Last weekend, I ventured out to the recently dried up Lake San Antonio to experience what, in my opinion, is the best festival on the west coast right now.  From May 22nd to May 26th I was immersed in a world full of Woogie, trampolines, Burners, interactive art, and all-night after parties hosted fifty feet below (figurative) sea level.

Location:

Over the last three years, LiB has been hosted at three separate locations; 2012 was held at the ever popular Oak Canyon Ranch in Silverado, California, 2013 was at Lake Skinner in Temecula, California, but received a lot of flak for the increased police presence and incredibly hot temperatures, and this year was held at Lake San Antonio in Bradley, California.  The campgrounds were absolutely massive, I had friends camped on the other side of the festival and they may have well been on the dark side of the moon. It was nice having each of the stages and campgrounds separated by a sandy ravine almost sixty feet deep on either side; despite how much of a trek it was, The Do LaB was looking out by building stairs for festival-goers to ascend/descend on.  The weather was pretty moderate, with temperatures around mid-eighties in the day to low fifties at night; you could rock short shorts (male or female) under the sun, and a coat at night and be perfectly alright.  It was almost kind of eerie seeing the lake that this festival took place at totally dried up and overgrown.  Last year, it was a massive hotspot for watersport enthusiasts, and this time around it was at 4% capacity; it may as well have been a desert.

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This photo was taken on a trail that bordered the festival grounds and the bed of the former lake

 

Camping:

The camping at Lightning is unlike any other festival I have attended, with the exception of Burning Man.  You are able to bring in as much equipment as you want and take up as much space as you feel necessary or need.  You would think with such loose limitations that you’d run into problems with overcrowding, but there was more than enough campground to host every tent, renegade sound camp, hammock, portable shower, and art piece people could bring.  Seriously, you could get a daily workout just by walking between campgrounds to get food; I nearly had a heat stroke on an expedition for poutine (french fries, cheese curds, and gravy), but can you blame me?  The best thing I experienced in the campgrounds had to be our neighbors starting a full-on kazoo choir on their inflatable trampoline, and yes, they did take requests.

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Stages and Art:

One of the most captivating parts of LiB is the joining of creative minds to put together some of the greatest pieces of art the world has ever seen, which includes the stages; this year saw no exception.

Centralized in the middle of the festival, just in front of the Lightning Stage, was a lawn full of massive, intricate, and beautiful art pieces I had ever seen in my entire life.  During day the day, these were on display for people to bid on, but when the sun set, the neon and fluorescent came out to play.  There was one piece that captured your movements from behind and projected them on to a screen with psychedelic patterns on your silhouette; it was incredibly entertaining.  By The Bamboo Stage and near The Village, you could constantly view live painting from artists with immeasurable talent.  That kind of creativity boosted the vibes and inspiration for all those around it.

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The Lightning Stage-

This massive creation of light and love was made out of giant oval spires consisting of wood and rainbow cloth hosted some of the biggest acts that weekend.  It was perched directly on what would have been the shore of the lake with a perfect view of the sunset to the mountains on the right each day.

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The Bamboo Stage-

It was made almost entirely out of, you guessed it, bamboo!  That may not sound like much, but having a massive, organic structure that resembled that of a cartoon sunrise, a soundsystem that thumped, and a laser show that put Pink Floyd to shame made for an experience unlike any one at that, or any, festival.

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The Woogie-

Arguably the coolest stage at Lightning; this is a feat in itself considering the fierce competition that the Bamboo and Lightning stages bring to the game.   We’re talking about a stage that is not only in a tree and wrapped in rainbow cloth, constantly spraying water into the crowd during blistering hot daytime hours, and bumping the absolute coolest of house music on the cleanest of speaker systems, but also sporting giant, light-up, abstract trees made of cloth in the middle of the dance floor.  Seriously, every time I entered this stage I was showered with nothing but the grooviest, coolest vibes from festival-goers and DJs alike.  Maybe I’m partial to this one because my group was camped about fifty feet from it and made it our temporary home, but it was an incredible and unique experience every time I decided to see a set there.

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The Drift-

This was one of the after-hours stages nestled between The Woogie and The Lightning stages, appropriately named The Drift as it was set up in front of massive pieces of drift wood sixty feet below sea level.  Every night music would go from 12:30am-7am, hosting the craziest of night owls and music enthusiasts alike.  You could hear this stage booming from any campground around The Woogie.

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Sunrise Sets With Random Rab

 

Music:

Each and every artist that played at Lightning brought their A-game and managed to play the crowd like experts.  I wasn’t able to catch every set over the weekend, but here’s the recap of what I saw

Day 1

Break Science– Funky, bass-driven tones really set the bar for the rest of the festival.  These guys had the festival absolutely grooving from the get go.

Russ Liquid– A jack of all trades; watching him switch between saxophone, trumpet, and flute on a dime really took me by surprise and impressed me by how well it intertwined with his bass-heavy tracks.

The Polish Ambassador– The master of the one-piece and groove.  The entire time his set looked like a party both on and off the stage.  How could you not be drawn in by an entire b-boy/girl crew in onesies (including a cow suit with udders) jamming out on stage.

Gramatik–  It was every bit as awesome as I was hoping for.  The entire crowd was getting down, and Russ Liquid joined him on stage to put down some sexy flute, saxophone, and trumpet jams throughout.

Damian Lazarus–  The last time I saw him was on Robot Heart at Burning Man during a sunrise set, and he brought the same intensity to The Woogie stage as he did that fateful morning.  The deepest of house.

Claude VonStroke–  The Dirtybird himself managed to hold down The Woogie with party music that kept everyone grooving for the entirety of his two hour set.

Baauer– Laid down some of the heaviest 808s of the entire weekend, but the last fifteen minutes of his set was some of the craziest mixing I had heard in awhile.

Moby– It was surprising to hear him playing progressive house on the main stage of a primarily bass music festival, but as a gentleman who served breakfast to a guy on acid that broke into his house, I’d say he earned it.  It just seems like he’s past the “Play” era.

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Day 2

Ben Seagren– The head honcho of the world-renown Burning Man day camp, Distrikt, set the bar for day 2 whilst people partied underneath the water sprayers and hot sun.  Managed to catch a few games of slap-the-bag during his two hour jam.

Pumpkin– Threw down the most diverse set in The Woogie all weekend.  He stepped a little bit outside of the untz untz of tech/deep house beats and laid down some soulful, almost loving, remixes.  By far one of the grooviest sets of the weekend.

J. Phlip– Following in the steps of her fellow Dirtybird, Phlip managed to hold down The Woogie for a crazy block of house music that had everyone moving from start to finish.

William & The Earth Harp Collective–  One of the more spiritual events I had experienced all weekend.  Watching the sunset drop behind the mountains during one of their performances that concluded in a group hug and a flurry of animal noises could not have come at a better time.  One hell of a way to start a birthday evening.

Dimond Saints– An-Ten-Nae’s newest duo creation put down some dirty-ass sub-bass on The Bamboo stage post-sunset as people both on and off the stage danced to their hearts content.  I don’t think another group or artist had as much fun on stage as those guys did; it was a blast to watch.

Kraddy–  I went in expecting some dirty dubstep from the ex-Glitch Mob member, but was met with more trap and sub-bass than I could have imagined.  He took a quick break to introduce a vocalist who, although did not seem to be that necessary to have interrupted the fluid performance, gave it her all.  He finished out with everyone’s favorite, “Android Porn,” which left a good taste in my mouth.

Cashmere Cat–  Dropped soulful, 808-ridden beats throughout his set.  Lasers flew overhead, and the squeaking-bed, bubble popping sound that is hidden in each of his songs was definitely present.  You could tell that people were feeling the love both on and off the stage.

Amon Tobin–  Managed to swing by his set for a few minutes when the amount of trap I could hear for one day reached critical mass; it was a good decision.  I tumbled into the relatively sparse crowd of the main stage to rage to some of the hardest drum and bass I had heard in a very, very long time.  It was really far off from his ISAM work, and bordered more of his Two Fingers tracks.

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Day 3

Slow Magic–  After a late start and an episode of near heat stroke, I could not have been more excited to see Slow Magic.  Prior to the walk over to The Bamboo Stage, I had no idea who this individual was, but after a quick conversation with one of my friends, I was ecstatic.  He came out wearing his signature mask and immediately started pounding on some drums.  His slow, soulful, grooving beats put the love back in everyone at that stage.  The pre-sunset crowd was getting down, especially when he decided to jump into the crowd with one of his drums and jam with everyone surrounding him. The best start to any of the days, by far.

Chet Faker–  This down-tempo Aussie managed to blow me away.  I was expecting a set that I could go to, sit down, enjoy my falafel, and jam out to a talented vocalist, but I got more than I bargained for.  The bass was turned up, the sun was setting, and his almost R&B vibes really hit home.  I was grooving to say the least.

Gold Panda–  By far one of the most disappointing sets of the weekend for me.  I am a huge fan of Gold Panda’s productions, and I was front row for his set, but it just didn’t click.  His tracks were too slow, the bass was turned up way too much for what he was playing.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood, but I definitely made a good choice in leaving for TOKiMONSTA.

TOKiMONSTA–  This was the set that surprised me the most.  I had seen her spin at Club Nokia at some point in 2013 and it was terrible, but her set at Lightning blew any predisposition out of the water.  She laid down a set that was incredibly varied in genres, from deep house to hip-hop, dubstep, trap, and more, all while keeping her progression at a pace only the greatest of house parties could match.

What So Not–  This was the set that I was absolutely most excited for all weekend.  For the months leading up to Lightning, I had been religiously listening to What So Not’s Nest Mix that was recorded at Stereosonic just hoping to get a taste of what was to come.  It couldn’t hold a candle to what he actually spun.  He dropped every What So Not banger in the book on top of a flurry of dubstep, hip-hop, and the dirtiest trap beats I had heard in the last year, let alone last weekend.  Emoh is an absolute master of his craft when it comes to mixing in and out of tracks, and controlling a crowd like a true maestro.  10/10 would see again.

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Overview:

All in all, Lightning In A bottle was, and continues to be, one of the best experiences I have had all year.  This festival embodies the ideals and vibes of Burning Man and a lineup that Coachella would tip it’s cap to.  I want to thank and commend the individuals at The Do LaB and The Confluence for having me out there this weekend to experience all they had to offer!  We will forever recommend this festival to our friend, family, and followers as one of the best of the best.  The experienced is unparalleled, so what are you waiting for? 2015 is just around the corner…