If you read our hype post for Lightning in a Bottle this year, then you know it is our most highly anticipated event. Four days in the desert with a lake right there, what could be better??! We were so excited to hear that the level of Lake San Antonio was high enough to swim in, even though it was much lower than last year. Having a lake at a festival is a game changer for many reasons, and we took full advantage by getting our float on in our ridiculously large floaties!
Lightning in a Bottle, a festival by Do LaB, is known for being about more than the music, featuring workshops, yoga, and many interactive structures and places to play! Some of our favorite structures this year were the spinning orb “Zoa” (which actually broke off one of the days and had to be reattached), Grandma’s House (a shrine to retreat to and meditate in), the Hideout structure (which you could climb in to view the whole fest), and the ferris wheel! There were also some interactive events planned like the Soap-Box Derby, where contestants create their own crazy vehicles and race down a huge hill on Saturday! There was always so much going on as you walked through the festival, like live painters and even fire spinners. The festival goers themselves were even their own works of art, as people really go all out with their outfits. LIB is a place where you can truly express yourself, and we loved seeing the crazy outfits people have come up with or created themselves.
Even though Lightning in a Bottle is known for being about more than just the music, they featured an amazing lineup this year, with artists from MK to Giraffage to Tokimonsta to Anderson Paak, and everything played in between. We’ll be reviewing some of our favorite artists below, but I wish we had time to review so many more people!
Entering the Festival
One thing LIB always does well is get people into the festival quickly, trying to get people off the roads as much as they can. Our group got into line around 11 am and it probably only took us around an hour to get into the festival and to our camping spot! I was pretty impressed by how quickly we got in. What I was not impressed with is how they got rid of free-form camping this year. LIB has always been a festival where you find a spot wherever you’d like, and take up as much room as your group needs. There have never been assigned spaces or people telling you where to go. This year was completely different, making me feel like LIB has gotten one too many tips from Coachella. We were directed to our spot, and the volunteers wouldn’t let us drive anywhere else to see if there was more space elsewhere. We were then squished in next to other cars as close as they could get us. We had to fight for more space, trying to explain to the volunteers that we had ten people’s worth of tents to set up, even though we only had two cars. One volunteer in particular was pretty rude to us, mocking us for needing more space. Thankfully we were able to get the amount of space we needed, but it was a weird way to start off the festival, leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
We realized after failed attempts to get the rest of our group to our campsite, that they had camped us in the lakebed. We weren’t even on the map! We had been giving our group wrong directions the whole time as we were under the assumption that we were the last camping area before the lake. There were no marked streets, no water stations, and barely enough restrooms. I was pretty disappointed that LIB would camp people in areas not even set up for camping just to cram more people in.
Even though it was a weird start, we were ready for some music! Below we’ve reviewed some of our favorites.
Our group was walking across the bridge on Friday night, headed toward the Thunder stage. At this point we didn’t have anyone in particular we wanted to see and were hoping to stumble upon someone good. All of a sudden we hear what sounded like cumbia music coming from the Beacon on our left. Jess and I took one look at each other, yelled YES, and took off sprinting toward it. Our group had no choice but to take off after us (sorry not sorry). We proceeded to stumble upon an amazing, latin-infused, ridiculously upbeat dance party! The band (we didn’t find out their name until the very end of the set) had many live instruments playing while the lead singer kept us all involved with chants and shout outs. This isn’t your traditional cumbia band; there were elements of cumbia, merengue, and African beats, all blended into a style they call “buyangu”. We danced hard, we danced fast, and we left that place thinking, this is the magic of LIB. Discovering bands you had no idea existed or ever thought would be playing at a festival like this, that’s the magic!
Oh GRiZ…you seriously have my heart. Both your music and your personality are just so genuine that I think you’d have to be a heartless, tone deaf alien to not fall in love. I’ve seen GRiZ and Muzzy perform together on stage countless times at this point (can we please be bffs?!) and by the end of each set I just want more…honestly I could listen to their music nonstop and never get tired of it. GRiZ started off his set at the Lightning stage with a bang, like always. His energy and music is just so personable and upbeat it was no surprise to see everyone around me in that super packed crowd jumping up and down and vibing to the feel good music. He was constantly killin’ it on the sax while Muzzy would be jammin’ and shredding the guitar throughout the set, adding to the electronic funkiness that we all know and love so much. What I really appreciated about GRiZ’s set was that it wasn’t predictable; many artists that tour may play the same type of set when they go to festivals and concerts, and having gone to many GRiZ shows, I could tell that he was mixing things up and keeping the crowd on their toes.
I don’t know how one can make the perfect blend of brassy goodness with hard hitting upbeat electronic notes, but GRiZ does it with ease. GRiZ and Muzzy looked to be having the time of their lives as they danced around on stage playing such loving and animated music for all of us to groove to. They even did some funky remixes and had everyone dancing to the songs of the ‘70s, which was both invigorating and refreshing since everyone in the crowd was into it, no one had any judgements or negative vibes. That is one important factor about GRiZ and the music he creates, the people and crowd that are attracted to his music are full of love and acceptance, just wanting to have a good time with all those around them. GRiZ does a fantastic job making sure that music goers understand his music and environment is a safe space for all walks of life, and I can tell he is doing a beautiful job holding that platform true. The big screens on the side of the stage were constantly flashing a collage of images that all centered around fighting injustice and coming together for peace and love, and I can’t think of anyone more appropriate to spread this message than GRiZ. Besides the set being flawless, musically speaking, it was also a full-on experience. Every festival attendee who had the pleasure of listening to GRiZ’s set that Friday night walked away feeling wholesome and optimistic for what’s to come, whether that be in life, at the festival, or just for that night…GRiZ makes sure we have all been touched by the power of music, every time.
I’ve had an unhealthy (or very healthy depending how you look at it) obsession with The Glitch Mob ever since my first LIB in 2016. When I was listening to the lineup, I realized all 3 members were going to be there, but as their other musical projects. Ooah and edIT had a set together, Panytraid closed out Sunday night, and Boreta had a surprise set at the Pagoda bar. Then in 2017 when they made a surprise appearance at edIT’s set, I about lost it. I have been patiently waiting for them to be on a LIB lineup officially, so this year they were my most anticipated set. To make it even better, they had just released their new album in three years, “See Without Eyes” which I thoroughly enjoyed. They managed to take their music in a different direction while staying true to their glitchy sound.
This was the only set of the whole weekend that I showed up early to in order to get right up to the front, I wasn’t messing around! The stage was set up with these huge gears in the background, with three touch-screen dj stands set up, and drums next to each of them. The lights go off, the lights start changing colors, and the glitchy goodness begins to vibrate through my soul. They start off into Fortune Days, asking us if we are ready. The crowd cheers (because how could we not be ready?!), and here we go. They alternate between who is playing the drums versus djing, and you can just see how into the set they’re getting. We’re all right there with them, lost in the music, dancing way too hard. My favorite part of seeing The Glitch Mob has always been how you can feel their music penetrate you and vibrate through your whole body. You’re not just listening with your ears, you’re experiencing it with your whole body. If you haven’t had the chance to see them live, you need to! They absolutely killed it, making them arguably one of the best sets of the whole weekend.
Can we talk about NAO, please?! Like…where have you been my whole life?! Not only was she one of the artists I was unfamiliar with until I got to the festival, but she is a serious force to be reckoned with, and I am so disappointed in myself for not finding her in the music world earlier. A goddess. A powerhouse. Her voice…holy shit. I get emotional just thinking about her set because of how powerful her lyrics are and how on point her voice is. Our group had done a lot of wandering and exploring after Tokimonsta’s set and were wanting to get a clear ear shot of NAO’s performance. We decided that instead of being in the crowd at the Lightning stage, where she would be performing, we would be all the way back by one of the crossing bridges near the vendors on that same patch of land and post up there; i’m so happy we did that. NAO begins her set and we are all speechless and amazed. Even from all the way back there the sound was so strong we could hear her sing perfectly and even hear the band with no issues.
Her voice is both angelic and emotional, wrapping around you and giving you a sense of both ease and desire with its unique sound. Her sound is soulful, with notes of r&b and even funk at times, and it just made me want more and more from her. As we sat and watched from afar I could see how entranced my group also was in her set, which seemed very significant to me due to our group enjoying all different types of genres…but NAO was the one style of artist that we could all love and appreciate. What made me respect NAO even more was that during the middle of her set she began to sing her song “Bad Blood”, and less than a minute in she stopped the band, stopped singing, and told the crowd that she didn’t think the sound was up to par with what she was wanting to give us and thus began to redo the song! Having an artist know what a song should sound like, being strict with wanting to give nothing but perfection, and actually deciding to start over at a live set is something that is rare to find nowadays! That really made my mind up, NAO’s performance was one of my favorite performances I’ve ever witnessed at a festival or concert.
We had just gotten into line for the small ferris wheel when I realized CloZee’s set had begun. Though I was initially wanting to see CloZee’s entire set I was happily surprised to notice, once on the ferris wheel, that the sound quality was so on point I was easily able to listen to the beginning of her set. Once finished with our ride we briskly walked over the the Thunder stage to see CloZee perform and oh man was it a fun set to listen and dance to. First off, the crowd was huge but we had no troubles wiggling our way deeper into the stage and found a comfortable spot near what I believe to be the sound control booth. Though distant from the stage I could still see CloZee on stage swaying to her music while smiling as she witnessed all of us LiB attendees grooving to her eastern and tribal influenced electronic music.
She played all my favorites, never missing the beats of the Japanese rooted sounds she and I love so much, and always allowing the instrumentals within her songs to tell the crowd a story. The bass was also so fun and intense, but in a good and not overwhelming kind of way! During parts of her set, the bass would vibrate the wall of the sound control booth, and I couldn’t help but move closer to it, wanting to feel the vibrations and dive further into a trance. Besides the beautifully engaging music she gave us, CloZee also brought out fire spinners who did a wonderful job exciting the crowd with their skill, using high end lasers throughout the set. It was a magically hypnotizing performance that left me wanting more.
After Clozee’s set I was even more excited to see what Zhu had in store for us on our last night at LiB. Our group took a quick bathroom and water station break and then headed over to the Lightning stage to prepare ourselves for the sounds of Zhu. The stage was packed; it was very difficult to get anywhere within the designated area for that stage, but we managed to squeeze ourselves onto the right side of the stage and essentially be in the front. The stage lit up and the lights began to go on and off in a dimmed pattern until finally the music begun, a darker downtempo vibe that I can only describe as both seductive and trance-like. The video screens would show silhouettes of Zhu, the sax player and guitarist in strobe style fashion as the music progressed into a full blown hard-hitting underground/ industrial vibe, both exciting and intriguing the crowd.
He played a few songs from his latest album, Ringos Desert Pt 1, which showed a much more intense and haunting side of Zhu than we are used to. At the same time, it was so refreshing to hear these new songs in a live setting and see all the realms of entertainment Zhu can bring forth to us. The sax, guitar and piano were three components that really pushed the set to perfection. The crowd would be flowing into the mysterious tunnel Zhu was leading us into, and then one of these instruments would come out in full force, leaving us melting in response to this beautiful fusion of both live and progressive electronic music. He played all his classics and even remixed a couple classics by adding more sax into the beat to really set the mood. He even played a few songs that he had remixed from other artists and surprisingly added a trap style influence to the songs and/or would add a sense of rock to the songs. Somehow the music still blended together so well. His set was both moody and addicting and I loved every second of it. Good job, Zhu.
Con Brio is a group that I had been wanting to see for quite some time. I was bummed out when I couldn’t see them perform in San Francisco for this past New Years but I was determined to make their set at LiB, even if it was late at night and on the last day of the festival. Con Brio, musically, means “with spirit” or “with vigor” and boy do they bring that energy tenfold. After Zhu’s set finished at the Lightning stage I convinced the remaining members of my group who were out to rush over to the Grand Artique where Con Brio would be playing so they too could experience the liveliness of this band. This band is one of the most alive and energetic bands I think I have ever experienced in my life; they fully engulf themselves into their music and you can see how much passion they have for the sounds they’re creating. The lead singer, Ziek, had a very memorable and interactive stage performance; whether it was flips, dancing next to his bandmates, or doing dance moves that brought us all back to the Michael Jackson and James Brown times, he kept our attention and had us hypnotized.
One thing about rock & roll soul music that makes it so special is that it really is infectious! The brass instruments flowing through the air, the beautiful singing, the drum and guitars fusing it all together in harmony…you can’t not go into a full body groove as the music fills your soul. Con Brio even let people get on stage! About three quarters of the way through the two hour set Ziek started grabbing girls at the front of the stage and let them dance right next to him. The friendly energy was so exciting to see and the bandmates were all the more happy to share the stage with fans that truly loved the music they were playing. Another factor that made me appreciate the band that much more was that each was able to have a mini solo on stage during their set and it all seemed to work in their favor. By the end of the set there were dozens of people on the stage, shaking their booties while smiling and laughing at the whole experience. Con Brio finished the set horns blazing, drums vibrating the stage, and Ziek doing a flip and ending in the splits. My cheeks were sore from smiling the whole set but I was so in love and so satisfied with the weekend coming to an end like that. I turned to my friends and they all just looked amazed, one asking, “why aren’t they on the mainstage?” and I just smiled and knew I had succeeded in showing my friends what fire this style of music brings to the world. Con Brio, thank you for lighting up my last night at LiB, I can’t wait to see you again.
A brand new interactive area this year was a roller rink called Rink Dink. It was set up on the ramp next to the ferris wheel, giving you an amazing view of the festival as you skated. I was so happy to hear that it was free to skate, meaning all I needed to do was sign a waiver and tell them my shoe size! The rink was 80’s themed, featuring all of your favorite musical hits and even a disco ball! This was definitely one of my favorite moments of the festival, getting to skate with everyone all dressed up in their festival outfits, and seeing everyone acting like a little kid again!
Kritter Klips Photoshoot! ✨✨
One of our favorite moments of the festival was being part of a photoshoot for Kritter Klips, one of our favorite vendors! The shoot was done by the sweet and talented James, who owns James R. Photography. We had so much fun with all of them that we will be covering this in a separate review for Kritter Klips!
We wanted to make this year a little more fun and decided to coordinate themed outfit days for our group. Our 10 person crew did not disappoint! We came out full force Thursday night in our 80’s outfits all ready to hit up 80’s Prom at the Favela Bar with Kraddy and Patricio. Dancing the night away to 80’s and 90’s hits was the perfect start to our weekend! Friday night was onesie night, so we got to spend the night frolicking around the festival like the animals we are. We were so pleasantly surprised to see many other groups also decide to rock onesies that night, meaning the festival was overflowing with creatures! Saturday was tie dye day, and we finally got to show off all the great tie dye we had made ourselves!
I first saw the White Library in 2017 and was so glad to see that it was brought back! The structure has beautiful art on the outside of the white walls and has no roof, with multiple entrances. The inside is left blank, a canvas ready for festival goers to write inspirational quotes, feelings, or anything they can think of! There’s something liberating about writing your thoughts on the wall, knowing they will be anonymous and most likely read by others later on. It’s also great to return to the White Library later on in the festival and see what everyone else has written! I was very disappointed to learn that this year people ended up tagging the outside of the White Library with spray paint, ruining the beautiful art. The tagging was so bad that the creator decided they will not be bringing this interactive area back next year. This is yet another example of the culture of LIB starting to change as the festival gets bigger and attracts different types of people. As the festival continues to grow, LIB is going to have to think of how to maintain the ethos that they’re known for. How do we get people who’ve never experienced this festival before to contribute to the respect, love, and community that is LIB?
No Trace Event
I was very disappointed by the amount of trash that was leftover at the end of this weekend. LIB has always been a no trace event, instilling the motto of “Pack it in, Pack it out.” Essentially, if you were able to bring it in with you, you can take it back out (including your trash!) LIB had waste sorting areas near the entrances where you could drop off your trash for free if it was sorted, or for a small fee if it was not. I thought this was so great of the festival to have these resources, and I was shocked at the amount of people that just left their trash at their site or by the restrooms. It seems like every year as the festival gets bigger, the trash problem gets worse as well. I remember at the beginning of 2016, LIB had volunteers going around camp to camp informing people that LIB was a no trace event and giving tips on sorting trash. They also had volunteers going around Monday morning doing those same reminers. This was a great way to spread awareness, and it’s unfortunate it was not done again this year. This might also just be due to how much the festival has grown even just since 2016. Shout out to the Green Team and Trash Pirates for all they did to clean up the festival and leave it better than before!
To sum this up, LIB was amazing, healing, and reviving. I think this festival will always hold a special place in our hearts and will always be the festival to beat. If you’ve never gotten to experience LIB, we highly encourage it! But take the time to understand all this festival has to offer, and experience more than the music and partying. Go to a workshop, visit the interactive areas, spread the love!
That’s a wrap on 2018!