There comes a point in a person’s life, especially after three decades of experience on Earth, where partying loses some importance. Don’t get me wrong. I can still appreciate losing control over my limbs from time to time. But today, I can safely say, that I go to festivals to get deep. I want peace of mind and I want to connect with a higher purpose of existence. To me, that includes less obliteration, more meditation. Early arrival and early departure. Wake up with the sun, and go for a good stretch. Dance all night, sure, but pick your poison carefully.
Which is why I was impressed with my trip to Do LaB’s Lighting in a Bottle festival at the end of May. The eclectic music and art weekend made all my holistic festival dreams come true, while also bringing sweet music to my ears. That’s the new era of festivals: One part rave, one part self empowerment. It’s a recipe that was started at Burning Man, and has gone stratospheric in recent years.
At LIB, the partying is deemphasized enough for a person to enjoy the setting. When my friend Zander and I pulled up in a camper van on Friday afternoon, I could hear birds chirping. The sun was out, people were acting civil, and the process of parking was the easiest I’ve ever seen at a festival. Unlike Fyre Fest, this place was organized; we set up camp within minutes.
One of the joys of LIB this year was that we were graced with a lake, a real lake full of rainwater from the California dilluvio. Bliss. Having a place to submerge your head after running around all day in 90 degree heat is key, pre and post dance off. Every time we stepped out of the van, our signature view was flocks of people carrying a parade of floats of all shapes and sizes to the water. Giant pizzas, flamingos, dolphins, and even blow up mattresses passed us by. At night, those same floats would return to make an appearance on the dance floor.
At one point, I saw an inflatable llama being tossed around… and I wished I’d thought of bringing my own inflatable llama.
If you ask any veteran LIB’s attendee what’s a hit or miss at the festival, the answer will go something like this: “Stick to the small stages, Woogie, Crossroads and Favela Bar. Avoid the main stages at all costs, especially if you want to steer away from the younger, party-focused crowd.”
There’s truth to this. LIB’s Crossroads stage made my trip. It’s a place for live music from up and coming musicians from all over the world to get discovered. One morning, while roaming around looking for a coffee spot I stumbled upon Maz Karandish, a multi-instrumentalist covering grounds from Raga and Maqam to Harmony and Jazz. He utilizes about a dozen instruments to bring the various forms of music to life. What I heard from the distance was the Indian Sitar and Raga vocals. They were truly unique and magnetizing. People sat on Moroccan cushions on the ground, others were meditating, couples cuddled… There was even a breeze.
This scene illustrates one of my favorite things about LIB: The inclusion of less mainstream artists, commitment to sustainability and higher vibrational frequencies. Oh, and a no headdress policy… Thank you for that. This year’s theme — Compass — brought timely and important topics to the surface.
We are living in unprecedented times. In these days, it is more necessary than ever to educate ourselves, to come together and share ideas about self-care, community care, and earth care.
If you want to avoid electronic music altogether, you could feasibly do that at Lightning in a Bottle. I don’t know why someone would want that, but it could be accomplished. A whole section of the property was actually dedicated to the concept of “Making Our World: The Revolution Will Be Handmade.” The Craft corner of the Compass focused on connectivity and self-actualization — while there, I discovered plant music, the healing benefits of cacao, learned to spin yarn, and participated in a two hour sound healing session.
I am not saying that the bigger venues weren’t incredible or that I didn’t peek into the main stage to see Bob Moses for a minute. I’m saying that for the first time ever, I wasn’t music obsessed because there was so much more to see and do at LIB.
Going in without expectations was a smart move, we ended up leaving surprisedly pleased. Any real effort at encouraging more thoughtfulness, awareness, and learning can be greatly utilized in this confusing era. It’s a new style of travel and adventure, one that’s worthy of your attention. Perhaps music festivals are evolving, finally realizing their power to influence the masses and using that to ban obnoxious behavior. Or perhaps we’re all just growing up.