Over Memorial Day Weekend the Breaking Borders team kicked off the festival season by trekking down to Bradly, CA to experience Lightning in A Bottle. Taking place on the shores of a dry lakebed half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, LIB is one of California’s premiere transformational music festivals.
This year marks Breaking Borders 4th LIB, giving us the chance to reflect on how far LIB has come and how it has kept the magic that makes it special.
For the uninitiated LIB blends the musical attractions of Coachella with the DIY spirit of Burning Man. Veteran burners with U-hauls and sprawling encampments party next weathered hippies and bros camping in their pick up trucks. Yoga enthusiasts wake up early to attend crowded classes, while house heads stumble back to camp after long nights of dancing. More than anything LIB is filled with good-looking weird people that enjoy being themselves.
At LIB there isn’t one party. For those that need to dance, the music goes all night. For the early birds that wake at sunrise for yoga, it is there. And for some, they can do it all. Yogis acknowledge their hungover participants on Saturday morning, but withhold judgment. An unconscious cloud of acceptance surrounds the entire experience.
This was LIB’s third gathering at Lake San Antonio and its largest edition since it started 16 years ago in Los Angeles. With more people came larger crowds and more traffic, but somehow the energy and feeling of a small community remained. It seems LIB has learned how to sell out without selling out.
As it grows, the spirit of LIB evolves and spreads with it. LIB effortlessly teaches newcomers how to join the vibe as it overwhelms them, consuming each with positivity, and gently forcing them to participate. The bridges were a constant chain of high fives, the campsites a breeding grounds for sharing, and the inviting nature of strangers everpresent.
The DO LaB has a knack for bringing in music you didn’t know you loved. Each stage has a distinct sound and energy – the Woogie is a house lover’s heaven; the Thunder stage is LIB’s home of bass. Watching the crowd glow to Lee Burridge’s sunset set at the Woogie on Sunday you could feel the DO LaB’s dedication to finding artists that fit each stages personality.
Highlights from the Thunder stage included the Desert Dwellers extravagant live experience, Tokimosta’s genre-less remixes and The Polish Ambassadors liquid grooves. The Lightning stage hosted many of the live ‘headliners’ this year, from Grimes to Chet Faker’s closing set. It was a hotspot for late afternoon tunes as well with Marian Hill and Lafa Taylor getting the crowd into it. And of course, the Woogie kept on doing its thing, even with a few edits to the fabled treehouse. Each day the Woogie got started early with the help of Dirtybird’s own Sascha Robotti and Justin Jay. The booty-shaking bass didn’t slow down much all weekend thanks to andhim, Four Tet and Guy Gerber’s closing late Sunday.
The LIB ethos encourages all to reflect, rejuvenate, and celebrate (and dance). By Sunday evening it seems those who got lost have been found, those experiencing LIB with love ones have grown closer and those entering alone have found a family.
Unlike other festivals you won’t find people pouring over set times or rushing to stages. Instead people wander about, popping into a particularly lively cooking lesson, pausing at the subtly profound live painting, popping into the Favela Bar for a dance party or slowing down to walk with a new friend they’ve made.
For half a century California has made itself home to conscientious hedonism. Now, in this new age of festivals, LIB sets itself apart as a worthwhile pilgrimage. Filling the golden hills with beautiful sounds and an inclusive spirit, LIB will remind you of the power of human creativity and your own self worth.