The Impossible Possible Lightning in a Bottle
Lightning is something that can’t really be kept in a bottle. Attempting to contain such an energy, such a wild force of nature in such a tight, fragile space would be ludicrous… simply impossible. Well, so would keeping seven-thousand bass hungry freaks packed into an Orange County park for four days without a hitch, but hey, The Do Lab can do anything, right?
After a couple of glorious years tucked into the breathtaking foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Lightning in a Bottle got far too big for its leather appliqué britches, and The Do Lab migrated its flagship party south… to Irvine. Hmmmm, can a good time be had in Irvine?
With only 4-day tickets for sale and no one-day passes in sight, many die-hard LIB fans the week before the event were still weighing their options for Memorial Day Weekend. Maybe one last snowboarding trip to Mammoth or a weekend by the beach would be wiser, more affordable and more fun.
But alas, the party planners broke at the final moments before the event and single day passes flooded the new venue with the throngs necessary to let The Do Lab, well, do it.
The layout spanned over a mile with 3 main music stages–Bamboo, Woogie and Lightning–plus the Temple of Consciousness, which featured 22nd Century panel discussions on everything from Women in Leadership and the Energy Computer to Beekeeping, Superfood Alchemy and Your Inner Prostitute. No, really.
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LIB was gloriously awash with art. Live paintings were whipped up day and night by dreaded and bejeweled artistes. There was a full-on art gallery dubbed Dialect, and an awe-inspiring basilica à la Star Wars. Scores of art installations from some of the most talented people of the West Coast tribal underground, including Todd Kurtzman and Shrine, adorned the grounds.
Shrine, the temple architect of Burning Man 2009, fashions enchanting structures from found objects (read: garbage) and unadulterated magic. These buildings deserve to be Shrine’s namesake, though recently he’s taken to irreverently calling them “shacks.” If you should be so lucky to come across one of Shrine’s shacks, a long overdue prayer and a snapshot are the orders of the day.
And then… there was the music.
The headliners this year included notables Booka Shade, Adam Freeland, Beats Antique and The Glitch Mob amongst others. Adam Freeland rocked a tweaky, progressive set, perfect for the psychedelically inclined. Booka Shade played warm and bouncy beats overlayed with refreshing ambient melodies that worked for everyone from the voguers and whackers to the headbobbers and touchsteppers. Loved it.
Surprisingly, the much-awaited Saturday night finale from Beats Antique fell flat for many. What happened to the fly dance tracks laid down at Burning Man last August? A distant memory. The Beats Antique groovy anti-climax was only a minor disappointment though, since Sunday night still promised the end-all be-all LIB act: Glitch Mob.
At LIB ‘08, Glitch Mob threw down an epic daytime set that united every ass in the house with crunchy, bassy, in-your-face glitch hop, setting them well apart (at least in this writer’s mind) from the rest of the musical acts as nothing short of legendary. This year, there was a glitch alright, but not the kind the LIB mob was looking for.
Glitch Mob played the intro to their brand new (and first full length) album, Drink The Sea, to a crowd of excited, festival-worn revelers who’d saved their last store of energy, and best drugs, for the big closing Sunday night set of the whole weekend. And then twenty minutes later, it sounded like Glitch was still playing their intro. Ouch.
As Glitch’s cutting edge muzique filled the air, the edges of the crowd started to peel off and beat-starved party people got jealous of friends who’d chosen to go catch Vibe Squad’s hip hop heavy set instead…which apparently was UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLE. Hopefully next year, when rumors of greatness bring the masses back to the Vibe Squad stage, they’ll deliver on their reputation.
The fantastic thing about some of the headliners being on the not-so-thrilling side was that it really highlighted the talent of the underground’s underground. After the unexpected glitch, a tiny side stage was set on fire with LA’s hometown sound, Pod, and Seattle’s super badass Northstar who were both crunkin’ it up for the late night b-girls and beat junkies.
Aside from dubstep and glitch hop mainstays, LIB also offered a collection of off-beat, whimsical and oddball acts few in the world have heard of, but should.
Vagabond Opera completely lived up to their name with an accordion-playing carnie ringmaster/lead singer, an Edith Piaf chanteuse who doubled as a saw (not a typo) player, an upright bassist and a rather dapper saxophonist dressed to work the counter of an 1800’s pharmacy. Classic. March Fourth Marching Band, Portland’s most sought after local party starters, are the high school band nerds come Cool Kids Club. Their stilt walking (and flipping) mayhem, award-worthy fashion sense, and klezmer-fused marching band beats will make you dance your little pants off.
The Earth Harp was perhaps the most unexpected mind-blowing performance of the weekend. This massive instrument (previously attached to the Seattle Space Needle, the Prudential Building and even a peak of the Santa Monica Mountains) was based on a small side stage, where giant strings ran from an oversized bridge all the way to the top rafters of the LIB main stage. William Close positioned himself in between the goliath strings, raised his wool-gloved hands covered in cello rosin, and played a hauntingly beautiful set, temporarily turning Oak Canyon Park into a classical symphonic theater to rival any in the world. People cried. Yen. After all that, it turned out William was actually playing an introduction to the Lucent Dossier Experience.
Lucent Dossier, oh my. These baroque angels of the burner festival scene mesmerized, inspired, and magnified Lightning in a Bottle. This vaudeville cirque melds fire dancing, keen aerial work, whimsical choreography and live music into the kind of show that is impossible to forget… they are the circus you want to run away with.
And then there were the million other fantastical moments, the organic food, the brilliant staff and friendly security, the high quality yoga classes, the Renegade Drive-In Movie Theater, and and and- it goes on.
If somehow after all this, you’re wondering if you should go to Lightning In A Bottle 2011, here’s a piece of advice–don’t. There’s more than enough new folks that walk into LIB each year jaded and judgmental, only to leave transformed, inspired, and seduced by their entire experience. So long story short, if you’re not ready to mix transcendence into your music festival, let’s be real, there’s only so much Dr Bronner’s peppermint soap foam in the goliath-sized bathtub to go around.