It’s a chilly Thursday morning in May (by LA standards) and I don’t want to get out of bed. Wishing I had an actual snooze button to slap instead of a touchscreen to precisely tap, I blindly fondle my phone in the hopes of gaining eight more minutes of sleep. Until I remember it’s festival day, meaning there are no extra minutes to be had.
Heading into my fifth music festival of 2018, I’m packed, prepared and pumped. But I’m also a little anxious. Compared to the previous four festivals I attended (CRSSD, Vujaday, Desert Hearts, and Joshua Tree Music Festival), Lightning in a Bottle, or LIB, is a different species. It’s an apex festival — far bigger than the others.
Though I hadn’t been since 2015, this was to be my sixth LIB. Fur coats? Check. (Yes, they’re faux). Fancy hats and sequin garb? Definitely. Onesies, bikinis, and leotards? For sure. Tall boots, ankle boots, and cowgirl boots? You bet your ass. And don’t get me started on camping gear, which has been living in my boyfriend’s trunk since July of 2016.
Point being: I’m ready to go physically. Emotionally and mentally, I’m still in bed.
My first festival (Coachella) was in 2005. 13 years later, I’m still at it. But instead of getting easier, in many ways the scene has gotten harder for me to navigate. Though my gear game is on point and my personal wardrobe is becoming more and more like what I imagine Cher’s closet looking like, apex festivals like LIB have seemed increasingly taxing. I’ve grown comfortable in the intimate boutique festivals—with their proximity between camp and festival, the joys of never getting lost, and the fact that finding friends is easy—while more challenging festivals like Lightning in a Bottle have become, well… a challenge.
Still, there are unique aspects to the scene that Do LaB, LIB’s grassroots production company, can offer that few other festivals can. They have money and money helps creative ideas turn into epic execution. Which is why I wake up, open my eyelids like cartoon window shades, and do my best to get psyched for all the hard bits involved in attending an apex fest.
Do LaB and LIB are vocal about their disdain for being called “transformational” — because the term has become hackneyed festival jargon (like manifest, intention, sacred, shaman, goddess, gypsy, Shakti, Shanti, and “the universe”). From an etymological standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with these words, but (just like anything that is overused, or misused) they begin to lose meaning and venture into the realm of platitude.