After three years off due to the pandemic, Lightning in Bottle is back and bigger than ever. Lightning in a Bottle is the pinnacle 5-day event for The Do Lab, of Coachella‘s famed Do Lab stage whereby many great electronic artists got their start. Homegrown in California, Lightning in a Bottle moved to Lake Buena Vista Recreational area in 2019 and occurs each year over Memorial Day Weekend. The sprawling, multi-day festival sits across a large venue full of art and sound
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Lightning in a Bottle isn’t just a music festival; it’s a full-on experience. Lightning in Bottle features music, mind-expanding workshops from sunrise to sunset. I heard attendees calling the festival the “baby Burn” a few times over the the weekend, in a nod to Burning Man to give you a sense of the vibes. If you’re looking for a more transformational festival than other ones, such as CRSSD or Movement Festival, look no further than Lightning in a Bottle.
First thing’s first, the lineup for Lightning in a Bottle is always an impressive roster of top musical talent. Separated into three major stages, the Lightning stage features more mainstream and non-electronic acts. The Thunder stage, as its name implies, features the best in bass music. Last, but definitely not least, is the famous Woogie stage, where house and techno reign supreme. Each stage features its own intricate designs, especially Woogie with its towering light installations throughout the crowd. One major plus I noticed at Lightning in a Bottle was the perfection of the sound systems. The Do Lab clearly don’t cut corners to bring the best sound systems and engineers out for the event. The booming basslines and balanced sound systems were greatly appreciated so we could fully enjoy every artists’ set.
You never know which characters you’ll run into at Lightning in a Bottle.
Photo credit: Ysabella Lopez (@y.s.a)
For the house and techno heads, the Woogie stage is where to be. An open-air concept with multiple light-up posts to dazzle the crowd, the Woogie is a non-stop party. Platforms scattered throughout the crowd provide the perfect place to dance your cares away. Did I climb a platform and shake my ass every single time a DJ dropped the new KH single “Looking at Your Pager”, including the don himself Four Tet? You bet your life on it.
Melodic techno duo Innellea kicked the festivities off on Thursday night, followed by a Jon Hopkins DJ set and both were an immensely enjoyable way to kick-off the long weekend.
One of the only pure techno artists on the lineup, Sama’ Abdulhadi ripped the Woogie stage a new one on Sunday evening. A thrilling, high-energy performance through-and-through, Abdulhadi gave us a masterclass in danceable techno that had everyone talking. I personally led a few of my friends who were unfamiliar with Sama’ to her set and each and every one of them left a fan. Was I making a stank face throughout the entire set of dirty 4-on-the-floor beats? Absolutely.
Of course, the talk of the weekend was Four Tet’s incredible two-and-a-half hour set which took us on a journey like no other, not bound by any genres. Kieran Hebden is a bit like the king of Lightning in a Bottle, and self-admittedly one of his favorite festivals to play and attend. For an artist as prolific as Hebden, selecting a festival as your favorite is high praise.
Other standout sets from Woogie include Max Cooper, Seth Troxler, VNSSA, and Lubelski.
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Even though there are three large stages at the event, some of the best vibes and sets all weekend could be found at the smaller stages. With just as interesting production and bumping sets as the major players of Lightning, Thunder, and Woogie, these stages provided late night beats and some of the best vibes around. The production quality was top-notch without the massive crowds of the other stages so it’s perfect if you want to get away from the crowd but not miss any fire music.
The Junkyard is a wasteland-themed stage on the shore of the lake. Up-and-coming DJs can showcase their skills to those who may or may not have heard them before, as well as other established artists like Monolink stopping by for extra sets. The Junkyard was, without a doubt, always popping off well into the morning. The Stacks leaned more into the bass-heavy side of electronic music, and the sound system proved that. A fun set-up including multiple platforms and a dazzling light show put The Stacks on par with the larger stages. In addition to The Junkyard and The Stacks, Unicorn Palace was a stage with lounge chairs and experimental acts, and featured a daily rotating sign with the funniest R-rated messages. I won’t repeat them here, so you’ll just have to attend and see for yourself.
Wandering through the festival grounds isn’t complete without running into one of the many art cars, aka the parties on wheels. A personal favorite art car of this author’s featured funky beats and a stand-a-lone stripper pole inviting anyone with the upper arm strength to give it a twirl. Side note, the stripper pole comes with a hazard warning as the beautiful ladies might just whack you in the head when they’re doing their thing. In that moment, we were all T-Pain falling in love with strippers left and right.
One of the hallmarks of Lightning in a Bottle is their focus on both physical and mental wellness. This festival doubles as conference of sorts, bringing in speakers and leaders in a variety of topics. Daily yoga and sound baths help nourish the body and mind, while you can stimulate them with interesting talks on sustainability, AI, and more. The focus on wellness is certainly a key reason attendees still flock to this event year-after-year. It’s not just focused on the music, but on truly helping us re-set and re-align ourselves.
In addition to the music, art, wellness workshops, Lightning in Bottle is also filled with interesting decor and experiences just as entertaining as anything else. Setting up a few miniature town areas, Lightning in a Bottle has a main street and an old western-themed town area called the Grand Artique. This festival is one of the only ones I’ve ever seen featuring a small outdoor movie theatre, which actually played various films over the course of the weekend. A “salon” called the Do Over invites attendees to sit in a chair and let the hairdressers give them a funky makeover. Only the daring should do it, but it’s just another example of all the shenanigans you can get up to at the event. With another miniature town area called The Grand Artique, attendees could find an odd general store where they could leave items they have and pick up new ones.
There are so many interesting town activities to do so definitely carve out time to explore these areas because they are just as entertaining as the rest of the festival. You never really know what you may stumble upon. Overall, the carefully curated experience from the music, art, sound, activities, and workshops made it obvious why Lightning in a Bottle is such a fan favorite festival in the North American event scene. Definitely don’t miss next year’s 20th anniversary edition because it will be one for the books.
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