The ABCs of Lightning in a Bottle

Article by: Lexie Kieu|@lexiekieu

Tue May 08, 2018 | 16:30 PM

We could have filled each letter of the alphabet multiple times over with all there is to do, see, hear, touch, and taste at Lightning in a Bottle (LIB). For the last 16 years, the inimitable Do LaB creates an immersive playground filled with music, art, learning environments, silly adventures, delicious food, and wellness activities unique and diverse enough to dazzle even the most seasoned festival-goers among us. And still, somehow, every time we go we find more things to add to the already crazy-long list of things to love about this California festival.

With LIB right around the corner, we decided to jot down a shortlist of what's in store for attendees once they get through the gates.


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From out-of-this-world, interactive installations to entirely immersive artistic realms, there are so many surprises around every corner at LIB that you could easily spend the entire weekend searching for them all. In fact, that’s what we’d recommend doing your entire first day there. Climb on them (safely!), reflect on their meaning, meditate and dance within them, discuss them with new friends. LIB also invites over 40 talented muralists to transform blank canvases all over the festival grounds, making everywhere you go a feast for the eyes. Stop by the newly added ArtClave and let your imagination run wild with their hands-on workshops and art classes for every skill level.

Beauty Salon & Barber Shop

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

Properly known as the Do Over! Beauty Salon & Barber Shop, this place is part game show, part beauty salon & barber shop. You’ll join performer troupe Fou Fou Ha, who will guide you in spinning the “wheel of misfortune,” which will determine what makeover you’ll get. Once your destiny is decided, the LA Sirenes stylists will whip you into shape before you hit the runway. It’s open Friday through Sunday from 2-7 pm next to the Thunder Stage.


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Let The Compass guide you through your LIB journey by immersing yourself in one of their many talks and workshops available. Hear what global and community leaders have to say and see how they are making a positive change in the world. Learn a thing or two about health and healing in the Learning Kitchen, or try your hand at a new craft at the Earth Arts. No matter what your flavor, you'll find a session that stimulates you. It's all about being inspired.


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Photo by: Galen Oakes

To be clear, Lightning in a Bottle is a drug-free event and does not promote or encourage the use of drugs. However, an abstinence-only approach to drugs works as well as an abstinence-only approach to sex education. That’s why LIB has hosted DanceSafe, a nonprofit harm reduction organization, since 2013. Festival-goers can stop by DanceSafe's booth for unbiased education on drugs, safer sex, and other health and safety issues such as protecting your hearing at a festival. They also offer drug testing for those who need it. Most importantly, don’t forget that California has “Good Samaritan” laws, so if your friends need help, don’t hesitate to get it.


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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

LIB notes on its website that it’s “designed, built and curated based on a core ethos centered on sustainability, harm reduction, cultural respect, and most of all, creating an environment for extraordinary experiences.” You’ll find that LIB operates on a Leave No Trace policy and strives to use as much renewable energy as possible. The rangers and medical team work hand-in-hand with the harm reduction organizations available on-site to provide attendees with proper care. LIB speaks out against Native American cultural appropriation, drawing a hard line and making their stance loud and clear by banning costume headdresses at the festival outright. The festival's cultural education offers attendees exposure to ancient practices and earth-based wisdom traditions including dance, music and daily Sacred Fire gatherings.

Favela Bar

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

The Favela Bar feels like a laid-back oasis compared to LIB’s other stages. Void of any big-name headlining acts, this low-key stage is surrounded by treehouse-like structures from which you can get a bird’s-eye view of the action and highlights up-and-coming deep house and techno artists. Swing by once just to check it out and you’ll be surprised by how often you’ll come back throughout the weekend to check out newfound fan favorites. Plus, the party here always goes late night.

The Grand Artique's Frontierville

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

Travel back in time to the age of Lewis & Clark and the first frontiersmen – with a classic LIB twist, of course. The Grand Artique's Frontierville is an essential part of the LIB world, and has been going strong for eight years. Find costumed ladies and lads in full character in their wacky, wild-west couture to assist you at the Trading Post/General Store, hotel, and gypsy encampment. Then follow them right to the dance floor because the Frontierville packs its own lineup of live bands, comedy routines and Vaudeville-esque acts to keep you grooving all weekend.

High-Fives on the Bridges

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It’s become a custom of LIB’ers: the line of traffic crossing one direction high-fives everyone passing by in the other direction. There’s just no way that you can resist giving all those beautiful people with beaming smiles a high five back.


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Photo by: Eric Allen

If you’ve only been to mainstream music festivals, your festival-going life will be forever changed by how immersive Lightning in a Bottle is. Far from feeling like simply a fenced-in space in which all there is to do is watch music and throw back some drinks, LIB seems like an entire utopian universe unto itself. From the interactive art installations and environments, to the roving performers and impromptu events, to even the sprawling campgrounds which almost feel like a mini festival within the festival, every inch of it has been fashioned to feel like anything is possible.

Jive Joint

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

Grab a seat at the Jive Joint. Okay, there aren’t any seats, but just sit down and get comfy, because you’ll want to stick around for a while. The Jive Joint’s improv theater, open mic nights, and variety shows will have you keeling over with laughter.


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Families are more than welcome at LIB. The festival rolls out the red carpet at their Kidz Zone and Teen Scene areas, where younger ones can partake in hands-on workshops and playful activities. Families can also camp together and get to know one another at the quieter Family Camping space. Keep an eye out for parades of costumed little ones and their stoked parents through the fest during the daytime; they’re guaranteed to put a big old grin on your face.

Lightning Stage

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Lightning in a Bottle’s hallowed main stage. This is where you’ll catch all the headliners and star performances throughout the weekend. Any must-see, can’t-miss act is right here. This year, catch Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, Zhu, Griz, Fever Ray, The Glitch Mob, and more. Plus, the sound system is nearly unparalleled in its clarity and bombast, something that’s rare in a main stage setup.

Meditation Mountain

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

Meditation Mountain serves two purposes. It’s not only a peaceful space for reflecting, conversing away from all that festival stimuli and getting a new perspective on the grounds and lake of LIB stretching towards the distant hills. It’s also the spot where festies gather together at the end of each dusty day to welcome the night by howling and cheering as the sun plunges toward the horizon. It’s a time-honored LIB tradition that only adds to the euphoria of the weekend. Many also get together to watch sunrises here, as well.

New Friends

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Whether it’s your neighbors at camp or the group getting down next to you at the Thunder Stage, there are so many opportunities to make new friends at Lightning in a Bottle. Some of these friendships end up lasting a lifetime and others last a brief, beautiful blip in time. Either way, the new friendships you form throughout the weekend will always be as magical as they are memorable.

Om Shan Tea

Om Shan Tea, a play on the Sanskrit mantra om shanti, is a tea tent open 24 hours a day throughout the weekend for you to stop by for yummy tea tastings. The video above is just a slice of the vibe at the Om Shan Tea tent from a previous festival. Offered freely in a communal setting as part of a unique take on traditional tea ceremonies, the tea brings people together to enjoy live music and performance art in a cozy space.

Pagoda Bar

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While it has “bar” in its name, it’s not only a place to get a fresh adult beverage. Every night, Pagoda Bar turns into one of the most lit spots at the festival, boasting its own lineup of DJs that keep things turnt ‘til daybreak. It’s the perfect stop-off between stage hopping, but you could also just park there the whole night. We’re not telling you what to do!

Quick Dips in the Water to Cool Off

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It can get pretty hot at LIB. Thankfully, recent years of rain have blessed LIB with enough water to fill Lake San Antonio, aka Lake LIB. Grab your floatie, jump into the water, and cool off when you’re ready to get off your feet. Best of all, the festival moved all its stages right next to the water, so you won’t miss a beat – literally – while floating.

Ravine Karaoke

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Wandering around late-night in search of your next pit stop? Be sure to keep your ears peeled for soulful warbles and silly serenades, which are coming from KJ Paul’s karaoke stage in one of the festival’s ravines. KJ Paul is a legendary Bay Area karaoke jockey (yes, that’s a thing) with an incredible song selection, costumes and props for performers, and crazy on-stage lights that’ll make you feel like a rock star. Even if you don’t want to sing, it’s still fun to watch others unleash their songs in their hearts. Karaoke goes from 9pm until sunrise.

Soap Box Derby

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The Soap Box Derby is the non-musical highlight of Saturday at LIB. Smack in the middle of the festival between the Woogie and Compass peninsulas, hoards of festies converge to watch the funniest downhill race you’ll ever see. Several teams dress up in costume and build crazy looking derby “cars” (in 2017 there was one shaped like a massive banana), only to ride them recklessly into the ravine while the wild crowds cheer them on. “Winning” isn’t really the point, though there is an awards ceremony– it’s all about being silly as hell.

Thunder Stage

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

Home of the wub wub wub. Complete with a monstrous Funktion-One sound system and a lineup that features the likes of Emancipator, Bleep Bloop, Clozee, and more, the Thunder Stage’s specialty is definitely bass that melts your face. If you don’t wake up with a sore neck after a spending a night throwing down at the Thunder Stage, then you’re doing it wrong. Kidding, sort of.


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Photo by: Galen Oakes

Perhaps the most profound thing LIB has accomplished over the years is creating a place where everyone feels open. Open to new music, open to unique adventures, open to living in the moment and, most importantly, open to one another. This is the kind of intangible-yet-incredible vibe you will not find at any old festival.


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Vendor Row is always popping off with dozens and dozens of incredible booths filled with stylish festie digs, attendees browsing, and people just hanging out with one another. Several booths have almost a party vibe, such as that of Third Eye Pinecones, which is always blasting music and bustling with a tight-knit, welcoming community of friends. Yes, you’ll definitely score new clothing and accessories, but you also might walk away with a new festie fam. Oh, and have we mentioned how delicious the cuisine is at LIB? Whether you need a greasy hangover cure or want to eat clean and healthy to fuel more dance floor shenanigans, LIB's food vendors will tantalize anyone's taste buds.

Woogie Stage

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From the DJ booth being intertwined in the branches of a shady grove in the stage’s earlier years; to a gem-shaped structure next to the water after the advent of Lake LIB, the iconic Woogie has certainly undergone numerous transformations through the years. And while each stage is certainly a work of art in and of itself, we just can’t wait to see what magic Glitzern Grime has in store for his 2018 Woogie design. LIB's website teases it as "a colossal installation with a series of contours to form organic structures that will tower over the area and create a canopy of optical pleasure. Continued shapes of each structure will create a prismatic layered paradigm of reflective substrate, color and digital print that will generate a lucid flow over the dance floor." Wow. As you’re admiring this work of art, you’ll be dancing to the hottest techno and house beats. We guarantee you’ll repeat the phrase “Let’s Woogie” all weekend long.

eXtracurricular Activities

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Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

The list of must-sees and to-dos at LIB is mind-boggling; there’s no way you could fit it all into one weekend. That’s why you’ll feel the pull to come back year after year! Just a few we adore include the Gong Sanctuary (where you can experience the healing powers of sound baths), getting your light portrait done by Reid Godshaw of Harmonic Light, the Great Bingo Revival, the roving art cars Funn Machine and Boogaloo, the Pots & Pans Parade, and the MustDash 5K Run. LIB adds plenty of new attractions and activities every year, which can be read about here.


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Whether you’re an experienced yogi or a complete newbie, Lightning in a Bottle hosts plenty of fun and mindful yoga practices suitable for anyone interested in getting a little bendy. With a meditation space and two yoga areas, you can pretty much go for a nice stretch any time of the day throughout the weekend. You won’t need a workout with all the dancing you’ll be doing, but in case you need one, flow through a vinyasa practice, or get a little groovy with deep house yoga! The importance of health as it relates to yoga can be found even in some of the talks and workshops at the Compass, where you can learn how properly nourishing your body is an essential part of your yoga practice.

Zendo Project

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Photo by: Galen Oakes

Harm reduction has been an integral part of LIB’s ethos for years now. The Zendo Project leads the way. Since 2013, the Zendo Project has offered a safe retreat for those overwhelmed by any particular LIB experience, no matter what it's caused by. Zendo staff and volunteers, aka trained “trip-sitters,” are on hand 24/7 to help festival-goers through difficult psychedelic experiences, often in partnership with DanceSafe.

Additional contributions made by Casey Berg, Emily Ward, and Laura Mason.