even though I went alone to LiB, I was in awe of how many people I had meaningful conversations with. The sheer number of guest speakers and knowledge being shared on all sorts of topics left me feeling that all festivals should incorporate this ethos into their experience. Lighting in a Bottle truly creates an atmosphere for friendships to be forged, both through verbal connection, or simply dancing the night away.