The Do Lab‘s Lightning In A Bottle was an incredible gathering of people, music and art that showcased the best of the West Coast underground. Clearly intended to transcend the usual limitations and complications of large events, it succeeded in evolving the festival into a vibrant exchange of ideas where one can learn, rage and bring their family free of guilt, worry or hassle. Oak Canyon Ranch in Silverado, CA was an ideal location just an hour from LA, offering gorgeous lake views and weather, as well as an infrastructure designed for events.
Featuring performances by Beats Antique, Pretty Lights, Thievery Corporation, Bonobo, ESKMO and many other top electronic acts, as well as a heavy dose of live art and interactive installations, the “Greenest Festival In America” was exceedingly well planned and executed, from the lineup to the layout to the waste management. Not to mention the attendees were the most beautiful assortment of human beings I’ve ever seen, by far, and I am a connoisseur of sexy. Stunning genetics, costumes and self-cultivation made for a gorgeous tribe we can’t wait to be a part of again – golden dime-pieces and ripped, tatted fire-spinners caught your gaze wherever you looked as some of the most powerful minds and bodies expressed life in unique ways.
One of the highlights, beyond all the hot people, dope music and spontaneous creativity, was the Temple of Consciousness, an area separated from the rest of the festival, set in an elevated grove a short walk from the stages. This was the Yoga zone, where renowned teachers led classes constantly in a huge dome; speakers and workshops were hosted on a small stage and contributed to a genuine atmosphere of learning and discourse I’ve only seen attempted as an afterthought at festivals outside of Burning Man before. The kids playground and family camping rounded out a stark contrast to the 24-hour fracas below. It was a shaded, serene reprieve from the intense main drags, transforming the event into a cultural convergence that was so much more than a massive party or concert.
The Do Lab has developed a new model for festivals, and all of society, by giving us a momentary glimpse of Utopia, smoothly blending timeless elements of human interaction – congregation, exploration, spirituality, hedonism, creativity, adventure, discussion, exchange.. There was something for everyone, and it was all done with as little impact as possible, a huge challenge with a transient city of this size. According to brothers Josh and Jesse Flemming, The Do Lab’s Founder and Executive Producer respectively, the ultimate goal is to acquire a piece of land and build a permanent, sustainable home for events of this kind, where travelers and artists could come together for months at a time to collaborate and celebrate.
Planned right and kept to a reasonable size, the old hippie dream of a perma-fest art commune suddenly seems possible. Like LIB, however, a place like this would not only rely on thorough planning by its founders, but also on its inhabitants making it function optimally, policing themselves. A community like this can’t happen unless the vast majority of its members understand and respect certain basic things, which is why it will take a long time if it ever happens in society at large. To maintain this culture, noobs from the mainstream need to be gradually indoctrinated by experienced vets that know how to effortlessly rage responsibly and leave no trace. Even Burning Man is struggling to maintain its self-regulation due to its rapid growth – packs of bros hear about it and show for the bodacious babes without being properly introduced or taught how to appreciate and contribute and participate as they might have had they been the only new person in camp. This presents a challenge in promoting and spreading the word about amazing events and places; we want them to be profitable and popular, but not at the cost of their souls!
According to the crew, the biggest challenge in producing LIB is sorting the recycling. It takes a lot of man-hours to monitor the receptacles and sort through them because the hauling company won’t take them if they’re not right. Even in a relatively conscious community, people still get lit and stop caring about stuff like that, I’m as guilty as anyone. The design of the place itself forced one to think about their waste by making us walk away from the stages and common areas to find bathrooms and trash cans. Everything in our lives is so convenient and done for us that we never realize the weight of our impact or consider where everything we throw away is going, but this exercise made me think about it and bring less crap that I had to deal with. Being surrounded by informed, evolved beings with good habits is contagious – I’ve learned so much about new and better ways to eat, stretch, dance, think, and live.
I saw no fights, no wastoids, no lines, no visible security and free water. Things were organized but felt wild, over-saturated but perfectly in place. Enjoy the show!
The music, though not the entire focus, was off the chain. I was hoping for a couple more organic instruments in the electronic lineup besides jamband representatives Octopus Nebula and The Malah, and found them in Ilya Goldberg‘s violin accompanying Emancipator, and in David Satori‘s string wizardry with Beats Antique. Their improvisational jams really stood out and were a pleasant surprise, getting dark and hard at times before flourishing into fanfare. I yearn for more, deeper explorations from them because Satori is really one of the best guitarists / instrumentalists out there and sometimes that gets lost behind the beats and dancing, which we love so well. There was a theme of Convention vs. Invention in their set, as there is throughout their music, playfully paying homage to musical and performance traditions while twisting them into something ultra-modern and new. Classic, grandiose horns, fiddles and cabaret suspense met the humor and unpredictability of psychedelic theater, set to alien dance beats.
Pretty Lights killed it right after, delivering a brutal set of his best material. His music also mixes samples of nostalgic Americana and soul music with futuristic firepower, so it was a natural progression and as expected, a fearsome dance party. Eskmo, Heyoka and The Great Mundane also threw down hard, each of them playing some new material I didn’t recognize and expanding my concept of their styles. Random Rab stepped up his game with accompanying musicians, an aerial performer, fire spinners in rotating glass cubes, light projections on dancers and a surprise sunrise set. His style is naturally dramatic accompaniment for some grand spectacle, and it seems he’s finally getting the respect and resources he needs to orchestrate some mind-blowing theatrical collaborations. Bonobo and Thievery held it down on Sunday with solid DJ sets, a chill outro that never tried to recapture the highs we had seen – it might have been my own and collective exhaustion cuz we went so hard the first two nights.
I wasn’t big on Mimosa‘s set, it was full of female pop vocals and seemed a little cheesy; I usually love his style, but like so many dubstep DJs these days, the samples that come before the drop are getting questionable, and no one seems to care as long as it hits like a machine gun. It could be Lady GaGa, or Whitney Houston, maybe some Pink or Nikki Minaj.. A rule of thumb is if a song sucks and you wouldn’t want to listen to the original, don’t remix it and try to make it good, start with something unique and quality and make it better. PanTyRaid was doing a lot of the same type of thing – it was hard as nails but hard to fully get behind. The best of this hard-hitting crunk-step style was actually Kraddy, who blew up the Main Stage with a live drummer, pyrotechnics and killer beats.
There was so much great music happening all the time, it was impossible not to miss some stuff, so just because I’m not mentioning it doesn’t mean it wasn’t epic. They were able to create three distinct worlds with their stages that attracted different crowds and had vastly different feels: A House / Trance scene at The Woogie, Dubstep / IDM at The Bamboo and the live bands, theatrical performances and headliners at the towering Main Stage. Bluetech and Kilowatts‘ new collab Invisible Allies was really impressive, offering groovy world beats and glistening liquid dub, more layered and treble-oriented then Bluetech‘s usual stuff, I hope they stick with it.
Russ Liquid and Scuzzy are extremely talented and just getting started, take notice! Russ brings eclectic, jazzy hip hop beats that he plays keys and trumpet over, as well as collaborations with female vocalists and emcee Lafa Taylor that take them to the next level. Scuzzy is an OG producer that was running the late night stage / shower camp. I wandered in at dawn on Sunday and caught him spinning for the first time since I discovered him at the burn.. He kept me movin with glitched downtempo beats that he chants and plays rasta vocal samples over; it was perfect to get weird to in the new day’s light.
It felt as if we were part of an experiment trying to prove that this type of event and lifestyle is a valid and interesting artform, perhaps the greatest art that America has ever produced, and can be pulled off responsibly, in a healthy way that grows and teaches all involved. We were partying and playing but connecting and soaking so much in that it felt like school or church at times, in the childhood days when you still couldn’t wait to go. I fell in love with festivals, the west coast scene, my friends, America and vegetable curry all over again – what a heartening display of humanity!
Living this way for a few days, I’m reminded what is possible among humans; all of my pessimism and anger with the way we interact with each other in our day to day lives dissolved for a precious weekend that refilled me with hope and energy. It felt like the pinnacle, the tip of the flame, a place where anything could happen. And many strange and fantastic things did.
Props to all the artists who came out and painted, Live Art was happening all over the place, and some really beautiful and ambitious pieces were created before our eyes and then auctioned for The Do Art Foundation which sponsors and promotes visual artists.
^^^The Lucent Dossier Experience^^^
The Lucent Dossier Experience is a ridiculously talented and bizarre dance troupe that brought a ton of energy to a diverse performance that jumped off the stage. Their aggressive, nuanced style blends many forms from ballet to breakdancing. The choreography is always fresh and clever, telling jokes and stories with their bodies, channeling Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson in a deranged cabaret. The costumes and make-up are half the fun, and the members often take on highly stylized characters with personalities and movements all their own, playing parts in a captivating, wordless pantomime that is unlike anything else..
El Circo is another amazing company that is a lot more tribal and spiritual in their show; It often feels like an ancient Arabian or Medieval ritual full of graceful bellydance routines, fire performers, and moments of worship that hum like a Didgeridoo. We are witnessing the rebirth of performance art – dance, vaudeville, burlesque, with an edge of course.
What a jaw-dropping experience, thanks to everyone who went and made it happen, can’t wait for next year.. It was a most civilized rage, quite refined and well behaved, dripping with incandescent beauty. At first I was concerned it wasn’t rowdy enough and longed for 7 am Shakedown at Camp Bisco, full of crunk gangsta wooks with ghetto blasters. But its a whole other scene out here, and its glorious and plenty feral. Socal is on the map of heady destinations at least once a year – respect one of the best festivals in the country being held 20 minutes outside the city in Orange County! See you out there, and don’t sleep on a car camping pass, they are key and sell out before early bird tix!
Stay tuned for my interview with members of The Do Lab, where we get some insight into how something like this comes to be..
Photos by : Eric Giambrone, Jessica Dugan, Meaghan Myers, Caesar Sebastian, Marco Cheng, Kat Parry