Lightning In a Bottle 2015 changed my life and the lives of the other 20,000 souls that were also along for the ride. Weather you were meditating at the Temple of Conciousness every day, doing yoga at sunrise or simply partying your face off for 4 days, I can say definitively, it changed your life. Transformational festivals are popping up everywhere these days. Burning Man has led the way toward a market niche of people that want more than just a party with their festy, they want change! And L.I.B. brings it harder than any other that I have ever gone to. The reason why is not only that it has transcendental meditation gurus teaching classes on how to WOOF while juicing organic beets in your solar powered elephant art car. Because I am sure they do have that somewhere. But because every square inch of this festival places you in another world, a vortex where all surrounding you is art, joy, music and otherworldly vibes. It proves that you too can create your own world if you wish. That my friends, is transformational.
Having only previously been 3 years ago to the Silverado location, I have to say the choice of bucolic Bradley, CA was the perfect place for this iteration of the fest. Rolling pastures of sun kissed meadows bordered a dry lake bed that stretched far off into the horizon, an ideal staging ground for an epic fantasy weekend. I was privileged to share this trip with the homey Dan Finkle, writer, director and front man for the wild weirdo band Warlord’s of Rock & Roll Thunder & Lightning. Dan is a true O.G. of this scene as he had been to the very first 3 L.I.B.’s, the first being a birthday party for the founding brother’s, twin’s Jesse & Josh Flemming. “It was somewhere in the woods, Jesse was the guitarist in my band at the time The Seratonin’s. It was only like 100 of us, raving out in a forest somewhere. I still remain friends with many of the crew that were there that day. The third L.I.B. almost didn’t even happen, as we were going into the woods to set it up, rangers rolled up and squashed things before it even started. We ended up in San Diego, few in numbers but we still raged. After the band broke up, I kind of left that scene but the Flemmings kept it going and it morphed into this crazy spectacle.” Dan had not been to another L.I.B. since the third one, so when we rolled up this year his mind was boggled at how it had grown.
FRIDAY: Camping was kind of chaotic, as we got there by Friday late afternoon, so many of the sites were already filled. We ended up camping near our parking field on 8, which a few other renegades decided to do as well. It was in an awesome area right across the way from the Grand Artique stage (Where you could find some really obscure but awesome bands playing everything from blues rock to psychedelic puppet hip hop), so very convenient. Plus there was a crazy gypsy truck next to ours and a meditation mini temple set up on a hill side, so it had plenty of alternative flavor. Basically we were in the Echo Park of the L.I.B. universe. We rolled into the housy tropical vibes of Thomas Jack on the Woogie Stage. I was immediately struck at how beautiful everyone looked. Not only the women, many dressed scantily, war paint make up, minimal clothing and glowing neon adornments, but the men were also fitter than your average joe, costumed in glowing artifacts and steam punk steelo. Really it was more than the clothing they wore, as their most distinct adornment were their smiles! Everyone, from crusty ravers who had been at the very first L.I.B. ahemmm Dan, to first time festy goers, glow stick vets and even the many children I spotted on the grounds, all were smiling and radiating JOY.
We moved on from Woogie to the first of two bridges that were newly installed. I was told that least year there were only stairs that went down into these dusty chasms where many years ago I guess a river flowed. According to those who braved the steps last year, the bridge was a MAJOR improvement. Also everyone who crossed gave high fives to those approaching in the opposite direction, so immediate good vibe connection. We passed the silent disco and rucked to the Lightning Stage where SOHN was rocking some neo soul, ambient steeze. We moved on past the giant Skee ball slides to the giant tea pots that apparently are also a staple at Burning Man the last few years. I really wanted to check out the insides but there was a long line so we kept on wandering. And wander we did!
At this point the sun had set and the fringes of the festy were completely darkened. What once held views of an expansive dry lake bed was now shrouded in shadows, making one feel even more like the lights and energy of L.I.B. was taking place in some alien vortex. We looped back to the silent disco and caught a set of Radiohead remixes and mashup’s. I don’t know if you have ever silent discoed, but it is a unique experience to say the least. There were only like 20 of us in a space that could hold 100 + as we were handed these glowing headphones. As we placed them on our heads, beautiful fully mixed Radio Head remixes began to pour in, stirring my soul as well as my feet! As the De La Soul/Karma Police mashup began to knock I looked around me and smiled at the surreality. 20 strangers all dancing to this gorgeous mix, swaying to their own vibe. I took my headphones off and the spell dissipated, as we just become a bunch of schmucks bobbing along to silence. I quickly slammed my headphones back on and dived back into Radio Head land, bliss!
We left the silent disco after an hour and found ourselves back at the Lightning Stage. There was really bad ass music playing with intense lights. We angled our way closer as I was able to witness who was on stage. The lights were beaming from the back of the performers, silhouetting them amidst the smoke machines vapors. As the lights shifted I was able to see more clear. A backup singer/pianist/timbale player was going off, alongside a bad ass drummer behind a full kit. In the middle of these two gents was a whirling dervish in an African ceremonial mask. Twiddling his knobs and banging on his circle of synths, as his Yukimi Nagano led song “Wildfire” comes on, I realized we had stumbled on to SBTRKT’s set, the anonymous U.K. producer. It was amazing. He then jumped into his Thom Yorke, Lotus Flower remix that connected our time at the silent disco in an orgasmic rush of music synchronicity. As SBTRKT’s set began to finish around 2am, I felt the need to rest up. I was exhausted but exhilarated. I was home.
SATURDAY: We woke up from our tents, or more like scraped ourselves up from our tents and headed over to the R.V. area to link up with some of Dan’s friends, also L.I.B. OG vets who had formed a camp called Cosmos. Other than raging, my main mission today was to get a pass for my beloved. I promised her I would get her in and so far I was coming up empty. I heard through the grapevine that L.I.B. had just sold out (for the first time in it’s 15 year history) so I knew the only way was finding something in the fest itself.
We rucked up to R.V. camping which was the farthest point of the campgrounds. And there next to a mega R.V. was the cosmic banner that announced we were in Camp Cosmos. Many times in party situations people bond, often quite superficially. But there is something about a group that chooses to consistently party together. Bonds are formed that can be quite magical, and this was what I was witness too with this hardy group of revelers. Led by a fellow named Merlin, a charming southern gent with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, within minutes of arriving I was handed a beer and a plate of bacon and eggs. Considering there was no meat sold at L.I.B. bacon was a rare commodity. I scarfed it down lovingly. We hung out there all afternoon, as Dan and his old party crew swapped stories of L.I.B. past. Not to digress, but part of the magic at L.I.B. is the ability to manifest. If you are open to it, the Universe seems to gift you with all that you need and that your soul desires. The last year I went to L.I.B. in 2012 I got a last minute press pass but wasn’t able to secure any interviews before I arrived at the fest. I tried for 2 days unsuccessfully to interview either Bass Nectar or The Glitch Mob, but was told that neither of them wanted to do press. I was backstage after the Fungineers show and guess who was chilling there as well, Edit of the Glitch Mob. Not only that, my boy Galen was also there to take the much needed 2nd angle with his camera. I asked Edit for an interview and he said yes, score! Manifestation runs strong here and it was about to rear it’s beautiful face again. More friends showed up to hang and before long we had a full blown jam going down at Cosmos. I was talking to one homey who told me he had DJ’ed an earlier set. I told him I wish I had been able to see it. As we continued to talk, he stopped the convo and looked me in the eye. “If you could have one wish today, what would it be?”. Whoa, that’s a loaded question. An end to all wars? A billion dollars? Hmmmmm, well I am a practical man and I figured since I have a mission I might as well wish it’s success. “To be honest, the main thing I would wish right now, was for my beloved to be here with me, enjoying the fest. But she doesn’t have a wristband, and she’s coming tomorrow, so I guess that would be my wish”. The stranger smiled, going into his back pack and revealing an artist wrist band. “My homey was supposed to be coming but he bailed. This is your lady’s now”. I was shocked! How gracious was this man, how fucking magical. I thanked him profusely. “Just pay it forward my man”. Fuggen L.I.B. you never fail to amaze me.
Well, now that one mission was complete, the next one was to party my face off! The Cosmos crew rolled down to the fest and after taking a short detour at Woogie, we headed over to the Favela Stage. Marbs, one half of the Desert Hearts Crew, who are running Favela, was spinning and he was dropping some booty shaking deep House vibes that made my glutes perk up instantly. I was shaking my groove thang when I looked up and noticed my girl, Honey Larochelle was in the house! She was killing L.I.B. this year, performing not only with Lucent Dossier Experience on the main stage but also with the Fungineers at the Grand Artique on Sunday. She told me that after that set she was flying off to sing with creole legend Dr. John. You go grrrrl, I love it when my friends rule! Then my other homey Young Jin Genius showed up and the real party began. The beauty of the Favela is not only is there always bumping tunes, but it’s the only stage with a bar in it, so dranks were indeed a flowing!
The beaming sun announced its slumber, as twilight rolled in. There is a magic in this time, when darkness begins its creep to dominance. I noticed this strange structure right across from Favela. It was obviously there the whole time, but it was something about twilight’s presence that made it stand out to me. It was ringed by various wooden doors, each one different. I walked over and opened one, stumbling into a room full of people, talking about various topics, arcane magic, how to make fairy wings, you know the standard m.o. The doors all had blown up Tarot legend’s on the back of them, Emperor, Heirophant, Devil. I stepped through Heirophant. Apparently he is the builder of the bridge between deity and humanity. He is also known as "The Teacher of Wisdom." Seeing as I just had my first child, that had special impact on me, as a father I hope to teach my seed all the wisdom I have gathered. I sat down on the plush velvet seating, as a young girl with pink hair sat next to me. She smiled, revealing a pink woven bag. She opened it, producing very colorful PLUR bracelets that had hand made clay icons as their centerpiece’s. “Choose one, I take donations.” I choose one with a yellow pig face with his tounge sticking out. It looked like Zhu Bajie from Chinese mythology and I was feeling it. I tossed my pockets, I found a five dollar bill and half a joint. She smiled “I’ll take it” and walked out. I looked at my phone, shoot I had been in there for a half hour!
I ran out into Favela, the night now full descended. I found the homey Dan and we hightailed it back to our tents. The day to night temperature differential in Bradley is extreme, it’s time to get our night’s watch on! Each now in appropriate get ups, Dan in his spotted cow hat and Oxford wool coat, myself in my faux bear fur and midnight neck wrap from Star Dust Love, we ascended back into the fray! Mano Le Tough is the disco house soundtrack as we lustily soak in the celebratory vibrations. L.I.B. has gone full electric, as glow sticks, glow head dresses and glowing umbrellas, bob along through the night like a sea of energy. I breath out and my breath turns to smoke. I admire the fortitude of a lady that can brave 50 degrees in a neon blue tutu and glittered sports bra. There are packs of them tonight.
We head over to the silent disco and link with the Cosmos crew again. No longer just 20 heads, the disco is at full capacity as we weave our way through the forest of limbs. We learn that there are actually channels on the headphones and you can switch between different sets. I look over to the side and see one group frolicking like they are dancing amongst the daffodils. I figured they can’t be listening to the tech house I am on, so I switch the channels and find The Doors. Another dude is dancing wildly, fists pumping. I switch the channel and am assaulted by some mean Jungle music. I could play this game all night I thought, but realize that Lucent Dossier Experience and my homey Honey were about to rock on the Lightning Stage! I ruck over and witness a fantasy land. Clown b-girls busting moves as acrobats swing over head. A live band playing symphonic dub step steeze with haunting vocals from my girl Honey, fire dancers igniting their flank. Sacred geometry visuals flashed in the background while warrior women strike a koto drum. Lucent and it’s founder Dream Rockwell have been a part of L.I.B. since the very beginning. Dan said she was the costume designer for his former band The Seratonin’s. Good on you miss Dream, you have lived up to your moniker quite mightily.
Flume followed L.D. on the Lightning Stage, and while I have his and Chet Faker’s EP “Lockjaw” on repeat, I was feeling a little more organic vibes than trap at that moment. Plus the crowd was getting a bit too ram, as Flume was definitely the bro magnet of the night. Escaping from the meathead circus, the homey’s Kristin and Rich guided us to see the Opiou Band rock on the Thunder Stage. They were amazing! Funky ass bass, crushing breakdowns, soulful vocals, all played live! I had heard some of Opiou’s music before, the New Zealand producer was quite prolific actually, but having a band performing all his songs live, was a revelation to experience. It’s beautiful where EDM is headed these days. Artists are breaking out of the mold of one DJ with visuals, to creating whole bands and innovative live experiences that challenge the audience’s expectations. This will only increase as time goes on, DJing is evolving and the petri dish that is L.I.B. is the perfect testing ground.
We boogied on over to Woogie for Danny Howells , an English progressive house DJ or deepsexyfuturistictechfunkouse as he likes to call it. Now reunited with the Cosmos crew again, party favors were distributed liberally, as the vibe reached a new height. The colors and lights of the Woogie began to pulsate vividly. A bikinied girl in a horse head mask began to ecstatically prance amidst our crew, throwing candy in the air. I caught a sour patch kid, the flavor bursting in my mouth like a piquant supernova. Things all began to mesh and seam together. Hours passed without my noticing.
At some point, I left to search for water, finding one of the convenient pump’s on the grounds that served up free fresh agua to all who desired it. Guzzling it, I followed a stream of dancers attired in all white to where I thought was back to the Woogie. I believed I had the festival mapped in my mind, but I ended up walking down a path I hadn’t explored before. It led to Amori’s an Italian restaurant/burlesque house. There were two separate areas where people were hanging out, massaging each other, playing games. On a stage in the main area, a full bodied brunette was down to her fishnets, burlesquing to a jazz tune. I soaked up the vibe a bit more before an anxiety started to hit me. I was a lone dude in there, were people judging me? One lady in a feathered large hat making out with her girlfriend kept sneering at me between mouthfuls of tounge. Fuck this I’m out.
I found my way back to the Woogie and met up with Dan again. We streamed past a mobile disco machine spewing bubbles, disco light refractions and Tiesto tunes. A fierce light raged in the distance. We approached it, a large bon fire surrounded by an eclectic gaggle of personas. Hippies, Tron re-enactors and steam punkers on stilts all soaked in the glorious heat. A Thor look alike heaved large blocks of wood into the flames, a folk singer with guitar serenading the lot. Freezing, we entered the circle, hungrily placing our hands near the fire. A girl with long wavy black hair and beautiful dark eyes started to chant in what sounded like a Native American prayer. Half the crowd began to sing with her in a call and response. The other half were singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”. There was a strange tension between the two sides about who should sing what where. Dan and I laughed at the absurdity, as a pretty girl with long auburn hair also laughed next to us. She rose up to leave, looking over at us. “I’m headed to the tea house, do you want to come?”. Dan and I looked at each other quizzically. I shrug my shoulders “Sure”.
She led us away from the fire, down another dark path that I might recognize when the suns up. After a few more twists and turns, we move toward a tent with shoes strewn outside the front. We remove ours and enter. There are many low tables spread about, groups congregated around them, sipping tea. What sounds like Beats Antique is playing in the background. The auburn miss leads us to a table with a few peeps already seated. A serious looking girl stands at attention. “This is your tea mistress, Raven”. Auburn leaves, as Raven nods at us. “Welcome to the tea house. We serve exotic teas here 247.” Me “Do you take credit?” Raven “The tea is free, all we ask is for you to be respectful of your fellow patrons as well as the space you are in. We have many varieties, this first one is a black tea from Cameroon”. She poured us the dark liquid, steam curling from my small cup. Two more girls arrive at the table, one dark eyed with a short blonde bob and a thin graceful face. Her friend wore glasses with piercing blue eyes, also very thin, with curly blonde hair and Russian style fur coat. Me “You look like Alice Glass from this band Crystal Castles” Blonde Bob “I’ve never heard of them. I like metal mostly”. I turn to Dan to get him into the conversation but he has melted into the floor, his eyes open but focused on nothing. “Dan, you alright?”. He nod’s, slurping down some tea. Eventually more girls join us. They share that they are college students at their first festival. Girl 1 “You look like Haggrid with that coat, but you seem magical like Gandalf. You should be called Haggralf”. Me “Sounds too forced, I much prefer Gangrid, sounds way more awesome.” We took it to a vote, Gangrid won by a hair. By this point I had knocked back at least 10 cups, each one a different brew concocted by our tea mistress. One of the girls began to shiver and I noticed she only had a light shawl on. I offered her my heavy coat to get warm, She gladly accepted. I took it off and handed it to her across the table, accidently knocking down some empty tea glasses. It was if I had knocked the needle off a record. The tea mistress looked down at me with a cold scowl. “I told you, respect for the table is paramount. You just knocked over some glasses and you laugh?” Me “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend the tea God’s. I was just trying to be a gentelmen.” “It doesn’t matter, one must respect the table or one must leave”. Dan, seemingly oblivious to the drama unfolding around him raised his glass “Can I have more tea please?”. Daggers erupt out of Raven’s eyes. “You and your friend are both cut off”. Dang, they cold at the tea house! I get my coat back and bid adue to our new friends “Goodnight ladies, and as for you tea missy, you take your role play seriously and I admire that.” I salute her as I peel Dan off the floor and head to our tents. Tomorrow is the last day at L.I.B. so I suppose some sleep is in order.
SUNDAY: I unglue my eyes shut. Searching for my phone I see that it is 12 in the afternoon. The heat from the tent drives me out. My phone buzzes, it’s my lady, she is on her way and will be here in about 2 hours. Yayyyyyy! Nini “Babe, my friend Alice want’s to know what kind of wristband you got for me. Me “I think it’s an artists, let me make sure”. I go to my backpack to proudly declare that yes, you have an artist band wristband and wait, what, no wristband! I rip through the bag, nothing. My stomach starts to churn, where the hell could it be?! “Yeah babe it’s an artist’s band. Love you see you soon”. I attempt to pierce through the fog of the evening. I remember that before I crashed last night I briefly goofed off at the meditation lookout at the top of my camp. I race up there, a full gaggle of enthusiastic meditators are being led by a single guy hitting his chest and spouting what sound like nonsense words. The people all are in a circle around him, all chanting these words while rotating in circles, Goooo Gaaaaaa, Goooooooooo. I attempt to part through this sea of absurdity to search the floor for my band. “Pardon me, excuse me”. People keep looking up at me, annoyed expressions on their face as I crush their moment of enlightenment. This is pointless. I run down to Dan to see if he might have an idea. He is completely flattened; I will be getting nothing from him. Then, like a fog lifting off the bay I remember a moment last night when I was in the tea house. One of the slender girls was talking about how she met her friend when I started to brag about how I got my girl a wristband. I pulled it out and showed it to them, then, nothing. I don’t remember what happened next. Did they rip me off and take my bracelet? Did I leave it on the floor of the tea house? Shit, I had to go there and see.
I race off into the fest. Past the early afternoon yogis, the people shopping for crystals, or listening to seminars on how to start your own polyamorous commune, none of that mattered! My life was over if my lady drove four hours to L.I.B. and I couldn’t get her in! I looked at a map, trying to get my bearings. I remember it was somewhere between the Jive Joint and the Woogie. I ramble over to that area and see nothing that resembles the tea tent. A tall man in a top hat passes me by. I beg his pardon “Sir, do you happen to know where the 24 hour tea house is?” “Yeah, I believe it’s somewhere between the Village and the Temple stage”. That is not what I recall, but my brain being only about 30% charged at this moment, I thank him and jet towards that direction. Feeling crazed and desperate, my heart pounding through my chest I pray silently that I find this place. And once again the L.I.B. God’s answer my prayers. For there is the tent with dusty shoes strewn about it’s front. I charge in and see the same tea mistress from last night still holding it down. “Raven right?” She looks up from her tea pouring duties, no look of recognition. “Uhmmm, I was here last night. You cut me and my buddy off because I knocked over some glasses. Any way did you happen to find an artist’s wrist band here?” “Sorry, no” she says with barely a glance in my direction. Heat rises in my chest and it takes all that is in me not to flip her tea table over and scream obscenities at the top of my lungs. I take a breath, Namaste. Raven “Why don’t you have a seat and drink some tea. It looks like you are stressed. I suggest some chamomile, it’s known for it’s calming power”. Not a bad idea. Figure it’s best to face death calmly and collected rather than as a frantic jackass. I sit and accept a glass. My phone buzzes, I check it, a text from my girl. “See you in a half hour!”. I chug the chamomile, ouch fuck that was hot! “Thanks for the tea Raven, I am off to face my doom like a man.” She nod’s sagely.
The Universe giveth and the Universe taketh away. Was it my lack of humility that caused me to get so Karmically burned? In a past life did I smote some dudes wife, or ransack an orphanage? Why, God whyyyyyyyyy?! I reach my tent and slump onto my sleeping bag. Out of ideas I go through the explanations in my head of why I won’t be able to get my wife in. Maybe I’ll give her my wrist band and just sit in the parking lot for the rest of the day. No need for her to lose out due to my idiotness. And then like a thunderbolt from Heaven, everything changes. A smile creeps upon my lips as my brain reaches 50 % and I remember. I sit up, reaching into the small pocket in my tent where u put the things you don’t want to lose like keys and artist’s wristbands and find…nothing. Huh, what? I turn the stupid pocket inside out, almost ripping it in half. Fuckkkkkkkkkkk! I know with all certainty that right before I slept I put it in there. Then bammmm, another lightning strike hits my brain. I did put it in there then woke up a minute later and thought I might lose it there so I put it in my...
Buddhist say that all you are seeking in life you already have. You want Happiness, BAMMM, you already got it. You want wealth, BOOOM you already thought of the idea that will make you a millionaire. You want to get your wife into Lightning In a Bottle, check the change pocket on the pants you wore last night dooode. I receive the text from my lady that she and her girl are at the gate. I smile, stoked at the lesson that the Universe just handed to me. Another great day awaits me at the transformational festival to end all festivals. I smile, removing the band from my change pocket, so grateful for any more change that might come my way.