Lightning in a Bottle Is One Transformative Experience You Shouldn't Miss

By: Benjamin Tillis

Lightning in a Bottle (LIB), Southern California’s hidden gem of a “transformative” music festival, took place last weekend from May 8-12 at Buena Vista Lake, a few hours north of Los Angeles. This year was the first time LIB took place at this venue and not on Memorial Day Weekend, which led to attendees being wary about what to expect. But it is safe to say the festival was a huge success. Lightning in a Bottle continues to be one of the best music festivals out there and something that truly everyone should experience, and here’s why:

The Music

If you look at Lightning in a Bottle’s lineups, you will definitely see names you know and love. This year, those names included Disclosure, Big Gigantic, Santigold, Flying Lotus, and Toro Y Moi. But more than other festivals, LIB curates music that is so diverse and exciting to listen to- and watch.

Flying Lotus. Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein

Flying Lotus. Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein

The festival is made up of 7 main stages. Some of the most popular are Lightning Stage and Thunder Stage, where most headliners play. But then there’s Woogie, a bass-lover’s paradise. There are people who come to the festival with full intentions to be at Woogie for the entire festival. And on the other end of the spectrum is my personal favorite, Grand Artique. Grand Artique is the brainchild of a thrift shop in San Diego and has become a staple at LIB. It is so much more than a stage for music. Grand Artique creates a setting that takes you back to the early 1900s and has a distinct “Western” feel. They host one-of-a-kind jam bands and this year that included Ozomatli and WC Thornbush & The Great American Show, as well as talent shows and interactive theater and games.

As opposed to other music festivals where hype is built around certain artists, it seems like discovering new music is what is really encouraged at Lightning in a Bottle. It is safe to say that my three favorite acts were ones I hadn’t heard of and didn’t plan to see. The group that stole the show out of nowhere for me was My Baby. Closing out the night until 4:00AM at Grand Artique, this trio hailing from The Netherlands got the whole crowd going wild. They brought a new energy to psychedelic rock, and people were dancing like crazy.

Clozee and Hellmana. Photo Credit: Timothy Bailey

Clozee and Hellmana. Photo Credit: Timothy Bailey

Other great acts were Clozee, the French DJ who spins incredibly exotic music. Clozee played alongside Hellamana, a fire eating group of acrobatic dancers.

Elohim. Photo Credit: JLB

Elohim. Photo Credit: JLB

Also very fun to watch was, Elohim, an electro-pop DJ and singer who relates to her fans by getting real about mental illness with her lyrics, while also singing incredibly upbeat songs with hooks like “I got love f*ck your money,” “I just wanna go where love is alive,” and “Don’t half love me, love me all the way.” It’s notable that these three best performers (in my opinion) are all females or projects led by a female. The festival does a great job of diversifying their lineup in regards to gender, where artists are from, and genres of music.

The Workshops

During the day you can roam around the festival grounds finding endless music and entertainment. But if you want to go a different route, there are plenty of workshops and classes taking place. This is what truly makes LIB the transformative festival that it is. There are 11 “Arts and Culture” tents/stages that host amazing experiences like a Cacao Ceremony, meditations, and classes on things like painting, keto diets, hula-hooping, and the list goes on. On top of this, there were two tents hosting yoga throughout the weekend.

Vibes. Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein

Vibes. Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein

One of the most impactful and unique workshops I experienced was Psychedelic Breath & Meditation, lead by Anne Marie Kramer. Just through breathing exercises and partnered activities, a group of around 100 people who hadn’t known each other before became very connected and vulnerable together. It was something I had never experienced before, and it set me up for an incredible last day of the festival.

These countless workshops allow one to really grow over the weekend at LIB. They’re a great way to meet like-minded people or really put yourself out there to learn about something new. These are highly recommended for those who attend next year’s Lightning in a Bottle!

The Atmosphere

The past several years of Lightning in a Bottle took place at Lake San Antonio, about halfway between San Francisco and LA. The grounds had rolling hills that really made you feel disconnected and free from the real world. Many long-time LIB attendees feared the new grounds would take away from this feeling. But this year, we learned it’s not the venue that gives LIB its special vibes, but the people and artists. For five days straight, LIBers roamed the grounds with smiles on their faces and positive attitudes. People came to share a new experience with new people. It was easy to open up, meet new people, dance how you want, and roam freely without any judgement.

Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein

Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein

On top of that, although it lacked the typical hills of LIB, the new venue was beautiful. There’s a giant lake with plenty of beachy shoreline with breathtaking hills in the distance and green grass on the grounds. During the hot, sunny days, you could go to the lake and party with new friends. Or you could go to the stages and dance alongside people who couldn’t be happier to be there.

Even when it rained the first night, everyone was there working as a team, providing shelter to those who needed it, while many didn’t let the weather get to them and just kept dancing in the mud and wetness. It was a site to see!

Photo Credit: JLB.

Photo Credit: JLB.

Days after leaving the festival I still feel like I am on cloud nine. LIB allows you to get to know yourself and others better than you could imagine. It gives you a better sense of self. And a stronger connection to those around you.

Lightning in a Bottle truly is a transformative experience filled with amazing art and people. I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind event, LIB is for you. Look out for details on LIB 2020 at https://lightninginabottle.org.

-Ben

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.