3 Lessons Learned from Lightning In a Bottle

Lightning In a Bottle is a mind-blowing festival, without a doubt. Few other festivals can come close with the level of programming, architectural and displayed art, expressive attendees, wealth of known and upcoming acts, and commitment to consciousness and thoughtful living. Our experience there was very special, and three observations stuck out over the four day event.

LIB is growing, and changes will have to be made for to accommodate. This year, estimates of attendance are between 20,000 and 25,000 attendees. In comparison, Movement in Detroit had about 100,000 attendees, but there is no camping, and there is also a large amount of nearby accommodations. Coachella has about the 125,000, but even with extra space, complaints have started to roll in about the crowds. The non-car-camping parking is separate- however, Coachella goers don’t have to battle the pitted and hilly terrain of San Antonio Recreation Area like at LIB.

LIB’s growth means the production level has had to become stricter, making it harder for attendees not in an RV or with car camping to get set up. The hilly location and separation of parking from various campgrounds caused a lot of festival goers to have bloody feet and sore muscles before the festival even started.  I would love to see LIB take a page out of one of their other productions, Dirtybird Campout, and have a shuttle truck from the parking area to various camping intersections to help decrease the load of camping supplies.

This is also the first year of a death attached to the festival- despite the incredible investment by DoLaB in law enforcement and the availability of a medical tent. LIB has been known as a very open environment for many years, largely because the community was able to keep eyes on each other. With increasing size, this becomes harder to do- nooks and crannies and dark places have expanded. It is now, more than ever, that the original culture of LIB needs to be fostered.

DoLaB is an incredible idea and production machine- but resting at this level a few years and continuing to excel- rather than reaching and causing disappointment- may be a good idea. Until then, we highly recommend car camping or the non-hook-up RV sites as the way to make your experience more relaxing.

At big festivals with diverse lineups, cultural micro-environments develop. Normally, the festivals this editor prefers to attend are more intimate, and targeted at a very specific sub-genre of electronic music. LIB ran a gamut- dubstep, folksy electronica, ethnic varieties, underground house and more. Those who live outside the electronic world and think our oontz-oontz-oontz’s are all the same would find the LIB environment amazing. It’s like stepping onto an alien planet and looking at their different cultural groups. This is most apparent in festival fashion and accessories: the LED hoopers over at this stage, the kimono-and-umbrella’d group at this stage, the bear-head and bandana-faced crews at that stage.

The great thing about this is that it mimics the grander cultural overlap of the real world, and the amazing ideas that come from it. Exposure to novel sounds and looks leads to creative problem solving and expression. While a drum circle may not be your thing, the rhythm it produces could lead you to explore new musical avenues. And that’s why we go to festivals instead of just the shows of our favorite artists, right? DoLab absolutely rocks this with the addition of lectures and art exhibits. LIB has been one of my favorite mind-expanding events.

Set yourself up for the long haul. Like many festivals with poor cell reception and thousands of cell signals jamming, setting yourself up in an identifiable and/or comfortable area near your stage of choice will both help you meet new people and find old friends. I had bought a 9 foot unicorn float to take into the lake, but instead of using it that way, our group set it up as a couch and enjoyed the music from our spot. Seating is a much-forgotten festival need- sometimes you just want to sit and close your eyes and not have a piece of mulch poking you in the bum. Having a spot for people to rest brought over the most interesting characters, and also gave us a way to meet up easily with friends if one or two of us wanted to go a separate way.

I looked enviously at a group that set up a living room at the Woogie stage, with a sturdy blow-up lounger, a cooler and other supplies. They, I thought, have got festival life down pat. Here at OTB- our next festival purchase will also be long-range walkie talkies to help us connect when needed.

While the sharing of supplies is one of the sweet spots of festival life, don’t be a Sparkle Pony (a Burning Man term that seems to be fitting more and more festival goers) – you can graciously accept an offer of kindness, but also be willing to reciprocate and be prepared to take care of yourself. The Scouts’ motto of “Be Prepared” will make the entire festival community’s life much more enjoyable.

Dawn Runge

Dawn Runge

The cat that curiosity hasn't killed... yet. House music is her gospel. Veteran of dance floors across the world.
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