About This Festival
Take a creative powerhouse like Burning Man, with the same mind-warping musical talent, and trade the desert for lush greenery, rolling hills and a scenic lake, and you have the fairytale that is the Lightning in a Bottle festival (LIB). This 4-day celebration of art, sustainability, music, performance and life aims to spread the proverbial lightning beyond the bottle and into the daily lives of all its participants.
When Lightning in a Bottle Strikes
Produced by the Do LaB, a creative collective based out of Southern California, Lightning in a Bottle began in 2000 as a private birthday party in the Santa Ynez Mountains outside Santa Barbara and has grown into a public event. Although the festival has been held sporadically since its first year, and outgrown its home more than once, it’s been an annual affair since 2008. The 2013 festival saw another change in location and date, taking place over a long weekend in July. With attendance growing, the Do LaB focused on finding its current permanent home on the peninsulas surrounding a massive dried-up lakebed in Bradley's San Antonio Recreation Area. This campground is the perfect combination of isolated and accessible, with picturesque scenery that feels removed enough from civilization to facilitate the holistic, transformative experience Do LaB seeks to create.
While many festivals brag about being “more than just a music festival" with great line-ups, Lightning in a Bottle actually delivers. LIB was one of the first in a genre of “transformational festivals” that combine personal-growth workshops with electronic beats in a mind-expansive setting. Here you’ll find three-dimensional interactive art installations, yoga and meditation services, a colorful cityscape of vendors, performers and games, and a vibe that’s more like a chill psychedelic circus sideshow than a big-box music festival.
The line between performers, vendors and attendees is blurry, as everyone is dressed in colorful costumes, a hybrid that can best be described as steam-punk, old-timey-gone-modern, neo-desert warriors of light and joy. Yes, that’s a mouthful; just know that people dress to impress and express. With everyone participating and interacting at all times, it’s an absorbing environment. The local cafe, Om Shan Tea, offers beautiful Persian rugs to sit on while you sip your tea. Wander the grounds, spend an evening meditating under a shade tree, or experience the festival as a family in the kids zone where you can explore art, meditation and games in a safe, family-friendly environment.
It’s not just the line-up of performers who help create the vibe at Lightning in a Bottle; the stages are also an intentional part of the experience. Most are designed to appear like architectural analogs of flowers, trees and other natural structures with blooms of steel and wood. It’s all quite beautiful and adds to the vibe of the carefully curated musical selections, which are usually soulful hybrids of world, electronic and experimental sounds. Although there are several locales where performances occur—including the Thunder Stage, just like The Do LaB's Coachella stage—the Lightning Stage is the venue for most headlining performers. Although it’s colorful and ornate during the day, the Lightning Stage really comes alive at night, when the extent of Do LaB’s stage and lighting design prowess can be fully appreciated.
Camping is a must for those who want the full LIB experience; there’s even a dedicated area for families. Off-hours events such as yoga and group hikes up Lumi Hill (to the gorgeous and enlightening Lucent Temple of Consciousness) are as much a part of the fun as the bands and other attractions. LIB is also a proudly green festival, having won the Outstanding Greener Festival Award three years in a row. The event provides free filtered water for reusable containers, runs mostly on biodiesel and solar power, and even performs its own annual green energy audit to ensure that Lightning in a Bottle conforms to a progressive standard.