Music: Intro by The XX and Napela Remix by The Glitch Mob
Photos: AH
I suck at iMovie, so please excuse the bush-league video editing…

The final days and nights of the 2010 Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) Festival in Irvine, CA

After trying to explain to people where and why I was going this past weekend, I developed this almost knee-jerk reaction to the obvious question: “What the hell is LIB?” The impulse was to educate, but after countless attempts I settled on this: “It’s like Burning Man, only smaller and based on music.” The person would nod – having absolutely no idea what that really meant at all – but with the “Burning Man” name having reached mild recognition throughout the mainstream as some massive, unholy freakout in the desert, they would let it go. Simply put, many people just don’t or can’t understand why thousands and thousands of young people would get together for 3, 4, 7 days at a time, with no showers, internet, cars, tv, etc – but it’s also nothing like what they think.

Many attend for the world-class music, with acts ranging from hippies to hipsters, jam rock to electronica. Other come because of the community-building, where entire cities can be constructed and experienced in a days’ time. Some come just to camp-out for a few days with friends, others to satisfy their undying curiosity to what they may be missing, while still others make the trek just to take all of this in. It’s often beautiful and even life-changing; sometimes shocking and occasionally a bit eye-burning, but what’s important to remember is that it’s entirely based on you. Your involvement is voluntary, and although each moment you let yourself go further elevates the experience, you can pick and choose it all in your own way.

A few years ago, I got pretty burnt out by the summer festival scene. What had mostly began as groups of kids hosting events for their friends, had fully turned into what we were all really attending these parties to escape: massive corporate buy-ins, obscene tickets prices, legal crackdowns, short, uninspired music sets and just the general de-evolution of the good times. There are many different places to lay the blame, but the events just got a little too big for themselves. With less community-time available, the selfish, individual experience had come to outweigh the shared.

Fast-forward to today – Unfortunately, the major festivals like Bonaroo haven’t yet turned themselves around. They’re still getting bigger, and although attracting some of the most famous music talent in the world, little has been done to try and recapture the original vibe. What these huge event businesses have done however, is to open an experiential void that needs to be filled – exactly where such inspired weekends like Lightning in a Bottle can step in and create something special.

By keeping numbers under 10,000, focusing their efforts on community-building and unique construction and allowing all to function and interact as one massive group, events like LIB and festival groups like The Do Lab (Coachella, LIB, etc) are becoming more and more popular, and these regional freakouts are growing larger and larger at each stop. People often talk about living and capturing the moment – finding that ‘special time’ in that ‘special place’. We’re never going to live on Haight-Ashbury or roll through London during the mid-60s, but by collapsing these grand experiences into unique, intimate settings, lightning really can strike twice.

All you ever really need in this crazy-ass world is an open mind and the desire to enjoy yourself – in every way possible. This was one of the great weekends of my life. See you next year.
~ AH