Lightning in a Bottle is an enigma. Its diversity and attention to detail are unlike any other festival on the West Coast. Festival-goers and artists gather from all over the world to contribute to the magic that is this unique event. LIB’s community expands far beyond music lovers –it’s one of the appreciators of art in all of its forms. Attendees have an open mind, a deep love for movement and expression, and a curiosity for the unknown that allows them to experience LIB freely and fully.
After a 3-year absence, attendees were eager to return to their homes and get an escape from reality. The Do LaB celebrated its 19th anniversary of the festival at the Buena Vista Lake in Kern County, CA. After having their first trial run at the same location in 2019, The DoLab utilized the festival grounds in a more dynamic way in 2022. The festival felt more full between stages, with an endless amount of art and activities placed in every nook and cranny to explore. Every way you turned, there was another themed art space or secret room to discover.
Each stage at LIB felt like its own universe with a uniquely curated vibe and experience. With six main music stages and tons of smaller renegade-style stages, there was no shortage of incredible artistry – showcasing names that ranged from emerging talent to world-class acts. During the day, The Woogie was a warm oasis of beautiful house and playa tech, and at night, turned into a techno madhouse with artists like Four Tet, Maya Jane Coles, and Max Cooper commanding the crowd. Bass lovers gravitated towards The Thunder and The Stacks, where they would find an array of experimental artists like Ivy Lab, Of The Trees, and Player Dave.
At the Grand Artique pre-party, Kaipora played a full live set that featured their signature trippy bass interwoven with smooth vocals and instruments, and Ofier set the mood for the weekend as he played live guitar on top of his organic house set. The Lightning Stage attracted listeners of all tastes as it hosted an eclectic mix of live and electronic acts. On Friday, Blu DeTiger hypnotized the crowd with her impeccable bass guitar skills and sassy vocals. LIB veteran Monolink performed a hybrid live-DJ set to thousands of endearing fans as the sun set on Saturday. On Sunday night, he played an intimate set to a smaller crowd at The Junkyard with Marques Wyatt and Patricio, the curator of the stage – it was a moment that embodied the spirit of LIB.
LIB’s stage production has evolved over the years and the 2022 editions proved to be some of the most intricate designs yet. The Woogie added seven more of its iconic rainbow installations, creating a bigger stage presence for attendees to enjoy from anywhere – whether that was up close or lounging by the lake. The Junkyard – previously known as The Favela Bar – got a full makeover too. Industrial, metal structures filled the dancefloor as the stage transformed into a space to crawl, climb and connect with your inner child. The Junkyard is a special space for many; you can always walk by and discover an artist you may have never heard of before.
Aside from an obvious abundance of music, LIB is known for its many offerings of interactive art spaces, yoga, workshops, delicious food vendors, and left-field performances. The Beacon and The Crossroads are a home for healing and teaching, where attendees gather to listen and find peace amidst festival chaos. This year, The Beacon hosted some renowned speakers such as Phoenix Ha, who guided a class on tapping deeper into your artistry and creative self. Although the mood was at times more serious in these spaces, there were some silly workshops you could check out too – like ‘Sexy Summer Salads’ or ‘Twerk n’ Wine’ dance classes. Even if workshops aren’t a part of your typical festival programming, LIB made it easy to find something you’d connect with.
The after-hours was where Lighting in a Bottle truly shined – a late-night playground that came to light in the dark. Following the long days spent in the heat and dust, attendees embraced the night with wildly decorated ‘fits, totems flying high, and massive art cars cruising the grounds. Smaller stages stayed open late and DIY stages popped up both in the campgrounds and inside the festival grounds. Surprise guests at The Stacks blew us away, including a mind-boggling B4B from rising talents Saka, Sumthin Sumthin, Fly, and Mirror Maze. Renegade stages gave local acts a chance to showcase their art to active crowds. Some were as small as mobile decks and speakers, whereas others were full-scale setups with carpets, candles, and lighting. There is more time in the late night to visit spots like the Cassette Room, Karaoke, or the Roller Disco, too – and maybe you’d even stumble upon fire spinners performing by the lake on your walk back to bed.
The Do LaB has always strived to make Lightning In A Bottle a safe, inclusive sanctuary for all walks of life to participate and enjoy. That said, there is room for improvement as the festival widens its reach – as is with any growing event. Onhell came forward during his set at The Stacks to make a statement about how artists performing on this stage were not being paid. These performers were key players in the festival’s magic, and it was disappointing to learn that both The Junkyard’s and The Stack’s artists are not compensated for their contributions. One of the most appealing elements of LIB is its spotlight on up-and-coming artists and hidden gems – experiencing how they flourish on these smaller stages is an indescribable feeling. It is important to respect the time and effort that those artists dedicate to their craft. Hopefully, in future years, The DoLab addresses this issue so that lesser-known artists can feel as valued as the headlining ones.
The synchronicity at Lightning in a Bottle is undeniable, and undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. People’s openness to new experiences, acceptance of each other’s true selves, and genuine appreciation for music and arts are what sets this festival apart from so many others that take place in this scene. Its 2022 edition was an otherworldly experience that left me feeling refreshed and inspired by the culture and hard work that goes into making a weekend such a memorable and transformative journey for all. After this year’s success, I anticipate next year’s edition of LIB – its 20th anniversary – to be the most glamorous, immersive edition yet.