It's safe to say that Lightning in a Bottle is one of my most favorite festivals of all time. Put on by LA-based art collective the Do Lab, the three-day event has an “art as an experience” vibe that fuses the accessibility of Orange County (without the prissiness), the laid-back nature of Coachella (sans all the hipsters), and Burning Man's out-of-this-worldliness (without the sandstorms and the remoteness of the desert). The way I see it, it's the best of all worlds–and there are no crowds! (It's an event built for 8,000 to 10,000 people.) We caught up with Jesse Flemming, one of the Do Lab's co-founders, to talk about what makes 2011's Lightning in a Bottle better than last year's inaugural event at Santiago Canyon Ranch.
1. They've expanded campgrounds: “Camping is now on a lower part of the lake, so it's a lot easier for people to camp. They don't have to trek up and down the hill to get to the grounds. There's also a shuttle going nonstop this year to transfer people up and down.”
2. Pretty Lights and Thievery Corporation are headlining: Flemming says, “We've been big fans of Pretty Lights for a long time, so we're really excited.” Who else should you see? Fleming adds Random Rab puts on a “pretty amazing visual projection show, it's pretty spectacular.”
3. The more events the Do Lab puts on, the better the brand becomes: I asked Flemming if he's noticed that people have started going to Do Lab events no matter what they're putting on. He replied, “We definitely notice that's happening. People are beginning to trust our
brand, and it's cool for us to know…that whatever we're going to do
and try, people trust us to put on a good event and check us out.” Coachella, he says, play some part in it: “Coachella has a lot to do with a lot of people coming, and getting to know us and getting a quality experience.”
4. Lightning in a Bottle is beginning to build its own reputation: “We come from the Burning Man world, and there's a lot of the Burning Man values and ethics we stick to and believe in. Lightning in a Bottle has that vibe, but it's closer to home
and the landscape and terrain is easier to deal with.” For the three day fest, almost everybody camps. “That's what the festival is about–waking up, taking yoga class, taking workshop, spending the whole day with us,” Flemming says.
5. It will only keep getting better: Flemming says they almost got Michael Franti and Spearhead to headline on Friday, but the deal fell through at the last minute. “Hopefully next year!” he says, adding, “I think their vibe is perfect for the festival. We're known to book more electronic music, but we'd love to see more live music and live bands. We want to branch out in the future–we were thinking of getting Jose Gonzalez, Little Dragon. I definitely see a lot of that music in our scene that people will appreciate.”
Lightning In a Bottle, featuring the Pretty Lights, Thievery Corporation, Lucent Dossier and more, at Oak Canyon Ranch, 5305 Santiago Canyon Rd., Irvine; www.lightninginabottle.org. Fri., 7:30 a.m. Through Sun., 8 p.m. $75-$225.