Tag Archives: USA

Lightning in a Bottle

Intro by Rourke Healey. Photos by Nick Neumann.

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.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Pictures)

Everyone has an idea of what Rio de Janeiro is like during the World Cup, with the massive parties on Copacabana, the violent protests, and the hordes of tourists. While living in Rio for a month I took my camera around everywhere, attempting to shed light on the other side of Rio, the real Rio, the one not seen on TV or in the newspapers. Here is my portrait of Rio de Janeiro.

Photos by Walker Dawson

Rio’s Top 5 Neighborhoods

There is not other way of putting it, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s best cities. It’s equal parts first world and third world, part European, part Latin, and part African. It flows to the beat of Samba and Funky, and enjoys hands down the greatest setting of any city in the world. It is far from perfect, the crime rate is high, the poor are mistreated by the military and police, and the economic disparities are some of the most extreme on the planet, but it is those exact tensions and contrasts that make Rio endlessly fascinating.  At the end of the day, Cariocas (a resident of Rio) seem to put these differences aside in favor of white sand beaches, the warm Atlantic water and the vibrant nightlife.

#5 Urca

The upper middle class neighborhood of Urca is an unexpected delight. It has beautiful treelined streets with local neighborhood restaurants and bars (make sure to check out Bar Urca where you can sit on the sea wall overlooking of Rio and the Christ the Redeemer statue). But what makes this neighborhood great is its setting. It is situated on the end of a narrow peninsula between the iconic Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain and the bay.

Things to see:
  • Pista Cláudio Coutinho
  • Praia Vermelha
  • Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain
Praia Vermelha and Pão de Açúcar, Urca.

#4 Copacabana

This is the most typical of neighborhoods on this list, but it must be mentioned. This is what Rio de Janeiro is famous for; if you’ve seen this city in a movie or on a postcard, it was probably from Copacabana. Here lies one of the greatest stretches of urban beach anywhere in the world. One minute you are underground, packed like a sardine at rush hour on a crowded subway car, and the next minute you are riding waves in clear, warm water with white sands, palm trees and blue skies. An added bonus is that the people are beautiful, the juices are plentiful and otherworldly and the setting is spectacular. This is why people come to Rio, and I can understand why.

Copacabana Beach.

#3 Centro

For a city of 12.5 million, the downtown of Rio may seem disappointing at first (the skyline could be compared to a mid sized American city such as Cincinnati or Denver), but what it lacks in soulless skyscrapers, it makes up for with history and old world charm. This is the historical heart of Rio de Janeiro, and some might argue all of Brazil, but this isn’t like the tacky tourist joints of the North End in Boston, or Midtown Manhattan where teeshirt shops outnumber locals, these streets are rough, with homeless men smoking crack, people shuffling through garbage and the walls are covered in graffiti. But pause for a second and you will find over 400 years of Portuguese and Brazilian history all around you.

Things to see:
    • Mosteiro de São Bento
    • Centro Cultural Banco Do Brasil
    • Travessa do Comércio
Igreja de São Francisco de Paula, Centro.

#2 Lapa

If there is a crazier party strip in Latin America I’d like to see it. Lapa is where Cariocas of all walks of life come to party and be merry. The sounds of Samba flood into the street, strangers meet and begin dancing, people sip caipirinhas while chewing on grilled meat from migrants from Brazil’s Northeast, transsexuals sell themselves on street corners in skimpy dresses, and in the shadows crack dealers sell their goods. It’s a crazy mix that must be experienced, preferably with a sweet caipirinha in your hand.

Street Vendor, Lapa.

#1 Santa Teresa

This bohemian hood of narrow, 100 year old cobble stone streets is Rio’s crowned jewel. This is a neighborhood of poets, writers, artists, and those who inhabit crumbling, turn of the century mansions. This neighborhood would certainly take the cake as one of the worlds great neighborhoods. Make sure to check out Largo do Guimarães and Largo das Neves, two old squares with bohemian bars (Bar do Gomez) and restaurants (Bar do Mineiro). Our personal favorite is Largo das Letras, a wonderful place where music dances through a library like setting and caipirinhas flow freely.

Bar do Gomez, Santa Teresa.

Stay tuned for our neighborhood review of Sao Paulo.

Paradox Lost

We hiked Dois Irmãos yesterday.  It is one thing to dream of heaven. It is another to walk above the clouds and live in it. It is an experience that will awaken an incredible sensation in your soul.  When you stand at the edge of a precipice that seems to hover above the earth. When you are suspended in flight, and below you the world is glowing with the artificial orange light cast by tall steel street lights numbering in the thousands. Dogs bark to one another across the favela. They share secrets, and  you are secretly listen in on every little story that is told. The sheer number of sounds shrinks your being into a small blue dot on a large black sheet.

Rocinha, the largest slum in South America.

Two hundred thousand souls survive in the streets below me. Two hundred thousand mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts, and uncles. The list goes on with every generation, and this was a neighborhood as old as Rio itself.

I sat upon the edge of the world and was swallowed into it’s gaping maw. My mind was a pebble rolling down the mountain; there was nothing I could do to stop the momentum of my curiosity about the world below me. What lives in such a place? What culture grows in a crammed community, that never slept, and never ceased to make noise, for no reason other than for the sake of sound.

Lagoa and Ipanema.

When we passed the summit, the glorious, and legendary beach of Ipanema stretched before us The majestic lake of Lagoa was basking in her glory, spoiled with attention from hotel towers who surrounded her form; peddling a view of her for a ridiculous sum to the only the wealthiest patrons of society. The silence was deafening.

There is beauty in Ipanema, but there is no music. Money does not  sing in Ipanema, not like the people who dance in Rocinha do. There is Samba creeping  through the trees from the largest favela in Latin America into your body. The sounds reach in and grab you from your place on the mountain and thrust you into a whole new world. They shatter your perspective on life by showing you something you never thought existed.

Contemplating Leblon.

Lost in our moment of grand exposure to a new world, we forgot to keep track of time. The sun had set, and the sky was pitch black, and the air was thick. With no moon in sight, we began hiking through the trees; enveloped by jungle, and a thick shroud of darkness. We had lost sight of the trail, but had found our place in a paradox lost.

World Cup Update: Day 16

Its hard to believe that my time in Rio has reached the half way point.  I’ve been so preoccupied with the World Cup that I have yet to visit any of the classic tourist sites in Rio, which I’m totally okay with. Instead we’ve been catching the bus to Copacabana.  Our first stop is usually a cafe two blocks from the beach.


A delicious fresh fruit smoothie, coffee with milk, and tasty ham and cheese pastry is my go to breakfast.  The açaí and chocolate chip smoothie is my favorite, but you really can’t go wrong with any juice you choose.

Only in Brazil do the have protein powder prominently displayed at the local cafe.

Next we join throngs of fans from around the world headed to the beach to watch the games and soak up the warm winter sun.  The Argentinians are the most obnoxious and the Chileans are the loudest. Chanting chi chi chi le le le, viva Chile!, non stop.  Everyone, including myself has been really impressed by the number of USA fans in Rio.  Aside from the aforementioned teams, we have been the  loudest and biggest fan base, which makes watching USA games really exciting.  One of the coolest and most unique aspects of the World Cup is that it brings together people from all over the world.  Where else can you meet a bunch of Bosnians, Algerians, Colombians,  and Nigerians in a matter of minutes?

Copacabana Beach.

There is a giant walled Fifa Fan Fest at the start of Copacabana beach sporting  a giant screen, between game concerts and host of dumb activities to waste your money  on.  Fifa doesn’t allow soccer balls inside and the beer is way more expensive.  So the best option is to avoid going inside and walk around to the beach side.  There is nothing better than buying a Caipirinha from a makeshift rasta bar on the beach, and taking a dip in the warm Atlantic, all while watching soccer.

Fifa Fan Fest
Fifa Fan Fest in the distance.

Quick Travel Tip: We found our awesome place on AirBnb and could not be happier.  Many other people we talked to did the same and also highly recommend it.  If you are coming to Brazil definitely check AirBnb for your accommodation.

I’m not sure what the reporting has been like back in the States, but there have been very few protests here in Rio.  The majority of Brazilians appear to be really enjoying the cup so far.  Everyone is rocking Brazil jerseys, lots of Brazilians from all over the state of Rio show up at the Fan Fest cheering on other teams and party, restaurants are packed with people watching the games and there are Brazil flags everywhere.  However, there are plans to stage a protest at Maracana this Sunday to prepare for the big one on the day of the final, which takes place at Maracana.

That being said, the World Cup has done little to quell the brutality of the police.  It has simply directed attention elsewhere. The other day a little boy was shot in a favela near us.  He didn’t die, but Patrick fears that he will disappear tonight.   The same cops that shot him are working again and he thinks that they will attempt to get rid of the evidence.  While the pacification of Rio’s favelas has made a few safer, ultimately it has just pushed the violence to the once quiet and peaceful suburbs of Rio as the drug dealers flee the city.

Rio is so crazy because there are people living in Barra de Tijuca, suburban sprawl on Rio’s west side that is nicer than Miami, completely oblivious to brutality and unaccountability of the police on the north side.  Its as if you are traveling internationally between to vastly different countries when you take a bus from Barra to Maracana.  Never before have I experienced such stark contrasts,  astonishing inequality and immeasurable beauty.