The best and worst of Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Lightning in a Bottle 2016Photos by Josh Herwitt & Melissa Hebeler // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) returned to San Antonio Recreation Area for a third straight year over Memorial Day weekend, serving as that perfect hangover cure for those still suffering from their post-Coachella blues.

Last year, we asked whether the “transformational” festival was undergoing a transformation of its own by shedding its boutique label to go mainstream (read the review here). Now, after paying another visit to Bradley, Calif., the answer to that question appears to be even clearer than before with LIB selling out once again, this time more than a week in advance. Vanessa Hudgens, no less, showed up!

But for as strong as this year’s artist lineup was, not everything went off without a hitch. In fact, there were enough logistical nightmares and bad vibes — believe it or not — to keep us from coming back next year.

So, with another edition of LIB in the books, here are our best and worst moments from 2016:


Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Emancipator

Best: Emancipator Ensemble

Portland-based musician Douglas Appling, better known by his stage name Emancipator, has been fusing hip-hop-flavored beats with downtempo electronica ever since he started writing his debut LP Soon It Will Be Cold Enough while attending the College of William & Mary. And in many ways, he’s still cooking up that same sonic recipe that borders on post-trip-hop with violinist Ilya Goldberg by his side, although it’s with his ensemble members that we get to see Appling serve as more than just an electronic music producer. At his Friday evening set on the festival’s main stage, Emancipator set the tone for the rest of the weekend, grooving to tracks from his latest studio album Seven Seas with a guitar in hand and a full band at his disposal, much like we saw at The Regency Ballroom last fall (see more photos from that show here).

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: The weather

Sitting more than 200 miles north of Los Angeles, San Antonio Recreation Area once again proved to bring hot days and cold nights to LIB. With temperatures peaking in the mid-80’s during the day and dipping into the low 50’s at night, adjusting to such a drastic change in climate is never easy, especially when you’re forced to brave the outdoors by camping in a dried-up lakebed. Whether you were sweating profusely or shivering in your sleep, it was nearly impossible to ever feel comfortable with the weather at LIB.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Rubblebucket

Best: Rubblebucket

LIB has always leaned heavily on electronic music while assembling its lineup, but in more recent years, the festival has also found room to include eclectic, female-fronted indie bands. Last year’s example was Poliça, the Minneapolis five-piece led by vocalist Channy Leaneagh. This year’s case in point was Rubblebucket, the more obscure, yet upbeat Brooklyn alt-dance outfit fronted by Annakalmia Traver. Playing very close to the same time slot on the Lightning Stage as Poliça did the year before, Rubblebucket, nevertheless, got festivalgoers moving after a scorchingly hot day in the sun, setting the bar for the rest of Saturday’s lineup as day turned to night. What makes Rubblebucket such a catch is their horns section that’s made up by Alex Toth (trumpet), Adam Dotson (trombone) and Traver (saxophone), who knows how to charm a crowd with her quirky stage banter.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - The Russ Liquid Test

Best: The Russ Liquid Test

Russ Liquid (born Russell Scott) broke onto the scene back in 2013 with his debut LP Foreign Frequency on STS9’s 1320 Records, fusing jazzy saxophone lines over dance beats much like Colorado livetronica duo Big Gigantic, who also performed at LIB this year, do for a living. But his “Test” set on Sunday at LIB was particularly special, as he stepped on the main stage with guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Nick Mercadel flanked on either side of him. The New Orleans trio laid down one funky groove after another for an hour and a half, at times sounding reminiscent of GRiZ, another electronic producer now based in Colorado who has featured Russ Liquid on his record label’s mix series titled “All Good Radio.” We weren’t all that familiar with Russ Liquid’s work prior to arriving at LIB, but his performance certainly intrigued us enough to want to hear more.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: Crowds

With another sellout bringing more than 20,000 people to Bradley, LIB felt just as crowded as last year — something we never experienced at previous locations like Oak Canyon Park and Lake Skinner Recreational Area. After all, it’s no secret that part of the reason why The Do LaB settled on San Antonio Recreation Area was the fact that it could accommodate more “festies” and therefore, could sell more tickets as a result. But from a consumer’s standpoint, there are obvious drawbacks to that philosophy. Waiting for a shower, for instance, took as long as 2-3 hours depending on what time you got in line. Many of the food vendors had significant lines, taking as long as 15 minutes just to place your order. No one likes waiting in line in 85-degree heat, especially when your phone can’t get service. Part of what made LIB such a nice change-of-pace from Coachella was the sheer lack of crowds, but it was only a matter of time before big business won out, right?

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Moderat

Best: Moderat

Easily the most anticipated set of the weekend from this spectator’s vantage point, Moderat hadn’t toured since dropping a pair of EPs in 2014. But with the release of its third full-length album, aptly titled III, the Berlin-based supergroup comprised of Apparat’s Sascha Ring and Modeselektor members Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary were primed to make their mark on the final day of LIB — and that they did. Beginning with “Ghostmother” off their latest LP, Moderat ran through a good chunk of new material, but nothing ignited the crowd more than their new single “Reminder”, which remains one of our favorite songs of the year so far. As we witnessed a few days earlier in Los Angeles at The Fonda Theatre (read our show review here), the group’s dark, minimalist stage setup with psychedelic flourishes paired nicely with Ring’s ethereal vocals. Of all the other performances throughout the weekend, Moderat’s 90-minute set undoubtedly stood as one of the brightest moments of LIB 2016.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: Trash

LIB has been tabbed as the “Greenest Festival in America” over the last five years, though you might not have known it while looking at the grounds this year. With the festival’s attendance numbers reaching an all-time high, trash has increasingly become a bigger issue at LIB. Sure, it’s easy to blame a bunch of inconsiderate festivalgoers for littering and not picking up after themselves, but a big part of the problem is simply a lack of trash cans and dumpsters near the stages and in the camping areas. Furthermore, LIB’s “pack it in, pack it out” motto just isn’t realistic at this point with the amount of attendees. Maybe that’s the reason why after leaving the festival, trash was spewed all over the street. We’re glad The Do LaB tried their best as they told us on the way out, but sometimes trying your best, especially after you’ve been running the same festival for more than a decade, just isn’t good enough.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Chet Faker

Best: Chet Faker

I remember first learning of Chet Faker more than a couple years ago while researching the 2014 LIB lineup for this preview. At the time, the electronic-leaning singer-songwriter from Australia had yet to release a full-length album, which makes it all the more crazy to think that he has already reached festival headliner status in a little more than 24 months since then. But over that stretch, from his two-night run in LA at The Roxy Theatre to last year’s performance at FYF Fest, Nicholas James Murphy has grown his live show tremendously. There’s no question the full band setup has been the right call, affording the 27-year-old Melbourne native the opportunity to breathe new life into songs from his lone LP Built on Glass (read our review here), such as “Melt” and “Gold”. Yet, with only one studio album under his belt and a few festival headlining spots in 2016, including the spring edition of CRSSD Fest back in March, it’s just amazing to think where Murphy could go from here.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: Leaving LIB

If the crowds and trash at LIB weren’t enough to leave a sour taste in your mouth by the end of the weekend, the disaster that ensued in the parking lot after the festival definitely was. Since I started attending concerts and music festivals years ago, I have never seen a bigger shitshow than the LIB parking lot by 9 a.m. on Monday. Taking five hours (yes, you read that right) just to leave San Antonio Recreation Area proved to be the ultimate test in patience for me as well as thousands of other festivalgoers. Of all the worst moments at LIB, this easily took the cake, so much so that after five times attending, this very well could have been my last.

Will Lightning in a Bottle continue its rise in 2016?

Lightning in a BottlePhotos courtesy of Juliana Bernstein // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

So you’re all recovered from Coachella by now, and you’re feeling like you’re ready to get back out there pretty soon.

Sure, you could wait until Outside Lands returns to San Francisco this summer, but that’s not until the first weekend of August anyway. Three months between music festivals, after all, can be a long time for some passionate music fans.

If you’re itching to go to another fest in between Coachella and Outside Lands but also feeling a little more adventurous than usual, Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) might be just what the doctor ordered.

Geographically, the “transformational” festival remains perfectly located to tap into both the LA and SF markets since adopting San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, Calif., as its home for what will be the third straight year this Memorial Day weekend.

Lightning in a Bottle

But LIB has always been so much more than merely a music festival. In what has been The Do LaB’s crown jewel of all the events it puts on throughout the year, LIB offers its own unique melange of art, yoga, workshops and speakers that few other U.S. festivals have been able to replicate; Symbiosis Gathering in Northern California and Further Future near Las Vegas are the closest comparison to date in matching LIB’s Burning Man-esque vibe. Major corporate sponsors like Heineken, American Express, H&M or T-Mobile don’t exist. Instead, it has made lasting partnerships with small to mid-size companies like New Belgium, Reed’s, KIND and your favorite coconut water brand (LIB had partnerships with three different ones last year). For California’s music scene in particular, what has been dubbed the “Greenest Festival in America” the past five years continues to serve as a stopgap between the state’s two largest music festivals in its two largest geographic regions.

And for that very reason, we’ve noticed that LIB may be undergoing a bit of a transformation after selling out for the first time in 15 years last May (read our review here), with attendance numbers reaching as high as 20,000, roughly 5,000 more than in previous editions. But even at this juncture more than a decade since LIB started as a friend’s birthday party in the Santa Ynez Mountains outside of Santa Barbara, each year is just as critical as the last in shaping its identity. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the festival’s boutique roots can stay firmly planted in the ground, and as the music migrates further and further toward the mainstream with indie-electronic artists like Chet Faker, Grimes and Jamie xx topping this year’s lineup, toeing that line can start to look rather murky. In fact, it’s become fairly commonplace to see Coachella and LIB share artists who either played in Indio the year before (i.e. Jamie xx, Chet Faker and Cashmere Cat) or less than two months prior (i.e. Grimes, TOKiMONSTA and Lucent Dossier Experience). Who knows, you may even see LIB newcomers like Moderat and Tourist making their debuts in the desert next year, too.

Lightning in a Bottle

LIB has not officially sold out yet, but with 80 percent of its tickets already accounted for, you can bet that it will by the time we reach Memorial Day weekend. This year’s bill is as strong as its ever been, with an undercard that will see international acts like Cashmere Cat, Ibeyi, Four Tet and Guy Gerber perform on The Do LaB’s three innovatively designed stages.

That’s not to say the U.S. is not well-represented at LIB, however. Portland-based electronic producer Emancipator (born Douglas Appling) and Colorado “jazztronica” duo Big Gigantic are two of the bigger names to grace the festival’s poster this year, while Florida electro-rock trio Hundred Waters and Brooklyn indie-dance quartet Rubblebucket are two other domestic groups bolstering an already-impressive collection of artists.

It should be no surprise then why LIB has become one of California’s fastest-growing festivals over the last five years as the lineup steadily improves with each spring that passes. Yet, only time will tell what kind of impact it makes in what’s been one wild and crazy 2016 so far.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 lineup

Win Tix // GO4FREE to Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

Masterful event creators and production innovators The Do LaB are offering an incredible opportunity to win the ultimate VIP package for the 11th annual Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) music, arts, yoga and camping festival taking place Memorial Day weekend at San Antonio Recreation Area.

Widely considered as California’s premier camping, music and art boutique festival, LIB brings together a community of inspired individuals, internationally acclaimed musicians, enlightening speakers and illuminating workshops designed to expand the mind and open the heart.

This year’s festival features headliners Chet Faker, Jamie XX and Grimes while TOKiMONSTA, Guy Gerber, Cashmere Cat, Four Tet and many more are also scheduled to perform on The Do LaB’s multiple majestically structured stages. Furthermore, LIB features visionary artists and interactive zones, including The Village, the Grand Artique, Amori’s Cafe, Kid’s Village and the Lucent Temple of Consciousness, in addition to an expanded Learning Kitchen, Healing Sanctuary, Meditation Nest, Mystery School, Pineal Playground, two yoga tents and more.

For a peek inside the magic of LIB, watch the LIB 2016 official video below and learn more by visiting the festival’s website here.

Click here to purchase tickets if you know you want to go!

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 contest flyer


LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE 2016 PRIZE PACKAGES

Grand Prize “Ultimate LIB VIP Package” (one winner)

• Two passes to LIB 2016
• Two early-arrival passes allowing entry into the festival when the gates open on May 25th
• LIB’s uber-great camping experience, which includes:

— One 16-foot-wide Luxury Canvas Bell tent with a 9-foot-8 interior height and 200 square feet of living space that includes one full-size, elevated bed complete with a real mattress, fresh linens, shower towels, indoor furniture, lighting, power outlets, a personal cooler with complimentary ice, an outdoor seating area and access to upgraded restroom suites with full-length mirrors
— Two keepsake Lightning in a Bottle water bottles
— Two lush lounge visitor wristbands for friends not staying in boutique
— On-site concierge service
— One welcome package from LIB sponsors

• Two tickets to a sit-down dinner at Amori’s Cafe, Giggle Juice Cafe or The Last Supper Club
• Two LIB 2016 official T-shirts

Second-Tier Prize (one winner)

• Two LIB festival tickets and one on-site car camping pass

Third-Tier Prizes (five winners)

• One free pizza from The Dough LaB on site at Lightning in a Bottle

Please read below for the list of rules before you enter the giveaway. The contest will end this Sunday, May 1st at 11:59 p.m. PT. Winners will be notified by email on Monday, May 2th.


CONTEST RULES

• Entries can be submitted until May 1st at 11:59 p.m. PT.

• Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, but you can gain extra entries through social media shares.

• Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given out to any third parties.

• Must be 18+ to enter. Contestants can come from anywhere in the world but need valid ID. Travel out to the Lightning in a Bottle festival will not covered.

• Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive VIP Prize Package, One (1) winner will win the Second Tier Prize, and Five (5) winners will receive the Third Tier Prize.

• Winners will be notified via email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted to redeem prize. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen at random.

• Make sure that the email account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a working email.

• Prize packages are part of a promotional giveaway and non-transferable.

CONTEST CLOSED.

Lightning in a Bottle unveils 2016 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

Returning to San Antonio Recreation Area for a third straight year, Lightning in a Bottle will once again take place over Memorial Day weekend — and this year’s bill is as strong as ever.

Led by headliners Chet Faker, Grimes and Jamie xx, the famed boutique festival that began more than 15 years ago as a birthday party among friends (and who would eventually start The Do LaB, a Los Angeles-based event production company) in the Santa Ynez Mountains will also feature performances from Big Gigantic, Moderat, Ibeyi, Emancipator Ensemble, Four Tet, Tourist, Cashmere Cat, Guy Gerber, Tokimonsta, The Polish Ambassador, Alina Baraz, Josh Wink, Hundred Waters, Lee Burridge, Minnesota and G Jones (B2B), Pimps of Joytime, Mija, Rubblebucket, PANTyRAiD, The Russ Liquid Test, AndHim and many more.

Furthermore, The Do LaB will welcome back the LA avant-garde circus act Lucent Dossier Experience and William Close & The Earth Harp Collective, which both have become LIB mainstays over the years. Check out the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

Tabbed as the “Greenest Festival in America” each of the last five years, LIB offers more than just live music on three different stages, with art, yoga, workshops and speakers all playing a crucial role in maintaining the festival’s identity, which centers around sustainability, social cohesion, personal health and creative expression. The word has certainly gotten out about LIB since its early beginnings, as last year’s festival, which boasted Australian DJ/producer Flume as its main headliner and included sets from SBTRKT, ODESZA, RL Grime and Tycho, was the first reported sellout in its longstanding history.

Weekend passes to LIB can be purchased here starting at $270, and the festival reports that 50 percent of them have already been sold, leaving us to believe another capacity crowd will be descending upon Bradley, Calif., this May. If you’re getting excited for LIB after reading this, make sure to check out our coverage from 2015.