After a 6 am start towards Bradley, CA, we finally reached our destination at Lightning in a Bottle. The festival’s new venue was ironically moved to San Antonio Recreation area, a once sprawling lake previously used for boaters over Memorial Day weekend that would now be used to house the annual and ever growing Do LaB festival. The Do LaB is known for putting on many different types of shows, Alex Grey live painting, or an Eoto live set, so it should be no surprise that their festival would house live art, performances, music, dance, and so much more.
Thursday was a quiet day, as the three main stages were not set to open until Friday, but the festival started off quickly and strongly anyways with The Herbert Bail Orchestra playing at one of my favorite areas of the festival, The Grand Artique. The Grand Artique stage was small and had a very old time theater vibe; surrounded by small, mobile, old time houses created the feeling that you were back in the Wild West. The Herbert Bail Orchestra, a large 8 piece band, fit in perfectly with their Go-Go Bordello like sound, songs of western folklore, the devil, and heartbreak.
We then passed by The Temple stage to hear Srikalogy, which from the name you can guess is much more than just music, but a belief. A Brooklyn based producer, DJ, and rapper, Srikalogy creates Indian infused hip-hop beats that he raps and sings over.
Possibly one of the most exciting parts of this festival and a personal dream come true of mine was the Talking Heads Silent Disco set from 2:30-5 am Friday morning, which happened to also be one of the biggest dance parties that I have ever been apart of. In the silent discos, two DJs battle for you to listen to their channel on your headphones, one DJ played modern popular electronic and dance music, while the second played an unrivaled Talking Heads set.
Friday was an amazing day that began with a walk around the festival grounds so we could finally check out all that LiB had to offer in the light of day. After wandering for a few hours through the hot and windy terrain, we were sufficiently covered in sweat and dust and the scarves and trippy towels began to emerge wrapped around the attendee’s faces to protect themselves from the dust storms. Like any festival that takes place in a desert-like area, the guests have to be prepared to inhale unwanted dust and dirt and get physically dirty. We subsequently carried our dirty and tired selves to The Temple to see the famous Moby speak about Music as a Therapy. A fairly new form of treatment that doesn’t have much clinical support, Moby talked about how musical therapy is a viable and growing tactic causing regeneration of neurons and thus allowing victims of brain damage to regain accessibility to parts of the brain that they have lost. LiB is indeed an extremely heady festival, with rave rats and wooks galore, but the speakers and workshops provide an entirely distinct intellectual outlet. Not only did I have fun at this festival, I came out of it with an open and engaged mind.
After the sun began to grow a little weaker and the wind settled down, we we’re able to find some relief at the Bamboo Stage during Russ Liquid, one of the current artists who’s combining electronic production with live trumpet. And like any right-minded lady, that trumpet Russ Liquid played sent shivers up and down my spine and weakened my knees allowing me to groove to his pleasantly soulful lo-fi and liquidy beats.
We awoke Saturday, poured water over our bodies to cool down, and began our journey around the entire festival. This would be the day where LiB would showcase all of the different entities it hosted. We began at saQi, another musically talented producer-trumpeter. The dry heat was overwhelming but the audience never ceased to dance to saQi’s funky grooves and cowbell beats. It is almost impossible to place saQi in one musical category, as his sound transforms from Nicolas Jaar synths to jazzy triplets to traditional Indian and back to his trusty trumpet. saQi leaves nothing undone and covers all the bases, creating an alarmingly lively performance. Definitely one of the best of the weekend, if you ever get a chance to see saQi live, take it.
We started back at The Grand Artique stage and caught part of Iconoclast Robot, a soul-rock based rap group with a lyricist who delivers intellectual and truthful statements about our damaged and destructed society.
We soon came back to the Grand Artique to find ourselves face to face with a masterfully talented violinist named Hannah Thiem. Placed in the center of the theateresque stage as the sun had just set made it seem as though Hannah was glowing as she created looped drumbeats and played ambitious violin segments overtop them that produced a powerful visual and auditory experience.
As we walked from the violinists we passed and were transfixed by the beautiful and majestic belly dancer named Aradia Sunseri who danced and spun in front of an eccentric Hindu backdrop made of silver and gold.
LiB this year was at a new venue, and although there were ditches you would have to walk up and down to travel from one peak to the next, these peaks were key in the final production of the entire festival. Leaving Temple, we headed towards the main stage, chasing the funky music of Kraak & Smaak, and the three peaks of the festival were finally visible to us in one view. The Do LaB might be still getting the hang of a few things, but the one aspect of festival and event production they outdo any other company at is stage design. As we walked along, we could see each stage with its distinct design and purpose illuminated in the dark, along with the many glowing art installations that lit the path. Finally, we made it to the pyramid on the edge of the venue, overlooking the festival grounds. This golden pyramid was constructed almost entirely of cans, which clanged together in the wind, creating a sonic sound that was further projected out of a speaker system.
As we walked to Little Dragon, we heard Climbing Poetree, two eccentric females from NYC who dominate in the art of slam poetry, do a surprise set with Wildlight on their song Conversations Between.
The night ended with Little Dragon and Cashmere Cat. The Little Dragon performance was extraordinary but underwhelming as her sound was far too low to command the entire audience of the main stage. Cashmere Cat on the other hand had exceptional sound at The Bamboo stage. This was my first time seeing Cashmere cat live, and although he definitely plays to the crowd, throwing down hits like Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love”, and songs from Kanye’s Yeezus, the complexity and intricacy with which he produces his transitions and delicate drops utterly surprised me. The crowd was filled with bright lights and EDM ravers, but Cashmere Cat’s music allowed me to bypass the surrounding bullshit and see the sheer beauty and talent he was creating.
Finally at 5 am, we made our way from the campsite to see Random Rab play his sunrise set. As we walked down to the stage where he would be performing, we were surrounded by countless other folks who had also stayed up all night just to see the sunrise. I’d never made it to a sunrise set before, but now I truly understand why everybody pushes through all night just to catch this last set. Random Rab’s set was sincerely perfect; a calm and serene set that beautifully lifted the crowd out of the darkness of night and into the morning. The experience was truly unforgettable, remember that the next time you want to fall asleep before the sunrise set.
When we awoke to the hottest day yet, Sunday, it was hard to make that final push to get out of the tent, but it came finally around 2 PM.
Chet Faker began and the crowd immediately ran from whatever direction towards him. The music Mr. Faker creates is truly the definition of feel good music, something you can sing and sway to; it was the perfect tone to watch the Sunday sun set to. Watch out James Blake, there’s a new Brit coming up.
Lastly, it was time for Phantogram. As a follower of Phantogram from the beginning, I was too excited to see how they would perform and adapt to please and reach a crowd as big as headlining the main stage at a festival gets. They exceeded my expectations in every way. Phantogram, not what I would normally call a rock group, changed my mind that night, as their performance was powerful, rough, and rock like, evident by Sarah Barthel violently shaking her jet black bob as her fingers danced along the piano. I had seen them a few years back in an indoor venue, but their live performance and sound at LiB was exceptional, not to mention the amount of energy vibrating from the stage throughout the audience. Their total command of their fans had everyone dancing and singing along as they played all the hits, starting from “Mouthful of Diamonds” from their premiere album, to “Fall In Love” off their most recent album Voices.
Overall, the weekend was amazing. Every type of artist, and every type of person was at this festival. The Do LaB has a few things they still need to work out production wise (the shuttles were a fail) to make the festival flawless, but this young festival is headed in the right, and very nuanced direction.
- Caroline Szujewski, Alumni DJ, Animal Grooves.
As you can tell, there was a lot going on, check out Part II of our Lightning in a Bottle Coverage tomorrow at noon!