Is Lightning in a Bottle shedding its ‘boutique’ label to go mainstream?

Lightning in a BottleBy Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 21st-25th, 2015 //

It has been more than 15 years since Jesse and Josh Flemming set out to throw a wild birthday bash for themselves in the Santa Ynez Mountains just north of Santa Barbara, Calif. The twin brothers, who had left their Pennsylvania roots behind for Los Angeles in the late 90’s in hopes of pursuing careers in the entertainment industry, enlisted the help of their younger brother Dede, who had his own aspirations of working in Hollywood, making the cross-country move to Southern California a few years after them.

But what started as a private party of 150 people would eventually become better known as Lightning in a Bottle (LIB), the famed boutique festival that the Flemming brothers have curated for more than a decade with the help of their LA-based event production company The Do LaB. Tabbed as the “Greenest Festival in America” each of the last five years, LIB has continued to foster a community that values sustainability first and foremost, but also social cohesion, personal health and creative expression. Consequently, the Flemming brothers have created one of the most unique experiences on the entire U.S. festival circuit, with music, art, yoga and workshops all serving as essential elements in forming LIB’s identity. Whether all of that can be sustained while the festival maintains its “boutique” label though, remains to be seen.

Lightning in a Bottle


LIB sold out for the first time in its 15-year history with as many as 20,000 festivalgoers attending.

For the first time ever, LIB sold out in its 15-year history this month, with last weekend’s attendance peaking at 20,000 after hovering around 15,000 in previous years. Some of that surge can likely be attributed to the musical talent that LIB now shares with Coachella. SBTRKT, ODESZA, Tycho and Panda Bear, for instance, all performed in Indio this year while Flume, RL Grime and AlunaGeorge made appearances on the polo fields last April. But the festival has arguably welcomed no bigger up-and-coming artist than Flume, the 23-year-old Australian producer and DJ who won numerous awards in his home country back in 2013. Since then, he has been all the rage in today’s electronic dance music scene, with tickets to his three sold-out shows in LA last August reselling on both Craigslist and StubHub for upwards of $100.

So, it was no surprise that the largest crowd over the entire weekend congregated a little after midnight on Sunday to see Harley Streten take the stage as the festival’s top headliner and drop one wonky trap beat after another. With the crowd spilling over outside of the main stage’s premises, it was a quick reminder of what the Gobi Tent looked like during Flume’s set at Coachella just a year earlier. And by the following day, much of the camp grounds had already emptied out — a clear sign that those who made the trek to Bradley, Calif., had seen all that they needed to see, even if that meant simply watching Streten command the crowd with mainly a laptop. It’s at least in part why if The Do LaB continues to book headliners of Streten’s stature, LIB can likely kiss that “boutique” label goodbye — unless financial gain is of no interest or concern.

Lightning in a Bottle - Flume


Australian DJ/producer Flume packed the main stage at LIB for his Saturday night headlining set.

Yet, that’s not the only indication that LIB could soon be headed for the big time. The real icing on the cake didn’t come until Sunday night, when English synthpop/trip-hop duo AlunaGeorge, midway through their main-stage set, busted out a cover of “White Noise”, the Disclosure mega-hit on 2013’s Settle that they collaborated with brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence on. And as I watched those all around me mouth every word that vocalist Aluna Francis belted out, it was hard not to foresee the moment becoming somewhat of a trend at LIB. Because when I attended the festival for the first time in 2011, there was little chance of hearing a Top 40 song on the main stage. LIB, for better or worse, has certainly come a long way since then.

The musical offerings aren’t the only noticeable change at LIB when you take a closer look, however. While the festival has always catered to health-conscious individuals, offering a variety of vegetarian, raw, organic and non-GMO options, it’s only started to offer dishes featuring meat, whether it be chicken, beef or pork (bacon was served … yes, bacon!), in the last two years — even though the chicken supply ran dry by Day 3 this year. That small, yet significant transformation could simply be the product of a growing fan base, one that continues to swell as EDM heavyweights like John Digweed, Thomas Jack and Bakermat become more and more a part of the festival’s musical palette. And with more people comes more trash (something LIB has kept to a minimum more than any other festival in America to date), less space (something that has always been relatively easy to come by at LIB) and a harder time of finding your friends (something that was never an issue at LIB in the past but became much more of one this year).

The purists may already be claiming that LIB has sold out and there’s no turning back. But at this juncture, the “transformational” festival — as some like to call it — is still toeing a fine line between the underground and mainstream. It’s where it goes from here that will ultimately decide its fate.

Is the Lightning in a Bottle lineup becoming a mini version of Coachella’s?

Lightning in a BottlePhoto courtesy of Daniel Zetterstrom // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 21st-25th, 2015 //

For those who made the trek to Indio, this week officially signals the return to reality after witnessing some of the best live music you’ll likely see all year.

Coachella withdrawals, after all, don’t take long to set in, and the thought of having to wait 12 more months to experience what you just went through in three days is probably really bumming you out right now.

But fear not, because while it may not have the same name recognition that Coachella has come to garner, Lightning in a Bottle has slowly but surely started to share more and more of the same artists that have recently graced the polo fields.

Take this year’s LIB lineup, for example. SBTRKT, ODESZA, Tycho and Panda Bear all played at Coachella the past two weekends while newly anointed headliner Flume, RL Grime and AlunaGeorge made appearances last April. Other acts like John Digweed and Poliça have also performed at Coachella not that long ago, making this year’s LIB lineup one of the most appealing in its decade-long history.

With its own stage at Coachella for some time now, the artists collective and event creations company known as The Do LaB has continued to expand its reach, and as a result, LIB has grown more and more popular each year. Though the musical overlap might be just one reason for the boutique festival’s growing attendance, there are a number of LIB acts this year that could very well be printed on Coachella’s lineup next year, much like what Chet Faker, Gramatik, What So Not, Cashmere Cat and Ryan Hemsworth experienced from 2014 to 2015.

2015 Lightning in a Bottle lineup

Active Child: Electronic music artist Pat Grossi will follow up his critically acclaimed 2011 debut You Are All I See in June with the release of his second full-length album Mercy. But before that, he’ll kick off his North America tour consisting of mostly seated shows with his first appearance at LIB this May, and it’s only natural to think that a stop at Coachella is on the horizon.

GRiZ: Grant Kwiecinski has become a household name in electronic music circles over the past three years after supporting electronic heavyweights like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Gramatik and Big Gigantic on tour. The Detroit native has kept his foot on the accelerator, having already released his fourth studio album Say It Loud in only a little more than four years on the scene, and will be back at LIB after hitting the festival for the first time two years ago.

Goldroom: Josh Legg’s project performed on the main stage at LIB in 2013, and he’s got the live band back together for another go-around this year. The LA-based act gave off a sexy vibe at CRSSD Festival in San Diego last month, and it could be ready to take on Coachella once a full-length album comes out.

Les Sins: Chaz Bundick is best known for his work as Toro y Moi, but his electronic-leaning side project Les Sins has kept him rather busy going back and forth between the two. After playing Coachella this year with Toro, Bundick could be back in 2016 with the way Les Sins has taken off over the past few months.

Little People: London downtempo electronic artist Laurent Clerc has been releasing music since 2006, starting with his debut album Mickey Mouse Operation. Now based in the States and more specifically Portland, Ore., Clerc dropped his Csay Csay EP in March and recently spent some time on the road supporting Seattle duo ODESZA, which makes a lot of sense after you listen to his track “Enola”.

Random Rab: Having played the festival the past four years, the San Francisco producer is a LIB veteran, and he’ll be making his fifth straight appearance this spring. While his last album came in 2011, Random Rab has continued to perfect his live sets after touring with such LIB favorites as Bassnectar, Shpongle and Beats Antique.

Thomas Jack: EDM rising star Thomas Jack hit it big in 2013 with his single “Final Speech”, and his stock only continued to grow with remixes of Adrian Lux and Of Monsters and Men. With the way the 20-year-old DJ and producer from Australia is igniting dance floors, it’s probably not long before he’s hitting the polo fields in Indio after taking another crack at the LIB audience this year.

Snakehips: Oliver Lee and James Carter quickly climbed the dance charts last year with their sample-heavy PBR&B grooves as they exhibited on popular remixes of Wild Belle and The Weeknd. The UK production duo continues to sell out venues, and it will be no surprise if it’s listed on the 2016 Coachella lineup.

SOHN: English musician, songwriter and producer Christopher Taylor unleashed his first full-length album (read our review here) a little more than a year ago, and he’s been known to collaborate with high-profile artists like Lana Del Rey and BANKS. While it was relatively surprising to not see SOHN on the Coachella lineup this year, it’s a safe bet that he’ll find his way to Indio pretty soon.

Zion I: Oakland hip-hop group Zion I haven’t performed at Coachella in surprisingly more than a decade, and this year will mark their first time ever at LIB. Rapper Baba Zumbi and producer Amp Live earned praise for their ninth and latest album Shadowboxing back in 2012, but the duo is long overdue for a return to the desert.

Zion I, MKSMTH, 1-O.a.k. bring genre-bending hip-hop back home

Zion_I_post

By Benjamin Wallen //

Zion I with MKSMTH, 1-O.a.k. //
The Independent – San Francisco
May 16th, 2014 //

Genre-bending hip-hop, in many ways, is what the Bay Area eats up, and for good reason. 1-O.a.k., playing with a live band, revved the house up on point — the music felt super tight throughout. MKSMTH then took the stage with special guest Daghe, bringing a number of explosive hip-hop tracks with bangin’ beats. Bay Area locals Zion I took the stage shortly after to a pumped-up Independent, and a packed crowd was giving the energy back to all the performers. Zion I’s presence on stage is undeniable, and their vibe is as contagious as ever. Combine that with incredible flows, and it was a connected performance filled with plenty of UMPH!