This year’s edition of Lightning In A Bottle has proven to be the most vibrant yet, with a unifying community bound together by a love of music and art.
There’s your mundane music festival, then there’s a transformational experience holding a piece of heaven for those who escape the shackles of reality for a weekend – and lightning in a bottle does exactly that. The famous festival has regained its place Kern County location at buena vista lake, putting magic in the spotlight for its first post-COVID edition. Despite the struggles of recent years, the Make LaB has dedicated itself to creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those who flock to the festival.
This was my first time to the new location, having only experienced Bradley’s off-road site years before. Compared to the hills and valleys I’ve encountered previously, I was pleased to find that this area has more accessible walking terrain, with closer stages and facilities, including from campsites. However, my stamina was tested by the might of the dust storms that rewarded us for the entirety (to all who attend Burning Man, I salute you).
As we entered the venue, we were met with a familiar yet comforting sight of decorated cars emblazoned with Bound LIBlong reunion hugs and basses that pump through the air.
My camp and I arrived early Wednesday morning, greeted by triple-digit warmth as we waited in line at Will Call. The organization of the LIBers facilitated the obtaining of the tickets and the installation of the campsites, the foggers passing by with their water devices to refresh all the participants. The temperature was high, but so were the spirits of the community for the upcoming festivities. “happy libhas become a resounding greeting, making it more of a celebration of life than just a gathering.
Compared to previous years, what surprised me was the massive attendance in 2022 – the smaller size of the venue brought the crowds closer together, which was a bit overwhelming at first. However, it has become much easier to find and make new friends with the disconnection from the electronic world. I was also delighted to see the presence of harm reduction groups like DanceSafe to help keep participants’ safety in mind.
Another new addition to LIB was the cashless wristband system. I found it convenient to be able to leave my wallet in my camp without fear of losing it – but it also made spending at the festival a little too easy for my bank account to manage. Going forward, it would be great if all payment types were accepted to promote diverse acceptance of different currencies, including those choosing to move out of the electronic payment lifestyle.
The unique part of Lightning in a Bottle is its setup that makes you feel like you’re transported to small worlds with no mind-altering substances needed.
Each participant’s inner child is met with the wacky yet artistically entertaining Easter eggs planted around the grounds. Trade your clothes for a pickle at Frick Frack Blackjackenjoy burlesque opera at Unicorn Palaceor enjoy a symphony of genre-blending music at Great Arctic. Some of my favorite discoveries were the blacklight stage, outfitted with hand-painted objects, and a nine-person band playing a mix of house, funk, and hip-hop all at once (including random LIBers in the crowd).
Whether you’re spending the day taking a “Sexy Salads” cooking class or bathing in the waves of LSDREAMit is Lightcode sound bath, there was always something to explore and experience outside of the music. I liked taking a painting course at Artclave of the visual artist and painter Atlas, who gave a 10-hour lesson to a packed house of potential artists. It was a great way to create substantial memories and escape the heat of camp!
It was refreshing to see how the Do LaB included their beloved art installations while incorporating new ones.
Honorable mentions include the Playa Rélampago stage, which was a sanctuary of dancehall and reggaeton sets and salsa and bachata dance lessons, and the updated Memory Palace with harm reduction and consent workshops. This year there was also a creative selection of merch, including favorites like Third Eye Pine Cones and Kritter Klipswith new additions like the famous Disco Lemonade and Jewelz by Jewelia.
As the start of the weekend rolled around, more and more LIBers filled the camping areas and gathered to relax and unwind by the lake on Desert Hearts Night.
As the sun set, the annual LIB welcome howl was heard everywhere, with art cars honking in unison. My crew and I danced the first night of music at the much improved woogie stage, with raised structures and palm trees having a light show to the music. Jon Hopkins put on a gorgeous progressive-style ensemble that moved people to tears. I came back on Saturday to live the experience that Four Tet brings to his stunning performance.
The Thunder the stage was another popular playground for my team and me. Its unusual but diverse musical lineup included a reggae legend Coffee and the unforgettable G Jones b2b Eprom fixed on Friday. I also witnessed a huge dust storm as Khiva fall “swamp monster“, which was fitting to say the least. This milestone also honored acts like Megan Hamilton, Of Trees, LSDREAMand the Opiuo Sunset on Sunday, all memorable.
I spent most of my time descending on The Stacks stage as I ducked and danced through 30 MPH winds, sequined coats, and giant creature-like art cars.
Formerly called the Pagoda, this area has hosted some of the rising names in electronic music on the scene. Bass tunes like Dalek One, Saka, Beat Kittyand Leet invade the bridges on weekends. Batteries also housed many surprise guest sets, including a treat from The Glitch Crowd playing all their classics and a surprise saber and wanderer appearance – Ivy Lab’s drum and bass persona to close the festival. It was a moving experience to see so much talent from all over the country congregating in this corner of the festival, playing absolute art on a massive PA system.
With The Stacks hustling all weekend and teeming with attendees, it was disappointing to find out once the dust had settled that none of the artists were being paid to play. Hell and others have talked about it Twitterso I hope this problem will be solved by the Do LaB and SoundXperiment in the future, because they deserve to be treated as fairly as the other members of the formation.
The biggest artists blew everyone away with the immersive production and jaw-dropping tunes on the massive Lightning Stage.
Despite a denser crowd, this stage had enough space to dance as desired while feeling the community vibe. Act like Ring of Purity, SG Lewis, Kaytranadaand honorable mention GRiZ with the pyrotechnics closed every night with a bang. The party didn’t stop until sunrise, however, with sets of renegades popping up all over the estate to keep the energy circuit going. LIB isn’t over until people say so!
Although my experience was great, there is still room for improvement to elevate it for future editions.
Some public concerns included the lack of basic necessities available every five days, including the scarcity of clean bathrooms in some camping areas and long waits for restocking ice packs. The dust was also more intense than expected for attendees, with EZ-Ups blowing through the air from time to time – be sure to plant your shade structures, people! That being said, I have no doubt that the Do LaB thinks about the participants and that it will improve even further next year.
This year’s edition of the festival was magical, and I look forward to returning in the future.
Lightning In A Bottle is a gigantic world in a compact size, where dreams can be lived on this plane of existence, where bamboo grows from dust, and where one comes and goes as a completely changed human being . After such an otherworldly weekend, I hope everyone who attended found their thunderbolts to keep in their bottle full. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for everyone who chooses to sing, dance and let go of worries at LIB.
Follow Lightning In A Bottle on social media:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | instagram