Category Archives: Music Festivals

[The Audiofiles] Early Birds Get the Bounce: LIB PreSale Tickets Go On Sale Today!

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Every once in a blue moon, a festival evolves into more than just a weekend romp with newfangled friends and unlimited hours of music – it becomes a community that cultivates it’s own ethos, a family reunion drenched in techno and technicolor, a place that we call home for one weekend every year. That unicorn of a festival is different for each and every one of us, but for me – it’s Lightning in a Bottle. Now nestled into the campgrounds of San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, California – the Do LaB’s fabled Lightning in a Bottle Music and Arts Festival is set to return this Memorial Day Weekend.

Over the last decade, LIB has blossomed into a hub for West Coast Bass, House music that makes you Woogie and a vast array of both internationally acclaimed talent and up and coming, locally loved musicians, painters, and artistic visionaries – and this year, the festival will even have a few extra surprises.

Today, at 10 AM PST, the first round of tickets will hit the interwebs and with a stellar, sold out event last year you can bet your bottom dollar that these highly coveted Early Bird tickets will sell out quick like a bunny, while general admission tickets go on sale January 24th. Unlike previous years, there will be no one day or two day passes available for the event, every ticket will span the four days of the event.

Purchase Tickets Here!Relive the magic, music, and merrymaking of last year’s Lightning in a Bottle with this decadadently delightful video Directed by Ari Fararooy and Produced by Media Stranger.

For more on Lightning in a Bottle and the Do LaB, Head to their socials –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud

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[The Audiofiles] Enter The Intersection of Music and Art with’Life is Beautiful’ Visual Artists Charlotte Dutoit and Felipe Pantone

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For centuries, the idea of festival has conjured up ideas of celebration and admiration, overflowing happiness and dexterity among the arts; a literal feast for all of the senses. As the fine arts circle and intertwine with each other, there’s been an innate, inexplicable tie between music and the arts. Both works of passion, music paints our auditory experience in much the same way that a painter, sculptor or designer creates in the physical world. This year at Las Vegas’ fabled Life is Beautiful Festival, witness firsthand how music and art intersect on a higher plane.

Purchase Tickets for Life is Beautiful

Landing on the strip this weekend from September 23rd through the 25th, Life is Beautiful is back for their fourth consecutive year. In addition to an internationally respected group of musical acts across the breadth of the spectrum from Bassnectar, Flume, Major Lazer, Bob Moses, Chromeo, Zhu, Crystal Castles and so many more- the festival plays host to equally talented visual artists.   Curated and commissioned by the esteemed mind of Charlotte Dutoit, founder of the JUSTKIDS organization, Life is Beautiful has blossomed into a mecca for world renowned visual artists, featuring murals and installations from all over the globe as well. This weekend’s event will be highlighted by art tycoons including US grown Shepard Fairey of “Obey Giant” fame and Tristan Eaton, while corners of the globe from France, Japan, Spain, Norway, Poland and Argentina are represented with works from Fafi, Mark Drew, Dulk, Bezt from Etam Cru, Martin Whatson and Felipe Pantone respectively.

We were lucky enough to catch up with visionary mastermind Charlotte Dutoit and the kinetic contemporary magnate Felipe Pantone on their craft and influences, the creative process, music, art and all things in betwixt.

The head honcho on the art scene for Life is Beautiful, Charlotte Dutoit has perfected the art of curation. Charlotte has been with Life is Beautiful since its inception four years ago, applying her taste-making abilities to both the murals and installations programs. As founder of the JustKids organization, Charlotte has now even curated people – bringing together an exceptional network of otherworldly creatives, artists, designers and art consultants to collaborate on gallery shows and spaces for high profile clients.  Charlotte has created and designed spaces at first class US festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas and Coachella, internationally acclaimed events in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Berlin’s Urban Nation, not to mention – producing proper gallery shows in Puerto Rico, London, and Berlin.

What goes into curating a large scale event like Life is Beautiful?

Life Is beautiful takes almost a year of preparation. My job ranges from artistic visioning to hands on delivery. It includes the conception of the lineup, the team recruiting and supervision, the locations choice, the equipment and material logistic, the planning, the designing, the marketing, merchandising etc. Of course I am not alone, Life Is Beautiful is a perfect example of a spectacular team work. It’s a collaboration between very specific and specialized talents, and we learn a lot from each other every year.

If we took a walk into your home right now, whose art will we find?

Mostly new Contemporary Artist such as Borondo, Roa, Dates Farmers, Patrick Martinez, Daniel Arsham, Bicicleta Sem Freio, Alexis Diaz, Ana Maria, Saner, Cyrcle… And some Modern Artist like Carlos Cruz-Diaz.

What type of art do you find the most inspiring?

Art with a meaning, that provokes questions and challenges modern society and conventions. Art that brings new discussion toward the art.

Tell me a bit about the Justkids Organization, what drove you to create it and how does it inspire you?

Justkids is a creative house of artists, curators, art events creators and brand marketers. Together we produce, curate and manage art projects for institutions, cities, brands and private clientele. It’s a constant emulation between us and it’s allowed me to collaborate and work with the people I admire. That’s my fuel!

The Life is Beautiful Festival poses the perfect cohabitation of Live Art and Live Music; how does music inspire your work?

I am passionate about music since I was a kid. Actually, my first job in Paris was in the music production. So it’s of course it’s a pleasure to collaborate on a festival where the attendees are real music enthusiasts and culture lovers! Music is a source of inspiration and an infinite niche of references that I appreciate when I recognize them in art, could be in the aesthetic, in the message or in the attitude.

What’s your favorite genre of music?

Hip- Hop, Punk Rock, Electro, Folk…

Who’s in your headphones / stereo at the moment?

Kurt Vile

What’s the best live music show you’ve been to and how did that inspire you creatively?

Beastie Boys, Check Your Head Tour! It’s a piece of my childhood, the music I grew up on and I continue to listen. They brought so much coolness, new style and new energy that it’s a constant inspiration for me.

Which other artists on the lineup are you excited for?

Janes Addiction!

In the 21st century, it feels like everything is interconnected these days. How does social media enhance the artist experience and connect you to your fans (and peers)?

It’s a perfect to show a project from scratch to completion or to show the insight of our Art event. It’s also a good way to tell people where we are so the Art enthusiasts that live around can pass by to see it live. It’s a fantastic tool and we all took advantage of it to share on a global scene and it’s really worked for the Art.

As a writer, every once in a while I get writer’s block, and it comes with a pretty specific feeling attached. What does “curators block” feel like and how do you get over it?

It happens all the time and I have learned to deal with them now. It’s annoying when you have a dead-line but I don’t see block as a frozen state, they are entirely part of the creative process and the necessary space and breath to deliver the idea that will satisfy your goal and creativity.

 

Inspired to pick up a spray can at the ripe age of 12, Felipe Pantone firmly found his footing within the graffiti circuit and hasn’t looked back since.Currently a full time artist, Felipe crafts nearly 200 to 250 pieces a year between various mediums from graffiti and canvases to murals. Thematically, his work circles around modern methods of communication and the fast paced world we inhabit. Though you won’t be able to catch him personally at the festival, you’ll be able to marinate in the perspective shifting precision of his work. After Las Vegas he’ll be heading to Detroit, Tahiti, Mexico, Miami and finally back to Europe

 

What’s your preferred artistic medium and what other mediums do you dabble in. Will you be employing any new methods this event?

I always use spray paint. I studied fine arts so I learnt most of the common techniques and I figured that the best for me was the one that I started using as a kid to paint on walls. It’s the most versatile one. With the same tool I can paint from tiny little canvases to huge 10 stories walls. I’m trying something special for LIB, a sort of integration of my sculptural work with my mural.

When art is psychedelic and thought provoking, it deserves music that parallels – how does music influence your work?

I listen to music all the time when I’m working. From songwriters to indie when I’m at the studio, and electronic music mostly when I’m painting outside.

What influences the subject matter of your work?

I reflect on the present and the kind of life that I have. This feeling that a lot of people of my generation are experimenting nowadays. The fact that everything changes really quickly, that you can spend 12 hours on a plane and be on the other side of the planet, and still have a Skype meeting with you from. I try to live and understand the present through my work.

Would you say that your work fits into a particular art movement?

I’m part of the street-art scene since I come from painting on the streets. But street- art, if a movement, is a very loose one. There isn’t an ideology behind it. I wrote the “ULTRADYNAMIC MANIFESTO”, a new art movement, ha, ha. It was more like an exercise, trying to put on paper what I wanted to do. Of course I don’t follow it, I think these are times of dissolving tradition and staying away from collective thinking.

Have you ever done stage design, album, LP, EP or promo artwork for a musical artist? How does that collaboration process work?

I owned a records label for a little while. So I created art works and music videos for the artists. It was really cool since I had full control and they trusted me. I really enjoy these kind of collaborations when the musical artist control the music, and the visual artist control the visuals 🙂

What’s the last record your purchased?

Hmm, honestly it’s been a while. I have a Spotify subscription and I stream everything from there or Soundcloud. Probably the last album I bought is Tom Waits “Bad as Me”.

Who’s in your headphones / stereo at the moment?

El Último Vecino.

What’s the best live music show you’ve been to and how did that inspire you creatively?

I really enjoyed that Etienne de Crécy show where he played inside these big cubes and the projections were just amazing. I remember that being very inspiring.

As a writer, every once in a while I get writer’s block, and it comes with a pretty specific feeling attached. What does “artists block” feel like and how do you get over it?

I think that the more you do, the more creative you are, the more ideas you have, so I feel really good these days that I produce so much work. Always – something that you paint today inspires you for the next piece. When I get blocked, visiting museums and watching some of the masters’ works is really refreshing.

One thing I’ve found in life is the best things are usually shared; how do you feel about collaborating on your craft and how is the creative process enhanced when you’re surrounded by a collection of equally talented peers?

I have a couple of assistants and that makes things way easier. Somebody to share your concerns with, ask for second opinions… And of course also helps productivity wise and fun wise.

Make sure you give each area of the festival some proper attention, be prepared to be inspired and open your soul with every experience possible while at Life is Beautiful. For more on Charlotte, the JUSTKIDS Organization, Felipe Pantone and Life is Beautiful – head to their social media channels.

Charlotte Dutoit: Website  | Twitter | Instagram

JUSTKIDS: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Felipe PantoneWebsite | Facebook | Vimeo| Instagram

Life is Beautiful: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

 

 

 

[The Audiofiles] Lightning in a Bottle: A Journey to the Space Between the Sound

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A creatively curated three day adventure into a playground of house, bass and underground music equipped with immersive, thought provoking art – Lightning in a Bottle has had a special place in my heart for almost as long as I can remember.  When I went to school in Santa Barbara, I heard fantastical fables of a land so close, yet worlds away.  For my first few years in Los Angeles, I chased the dragon of a dream, coming in a day late and a wonderful weekend short. When Lightning hit Temecula’s Lake Skinner Recreational Area I finally dove in and experienced firsthand what was so highly revered about the event. Breathing in feelings like fresh air, I floated through the festival on Cloud 9 – forging bonds and breaking barriers, I reveled in my newfangled oneness with the world as I fell in love, over and over again on the grassy nooks and crannies of the grounds.  Watching as beautiful souls ordained in otherworldly outfits lost themselves to dance, I fell back in love with the moment.  Joining in, I could feel a shift in the senses, an emotional evolution mirrored with a social revolution, inspiring me to fall back in love with myself. As the festival  evolved,  I grew in tandem – learning to find my place within this novel conscious community as Lightning in a Bottle manifested from a boutique music festival to a staple of the West Coast’s festival scene.   Even with a migration to Bradley’s San Antonio Recreation Area, the magic was never lost – it was only magnified as serendipity met synchronicity.  Masquerading under moonlight, long lost and new found friends became family as we were initiated with glitter blessings and hugs, laughter and jubilation.

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Since its inception, Lightning in a Bottle has been an artistic catalyst where personal growth and spiritual renewal unfold infinitely into themselves.  Senses stream towards overload as colors dance in time with elaborate harmonies emanating from every corner of the fields.  The weekend celebrates much more than musical talent and artistic prowess; it’s the reunion and synergy of souls energized by the sunshine and their dancing feet; it’s the church where we revere our minuscule yet infinite place on this rock that’s spinning through space while we’re born again through the bass; it’s the home away from home where we feel so very safe, and so very loved.  Over the last three years, for one spectacularly extra-special weekend – I felt the pull, heard the call and knew where I belonged so it should be no surprise that I found myself back there this past Memorial Day Weekend, for another journey down the rabbit hole.

But unlike previous years, it didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there – my energy wasn’t focused on a festival, it was focused on my family; my mind wasn’t lingering on lineups or salivating over set times.  For the last decade, I’ve found sanctity and solace in festivals and on the dancefloor – my sweat, my hips, my feet, my heart and soul, and sometimes even tears were taken by the beat, and eventually I had to wonder: with all that we give to these events, our emotions, our headspace, our physical body, our money, our sobriety – what exactly are we getting in return? In a 31 going on 13 moment, I called the only person who could make heads or tails of a spinning situation – my dad; and I caught myself…because who in their right mind would deprive themselves of beautiful experiences, wonderful vibes, fantastic people, ethereal music and an otherworldly weekend? Most certainly not I – so last minute packing became a thing once again while I mused about the upcoming adventure ahead.

Since leaving Temecula, Lightning has been on the Central California Coast in Bradley and now that the event has found a more permanent home, it’s grown roots – both with the outlying community over it’s Permaculture Awareness Day with The Polish Ambassador, as well as implementing permanent infrastructure within the park. Between the water stations and the bridges between areas, seasoned festies were overheard in galvanized conversation about what the very first year at the campgrounds was really like.  For the first time, the grounds opened on Wednesday for select ticketholders and offered an extra day to set up, get comfortable and explore many of the non-musically inclined opportunities that the festival has to offer participants.  Yes, the world that the Do LaB has created there has massive amounts of music for those that want it – but for others, the festival also has beautiful spaces between the notes and serene silence between the music; the moments and love experienced outside of the stages were tantamount to the lucid dreams and delectable drops created on the dancefloor. There’s something to be said for the experience when the music is turned off, and the community vibes are turned all the way on – each and every one of us was operating at the highest possible frequency, making connections, forging bonds and cataloging moments that last a lifetime.

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Rousing ourselves for an early rise on Friday morning, we left right on time – which for us is exactly an hour after we promised we’d have the car packed and be on the road.  Perfect. After meeting up with some friends along the way to trade stories and party favors, Danny and I were off, off and away – celebrating our fourth Lightning together and our three year anniversary of saying ‘I Love You’. After a quick entrance, which I can only assume is one of the few benefits of arriving almost a day after most participants, we were onto the next challenge – finding a camping spot.  With how much fun we had as just the two of us without a squad at Shambhala, we were excited to set up shop and create ‘Camp New Friends.‘  Claiming a site near the corner of Monkey Business and Croatia, we felt like it was left there just for us; as we began to set up our shade structure and tent – Danny took one look around and exclaimed to our neighbors, “Hey, you – yeah, we’re gonna become really good friends this weekend.”  And let me tell you, I love it when he’s right. Cody and Dane from the camp behind us had our backs with the tent, and while we were setting up our shade structure – it felt like parallel worlds collided:  slowly and sweetly, a couple waltzed up into our peripheral view.  Under his breath, Danny started stammering ‘That guy looks like Mickey….I can’t wait to tell Mickey that I met his doppelganger….’ until….we realized that the doppelganger was Mickey!  A well kept secret and wonderful trickery only became more meaningful when we realized how organically we had all just found each other.

As Danny gathered his camera gear to head out to a quick shoot for the LIB Promo Squad, my cell phone vibrated with a silent intensity. My step mom had been back on the East Coast for the last week helping with a family emergency, and I’d gotten to the point that seeing her on the caller ID was equally warming and disheartening.  A short breath and two words into the conversation, and I already knew the direction things were headed.  With a late stage cancer diagnosis, we knew my aunt’s prognosis was bleak – none the less we’d been hopeful; after all – she’d been stable, she’d been laughing, she’d been being; but now we knew, that whether it was an hour, day, or a week – that was unequivocally all she had.  Forgetting where I was for a second, I sank into my skin and the feelings I had before we left, quietly begging me to stay, latched back into me. How would you live your life if you knew your own expiration date? You would push, dare and defy your ego to grow instead of denying yourself of the will to live.

Settling into our surroundings and cracking a cold beer as the sun descended from the sky, we were finally ready to head into the grounds. After wandering through Camp Altered States and catching up with friends over Mija’s basslines, we were off to catch  Big Gigantic on the Lightning Stage then slowly sauntered our way around towards the Woogie – I thought. The Favela Bar, which was once a smaller side stage had blossomed into a full on party brigade, fully equipped with all of the bass and all the vibes.  The music in there was so good that I could have easily forgotten about the Woogie itself.  Taking a break from the massive crowds, we found ourselves on a seemingly spiritual pathway to the Do Art’s artistic arena.

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After spending a solemn moment reflecting on what turned out to be my favorite piece of art at the festival -the powerful and poignant depth of this cascading collection of twisted wood and tangled emotions, we stumbled right into the delicate and deliberate strokes of Negne Mwuara‘s mural from this last Coachella. One of the pinnacles of the event for me has been the live art on the grounds, in between the trees and near the stages but this year it felt more scarce and hard to come by. Taking a lengthy lap between the easels, we literally walked right into our camp neighbors as we were exiting towards the Woogie’s booming techno vibes.

Delectable cucumber jalapeno margarita in hand, we wound our way around the Woogie’s dancefloor – trying to come to a conclusion on how we actually felt about the new stage design.  The treehouse DJ booth and whimsical color creations that oscillated like sound waves towards the sky, two facets of the festival that I thought were an iconic staple, were missing and replaced by industrial, neon piping which made me feel more like I was at a warehouse party in a technicolor boiler room than prancing in a magical forest among the faeries.  In the mood for the less traveled path, we headed around the back of the stage, down the abyss into the Grand Artique, cartwheeling into the emotive, instrumentation of LAPA.  Truth be told, for the first few minutes we weren’t sure who we were seeing – but we knew it made us feel a lot better after collectively missing Emancipator Ensemble; and then after a few minutes, we realized it kind of was Emancipator – it was Ilya Goldberg, Emancipator’s violinist, giving the most intimate of performances in a magical location. Heading back across the expansive grounds to our tent, pockets of after parties popped into existence – but none with the eclectic talent, lasting power or super awesome disco ball of Camp Altered States.

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The next morning, thousands of house heads and festival lovers flocked to The Woogie for a beautiful tribute to the musical legend of Pumpkin.  The hearts in our community have weighed heavy since his passing, and for really the first time since – the entire LIB community was together to celebrate the life he led, and the life he had inspired within all of us. Per usual, the heat beat its way into every daytime activity, making it necessary to have a water bottle in hand, a bandanna around your neck and a mister or fan in the friend group.  Taking our leisurely time, we meandered across the grounds to the food court near the Pagoda Bar to level up on some food.  Unlike previous years of LIB, the vendors this week had more to offer than just vegan and vegetarian offerings and we were  excited taking full advantage of the situation and then head back to the sanctity of the campsite.    Two days into LIB, and we’d already overused our joke about “Camping in a Bottle 2016” – there were literally some moments that it just seemed too hot to do stuff; blame it on our age, blame it on our psyches or willingness, but mostly blame it on the heat – all we could seem to do was sit around camp and share stories in the shade, which is an honest highlight of my weekend.

Saturday night we were on a mission, and found a perfect place to plant ourselves for the Lucent Dossier Experience.  Transfixed in the moment, the crowd almost ceased to dance, move or breathe until the tantalizing performance came to an emotive close – only to erupt in jubilant cheer.  As we sat on the ground, patently waiting for the Jamie XX to take the stage we found ourselves involved with what I still consider one of the most impressive glow stick ropes of all time.

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It started small, with our neighbors sitting in front of us gleefully funneling the pieces down a supply chain of silliness and we couldn’t help but join in once the chain reached us.  Once the people around us realized what was happening, it felt like all hands on deck as the glowing snake wrapped itself from the lighting booth and up to the front row – and back again before the start of the set.  I wasn’t familiar with Jamie XX before his set but I’ve easily been converted into a believer after watching him effortlessly move between three different equipment set ups and what sounded like all of genres: disco, house, funk, industrial, and some groovy warehouse tracks with heavy bass that were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  We felt the pull of the mindwarping, brain melting bass coming from Minnesota and G Jones B2B set at the Thunder Stage but after a few tracks, found ourselves back at the Lightning for the genius that is Jamie XX to finish our night.

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Both a festival and a nature adventure, Lightning in a Bottle was rich with reasons to ditch the cell phone and live in the moment, harmonize on your serendipity when you find long lost squad members and create new bonds when you can’t. And for the most part, I’d left my phone on airplane mode all weekend less talking to my parents when we set up shop on Friday, but Sunday I had a gut feeling that never left, and a last text to reaffirm my unfortunate suspicions – it was Sandy’s final night, and full of light and love, her life’s candle was snuffed out as her soul dissolved back into the collective unconscious.  

With little sleep in our veins, the whole camp was up and at’em early on Sunday morning, and with good cause – with all of our powers combined, we pulled off some epic bacon bagel sandwiches and finally had a family meal in the shade as we geared up for our last hurrah. Gathering our bearings, we were excited for a day outing with just a little less heat.  Making last minute wardrobe changes in the middle of a champagne campaign, I mused about the circumstances that brought us together and the friendships that we’d curated. And for the first time all weekend, all the camps that we’d bonded with were making it out to the dancefloor together; five camps that had fused into one – ten life trajectories that were tangled in all the right places for one a beautiful weekend.

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Dancing our way over to the Russ Liquid Test, the beat controlled my body as I giggled and grooved to this modern day jazz experiment, a funky side project that was perfect for my Sunday Funday get down. We ebbed over to the ethereal temple built from cans and upcycled materials and took in the final sunset while Desert Dwellers effused a tantalizing, tribal set that sent waves of euphoria through my veins.  Drinking in the moment, and a tasty margarita, our inner spirit animals came loose one last time, howling in delight as the sun made it’s last LIB descent, pulling a curtain of galaxies closely behind her.

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After a quick rendez-vous at the camp site, we gathered our squad for one final hurrah as we tromped through the festival grounds.  We drank from a giant spoon as we gleefully gallivanted  over to cacophony of carins in the shadow of the Ferris Wheel. Heading to the Favela Bar, B.R.E.E.D.’s tantalizing brand hip shaking, booty popping, soul writhing bass music was calling us and made it was easy to forget that anyone else was playing, let alone Mr. Carmack and Moderat.

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One of the only sets that caught my squads’ attention for it’s entire duration, B.R.E.E.D. had the entire side stage engulfed in the masterful, musical moment.  A perfect segue to closing the festival out with pantyraid on the Thunder Stage.

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Over the last decade, Lightning in a Bottle has evolved from a benevolent birthday celebration to a 20,000 person festival and growing. As long as the Do LaB has operated their stage at Coachella, there has been a technicolor wormhole that sieves rave babies and bros towards LIB.  In turn, the festival as no choice but to grow at an exponential level – and with those growth spurts come growing pains.  Now featuring a sold out crowd, almost every space feels cramped for the night time sets as stages filled with neon totems that in mass essentially block the stage. Within the five or six weeks between the two festivals, it feels near impossible to inform thousands of fist pumping, neon Sparkle Ponies on the ethos of LIB’s ‘Pack in – pack out’ and ‘Leave it better, leave it beautiful’ mentalities though they’re certainly hit over the head with reminders to buy their ticket and take the ride.  Beach cleanups pair up nicely with events they’ve paired up with like Subtract On The Pier while block parties and BBQs with street cleanups, and I believe there are ways to implement their green mentalities year round and in their home communities of Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area. But a place to buy extra trash bags, or a location to collect recycling and donate funds to the community or back into the event are also viable options albeit outside of the original ethos of the event.

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The magic and music of Lightning in a Bottle will always pull an esteemed crowd of audiophiles and art fanatics, merry makers and music lovers, festival families, LIB virgins and seasoned veterans – all coming together to celebrate this thing called life.  Put together with love and passion by the team at the Do LaB, this year’s festival boasted an immaculate range of talent and a community thirsty for Lightning’s transformative power. If you couldn’t get enough of the Do LaB crew at LIB, try out their Summer sister festival – Woogie Weekend just a few days away!  Soak in the sunshine while you bounce around to International House legends and locally loved Techno talent.

Tickets for Woogie Weekend are still available here.

For more on Lightning in a Bottle and the Do LaB, connect with them on their socials:

Lightning in a Bottle: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

The Do Lab: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud | Youtube

All photography courtesy of Daniel Leist Photography

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[The Audiofiles] Coachella 2k16: Where The Creme of the Crop Rises to the Top

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Once upon a time, in a not so far away land, children reveled in laughter while trying to navigate the world and exchanged dreams like candy on Halloween. Our internal and collective happiness was less a choice and more a way of life where trials and tribulations disappeared into the infinite abyss of “the real world.”  Time ceased to exist, while each day was approached with a childlike sense of wonder and amazement in search of what we could create and how we could collaborate.  Social media meant knocking on your friends door and asking if they could come to play, writing on a wall was passing notes in class and instead of finding the right filter or caption to capture the memory, we were fully present – we had no option not to be; we marinated in the moment and savored every second. 13063054_10103029581136974_1047385810506156910_o

Months, years, sometimes even decades would come and go but those little hopes that manifested into full on daydreams stayed as much a part of us as our arms, legs, head and toes. You could cover those dreams up – shove them into a corner of your brain and refuse to recognize them…you could dismiss them, refer to them as a lofty venture from a lifetime ago or the flippant figments of your youth.  But that would be missing the point of life.  No matter how big or small – those dreams of our youth are the backbone of our ethos, they’re the heartbeat that drives us and the underlying reason we care so deeply about what we contribute to this world and how we leave our mark.

Call your dreams by whatever name you want – but call them; call a spade a spade and a dream a dream.  Call your dreams loudly and proudly in the name of manifesting your own magic in this dance we call life.  Call them out loud because to not acknowledge your dreams is to cut your life short while you’re still living it.  In a million different ways with a thousand different faces, from the artists and headliners, stage managers and photographers, videographers and lighting designers, writers, press and even festival attendants – Coachella is full of the evolution of the children who refused to let go of their dreams.

Boasting a vibrant history, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is the perfect place for both musicians and music lovers to see and be scene.  Now in it’s 17th year, the festival stands proudly as a kaleidoscope of internationally acclaimed auditory and artistic talent for the tried and true audiophiles to the average music maven, on down to anyone with a single iota of instrumental inclination and a thirst for auditory adventures.  In beautiful juxtaposition of musical memories in the making at Coachella, the entirety of Indio fosters a deep cultural history that reaches back somewhere between an epoch and an eon.

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For at least the last 5,000 years, the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians has carved their community into the rolling desert landscape surrounding Palm Springs.  At first glance a barren area, the Agua Caliente capitalized on the mystical and sacred hot springs, known in their native tongue as  ‘Se-Khi‘ – translating into ‘Hot Water’, the original name for ‘Palm Springs.’  Sprinkled throughout the desert, the clean water from the hot springs paved the way for a dynamic life in an otherwise desolate location and provided the Agua Caliente with a connection to the spiritual world that was infused into the land.

A self professed math and science nerd, I admittedly was terrible with history, but even I know what happened next: the birth of a nation and the decimation of a culture; an unfortunate domestic history that we’re too quick to dismiss, about a community either blatantly appropriated or completely ignored (personally, I’m not sure which is worse – but I digress – and will save that diatribe for another time.) After spending four days immersed in Indio, it’s still beautifully apparent that the ethos of the Agua Caliente culture and community live on deep inside the land, offering a passionate pulse and gentle pull towards greatness that resides in each step and every breath.  Fast forward to our present moment and a parallel, blossoming energy thrives in that same desert – shared by our collective consciousness and reinvigorated by the flame of each new encounter.

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Back in 2011, this kitten right here purchased her first ticket to a multi-day music festival, not fully understanding the implications of her chosen life path; last year, work became play, and I returned to the Empire Polo Fields under the guise of new PR job with The Confluence and this year, I was blessed with the opportunity to dive in from the media angle – making for an unforgettable weekend with some of my favorite people.  My fourth appearance at Coachella, this year marked my first time at Weekend 2 and I’ll tell you what – I’ll take it: less packed and more room, fewer A-list celebrities and paparazzi style press – unless you’re aweirdos that’s into that kinda thing – and an overall feeling of relaxation; a stark dichotomy with the go-go-fucking-go nature of Weekend 1. Juice Girl

From world class snackables, discussion worthy fashion choices and the musical soundtrack of this very moment, Coachella has manifested into much more than a hub of artistic talent – Coachella is a time capsule of pop culture, drawing on our modern amusements while capturing our creative spirit.  Not a festival for the faint of heart, or heat, each weekend of Coachella crowed with temperatures reaching well into 90s and above – which, for people like me, paved the way for super breathable fashion choices and a whole lot of hydration (the key to a long and successful weekend).  For any foodies, or all around fat kids at heart, the culinary choices at the festival were tantamount to the musical lineup – with mouth watering pressed juices, scrumptious corn dogs and the obligatory Coachella watermelon.

The West Coast’s Music mecca, the festival really does offer something for everyone in your squad. Originally a five stage, one day festival – Coachella has evolved to house well over 200 different artists. Not that any of us needed additional proof that EDM has evolved from a counter culture hub to a pop culture phenomenon, but instead of strictly dominating the Sahara Tent – dance music was dispersed onto every single stage: from addition of the Yuma Stage, the ever refreshing Heineken Dome, the Silent Disco back in the campgrounds, the Dispacio – a newfangled disco den and dual lineups for the different weekends at the Do LaB stage.

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Depending on how acutely or loosely you define your genres, or more accurately: how much of a douche you want to be about them, it’s arguable that anywhere from 35% to 40% of acts the lineup have their roots in dance music, especially when most of the new stages only play dance music (I’m looking at you, Yuma).  Whether you’re a technophile that refuses to acknowledge there are other colors besides black and feelings besides ‘robot’, a push-button EDM enthusiast who’s only mission for the weekend is to rage face while the bass drops, a live music lover looking to be moved by emotive vocals or flat out want to go where the weird turn pro – there’s a place for you…unless you’re a trance head, but hey – can’t win them all. Yuma DL Photo

The Yuma Tent had thankfully been slightly reimagined since last year.  But, when I say ‘slightly reimagined’ I mean that it’s still a mindfuck of a dimly lit disco den that I perpetually wish was a roller rink (wink wink, nudge nudge), the beds in the back were a great touch – and probably a wonderful refuge during the dust storms or the hot afternoons, but I was not a fan of the disco disorientation (disco-orientation?) of the building.  I only managed to make it to a few sets and admittedly left not long after walking in, every time.

Tucked away in a corner of the festival is my favorite portion, a festival within a festival at the Do LaB stage.  For those in the know, the Do LaB hosts their own festivals – Lightning in a Bottle and Woogie Weekend – and it’s always beyond me having to choose between great artists.  I love hanging out at the stage during Coachella because it’s almost Desert Hearts meets LiB vibe, one love that’s felt in the heart of the dance floor one stage so you never have competing underground talent, one love – and a whole lot of booty shaking, feel good bass music that fills your soul, one molecule at a time. I consider the stage my personal safety net; like Linus and his blanket – the Do LaB stage can’t be described any other way except ‘home‘.  It’s a conscious community dripping with delicious drops of water and a menagerie of music fit for it’s own festival – which is about to transpire at the end of the month.

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After first finding our festival bearings on Friday afternoon, it was off to the races – and by races, I mean the water misters and friendly faces at the Do LaB stage.  One of the best things about being at Coachella, regardless of the stage, is that you’re going to stumble across talent that’s either brand new, or brand new to you  – and you could very well be discovering your new favorite artists; that’s exactly what happened when Melvv and Ekali sandwiched an epic, live set from Autograf – both artists went from 0 to 100 in my radar, real quick.  Autograf DL Photo 2Not to dismiss Autograf by any means, as they were actually one of my personal highlights of the weekend – dance music with live instruments and stunning live vocals? Yes, please!  We planned on heading out right after their set, but then Ekali took the decks….and decided to hang out for a few songs, and then dance at the back of the stage for another few more before we were actually as cold as we thought we were and went to change for the evening.

After accidentally stumbling into Jayceeoh’s set in the Heineken House instead of Doctor P, we bee-lined over to the Sahara Tent we could fuck around and order more money with G-Eazy. I only recently got into him as an artist after one of my girlfriends, who’s basically coachella2016Day2-76self professed in love with him, kept posting his tracks – and I’ll be the first to tell you: that’s a live show worth catching.  Plus, it was refreshing getting a dose of Hip Hop on the Sahara Tent. Heading over to the Outdoor Theater for Jack Ü, I kept wishing that we were seeing Diplo x Skrillex throw down in the Sahara. Maybe I’d had enough dance music for the day, but I couldn’t get into all of their bleeps and bloops and left slightly unimpressed by two artists I thoroughly enjoy.  Bouncing back to the Do LaB Stage, we got our sexy groove on as Sweater Beats wooed the crowd.  I’ve seen him a handful of times before, and this was by far my favorite performance – plus, everyone loves bubbles.  Hippie Sabotage shut down the Do LaB stage with a high octane performance, and a whole lot of swearing. Last but certainly not least, we culminated our Friday night with the captivating acrobatics and eccentric theatrics of the electro-cirque performance troupe, Lucent Dossier Experience headlining the Sahara Tent. A group I’ve watched grow over the time I’ve lived in Los Angeles, it was breathtaking to see them headline the Sahara Tent – and they gave one hell of a performance to boot.

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All of Saturday morning, I had it planned out – get to the festival in time for Gary Clark Jr, get to the festival in time for GCJ…I’d even talked to my mom about it that morning.  But even the best laid plans at festivals seem to go awry as we walked in right as he was getting into his last song. But to her token, her taste in The Arcs, HEALTH and GCJ got me a whole lot of street cred while I was waiting in line to get inside for Day 2 (thanks, Lola!). After dancing our way past the Merch booth and food stands, we wound up front and center for Sacha Robotti’s epic Dirtybird Birthday set on the Do LaB stage.  Craving more live music, we took a turn back to the Coachella stage for Run the Jewels and I spent about 30 minutes trying to enjoy the set.  They brought out Travis Barker and DJ Shadow, which was pretty awesome, but it just….didn’t do it for me.  So, we wandered and meandered, in the search of nothing novel, just something…else. AlunaGeorge’s put on a moving show in the Sahara, and the Hotel Garuda pulled Hotel Garuda DL Photoout all the stops to throw one hell of a party.  If Ice Cube wasn’t performing after, we would’ve stuck around for Cut Snake – but why deny what you feel inside? For the record, worth it: Cube reunited NWA for the first time in 27 years, that’s almost my entire lifetime! As we were on our way out to catch some of Rufus dul Sol, an act that hands down everyone I ran into said I had to see, our friend Sheldon heard the unmistakable rasp of Kendrick Lamar’s voice and we literally all sprinted back to the main stage, screaming ‘ We gon’ be alright’ – because you know, we are gonna be alright. Finally, we made it to Rufus dul Sol, and I’ll hand it to all those people – that was some phenomenal live music; I definitely cried some sappy love tears during Inner Bloom, frantically texting my fiance so I could steal a moment and a kiss.  We missed Zedd’s performance, but he waved to us in the Rose Garden the next day – so, that was cool. Instead, we shook our tail feathers to the bone tingling sounds of the two special guests at the Do LaB for the evening – Claptone and MK!

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If the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy warns you to always have a towel, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Festival will warn you to always have your bandanna handy – you never know when a rogue dust storm will hit. Which it did, several times.  As I mini-tribaled my way by Rancid’s set on Sunday, the wind would pick up every so often and by the time I reached the press tent, I overheard what I can only assume was on-site production staff or Goldenvoice softly cackled about potential 70 MPH winds that could send tents flying and shut down the festival.

But no one seemed to know, notice or care – because the Sunday Funday game was strong, and the show most definitely went on. I finally made it through a full set in the sweaty Sahara tent for Tokimonsta –Kraddy DL Photo and was it ever worth it. According to MIC, this year Coachella has booked 44 female lead or co-lead bands, accounting for nearly a quarter of the lineup, a festival first – and stark improvement from 16% of the bill last year, and the historically dismal disparities in gender.  However that’s on the main lineup, and doesn’t account for the lack of female artists on Dance Music stages like in the Heinekin Dome, the Do LaB stage or even the Sahara Tent – where Tokimonsta was one of the few female performers alongside Nina Las Vegas, Dena Amy, AlunaGeorge and the Lucent Dossier Experience.  FYI, Festivals – this girl thinks it’s dope to see a dope chick do dope things.

After a jaunt by the food kiosks for just one more corndog, we were on our way back home to finish out the night with the Do LaB.  Just As KRCW’s Jason Bently finished sweetly spinning the crowd into harmonic delirium, the Stanton Warriors and Kraddy brought the bass as they left their souls on the stage that night.  Each artist brought the funky fresh dance moves, Prince tributes, and overall Sunday vibes to an all around high.  I hadn’t seen Stanton Warriors since they played with Krafty Kuts back in 2009, and hearing their delicious breakbeats at peak volume was music to my ears.  A former, and co-founding member, of The Glitch Mob – Kraddy threw one hell of a party, fully equipped with fan and fire dancers.There was only one way to top that closing lineup, and that was with an epic Surprise set from Diplo, Jillionare and Walshy Fire as Major Lazer took over the Do LaB for one hell of a closing party – and a completely different vibe than they had on the main stage.  Sorry Calvin Harris, but this was my kinda party.

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Even if it’s for just one second, we’re all itching to throw our real world cares away to revel and rejoice in what it means to be free from responsibility, work and familial obligation, cutting electronic tethers and ties and forging real connection – we’re left with a wanderlust mentality that only asks ‘Where to next, ol’ friend?’  There’s nothing quite like a high frequency, family reunion with upper echelon personalities – and that’s precisely what you’ll get, if you choose to seek it. When you’ve fully engrossed yourself within a festival like Coachella, when you come to a top tier event and are surrounded left and right by people that have passionately pursued their dreams to take the stage – you would literally have to go out of your way to not be bit by their bug of inspiration, to not take a drink of that success juice.

Growing in kind with the supply and demand of dance music, and the music industry in general, the landscape of Coachella is continually changing, from individual hours spent on the Polo Fields themselves to stage count and overall capacity. Over the last decade, AEG has evolved Coachella from a multi day festival to a multi weekend festival – and with the new advent of the Panorama Festival, a sister music and arts festival in New York this Summer, the Coachella brand has become bi-coastal and even more pop culture relevant, if that was possible; yes, it’s true – even your mom has heard of Coachella. 

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For all the good, there are definitely still some changes that could be made.  With the influx of EDM artists to other stages, I was pleased to see the Sahara Tent do things a bit differently on Friday night; from the breath of fresh lyrical air bestowed by Bay Area native G Eazy, who brought out Lil Wayne, and duo Rae Sremmurd (Drummers Ear backwards, for those not in the know). And no one in their right mind could deny the collaborative genius of Ice Cube’s gangsta party on the main stage – bringing out MC Ren, DJ Yella and Dr. Dre for the first reunion of NWA in 27 years, The Game, and Kendrick Lamar just to put the cherry on top of that sundae.  13119116_10103029597119944_6148693470379806684_nAdd in A$AP Rocky and Run the Jewels with cameos from Travis Barker and DJ Shadow – and it’s a fantastic subset of Hip Hop culture – with subset being the operative term.  For the vast amounts of overall music at the festival, Rap and Hip Hop account for an incredibly small sliver of the talent; if women could get equal representation on the lineup, that would be wonderful – though it would also imply equal representation in the music industry – which unfortunately doesn’t exist. Stagecoach is the following weekend I wouldn’t mind a few more Country Music acts on the bill as well – hey, I’m equal opportunity.

Then, there’s my 2 part PSA for the DJs: I wouldn’t go to a Drake concert and expect him to drop a verse like Kanye, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers – so why do we enjoy seeing DJs play someone else’s tracks?  I want to hear your music and experience your creative prowess, not discover that you have a great face for radio. Also, no more cop sirens in songs – sincerely, me.

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Ngene Mwaura @ Do LaB Stage

The live art at the Do LaB stage is such a wonderful idea, and I would love to see any of the other 7 stages follow suit; though, I think about all you could do in the Yuma is light painting and long exposures.  As for the art installations – eh. The giant lamps were back, or maybe they never left – and did you see those big fucking chairs – or, BFCs -?  Right, because you couldn’t miss them.  Last year’s giant butterfly was astounding, and the corporate hippos were as hilarious as they were conversation starting…but all those BFCs did was actually piss me off. Just bring back the caterpillar next year and everyone will be happy, promise.

With as packed as the event already is, the impending threat of a 25% population increase makes my non-collegiate, claustrophobic bones shake – because some sets were difficult to navigate through, or even around. Does that mean that they’ll open up more of the festival grounds?  Only time will tell.

Stay tuned for even more from Goldenvoice and AEG host to Desert Trip, or Geriatric Coachella,  with Bob Dylan, The Who and The Rolling Stones back at the Empire Polo Club this Fall; tickets for Desert Trip go on sale Monday, 5/9 at 10 AM. Then, in 2017, AEG and Live Nation will finally threaten Los Angeles with a good time in 2017 with the impending Arroyo Seco Music and Arts Festival at Pasadena’s famed Rose Bowl.

For more on the latest and greatest on Coachella, including their impending sale of tickets for next year’s festival – head over to their website or socials:

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Keep up with former The DJ List photographer  Daniel Leist in his new venture at Getty Images, for more on Daniel head to his socials.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[LA Life] The Growth of the Empire Polo Fields

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In news out of The Palm Springs Desert Sun this morning, it appears that the world’s number one grossing music festival is once again making big moves. Over the last decade, The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California has shifted from a one day, one weekend occasion to a three day, two weekend phenomenon.

Last year alone, the festival drew 99,000 dancing, smiling faces each weekend – drawing 198,000 people with both weekends combined, and took in nearly $85 Million, according to Forbes. This past Wednesday, the Indio City Council approved Goldenvoice’s March proposal to increase the attendance cap for their April Festivities – with Coachella’s attendance blossoming over 25% from 99,000 a weekend to 125,000 a weekend; meaning total attendance rises to 250,000 from 198,000. Stagecoach, which occurs the following weekend, is expected to increase from 75,000 to 85,000 – raising by a mere 13%, in comparison.

Back in 2013, Goldenvoice, the parent company of Coachella, threatened to leave Indio over a 6% tax on tickets, which as you very well know cost in the ballpark of $350; meaning $21 of every ticket would have gone to the city, or roughly $4.15 Million. Instead, Goldenvoice set an agreement with the city that will keep them there at least until the year 2030. Within that agreement, Goldenvoice agreed that it would give $5.01 of every ticket sold to the city of indio – a 200% increase in profit. The agreement also paved the way for Goldenvoice to increase their festival breadth in the city from three events a year to five, two of them in the Fall! (Also, WHAT?!)

But, back to the original point – with Coachella’s attendance alone (198,000), Indio makes nearly $1 Million in taxes, add in Stagecoach and you have $1.36 Million. With the increase in capacity of 62,000 extra audiophiles, Indio is slated to add an extra 20% in profit, making nearly $1.67 Million.  With the current supply and demand economy of the festival world, this news truly drives home the idea that we’re swimming in a money market with the sharks and are too blinded by the glitter, lasers and confetti to see it.

With Coachella already feeling like it’s pushing capacity and it’s internationally renowned cast of musicians drawing exponentially large crowds – it will be interesting to see how this impacts the flow of the event, or if they will choose to increase the festival grounds to account for their growth in attendance.

What are your thoughts on the raise in attendance?

Here’s some music while you get those thoughts together.

For more on Coachella, head to their social media channels:

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[The Audiofiles] Coachella’s Creators, AEG, Bring Music Festivals Back to LA With The Arroyo Seco Music & Arts Festival

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With Coachella less than two weeks away and hype about the East Coast’s Panama Music + Arts Festival premiere later this year, it’s refreshing to hear that AEG is finally gearing up to bring the Music, Art and magic back into Los Angeles – where it belongs! With great excitement (and some slight disdain from Pasadena residents who fear for their musical tastes to be expanded), The Arroyo Seco Music Festival is slotted for 2017 – and it’s got this East LA resident all sorts of pumped.

“As we embark on another busy events season, we are always thinking about the future. To that point, the Rose Bowl Operating Company and the City of Pasadena continue to evaluate potential opportunities which fit with our community and which could contribute much needed revenue to maintain the historic Stadium for years to come. As you may be aware, one such proposed event is a Music & Arts Festival at the Rose Bowl and we wanted to share with you a little about the concept and also key aspects of the decision-making process.” – Official Rose Bowl Statement

12512417_10102988303762164_7090201985702856433_nThe Arroyo Seco Music & Arts Festival stands to be a world class event eliciting massive acclaim from audiophiles, musicians and fans alike and Pasadena is the perfect city to carry on the tradition that Coachella would set forth. Proposed to be held over either a two or three day period in June of 2017, the ASMAF would hold true to the Coachella tradition of artist tastemakers and bootyshakers from around the globe.

With the magnanimous amounts of internationally renowned talent, Coachella has always been a current Who’s Who of the Music circuit from across the genres, Funk, Folk, Big Band, Rap, Alternative, Disco, Dubstep, EDM, Punk Rock and so much more; bringing a festival of this caliber back to the city of Los Angeles that so desperately wants a festival they can at least metro to would be sweet, sweet music to our dancing ears.

More as the story breaks, but for more – head to the official Rose Bowl Webpage for a statement. For more on AEG, head to their website here

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[The Audiofiles] Beyond Wonderland: The Beauty and The Beats

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Every day is a delightful dance of dichotomy infused with synchronicity, where we’re flirting with paradoxes and adapting to chaos.  We’re perpetually awarded the opportunity to pursue our destiny and unearth our desires; though, to do so, it’s imperative that we’re constantly discovering ourselves, in an ever evolving fashion.  It’s not about reinventing the wheel, rather shedding our skin like snakes and blossoming like Babushka Dolls.

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
The Red QueenAlice in Wonderland –

Life, it seems, isn’t much different – working tirelessly to stay above water; where too often than not, we’re a victim of our own feedback cycles, part of the mundane 9 to 5 trivialities where we’re exhausted by the end of the work day and have to ration our passions.  But, when you go beyond yourself,  beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone, and beyond your preconceived notions, you can be free; when we go Beyond Wonderland, the possibilities are beautifully infinite and infinitely beautiful.

Ten years ago when I was still at UCSB, a few friends threatened me with a good time and convinced me to go to my first big music event: Electric Daisy Carnival 2006, or as they referred to it – a ‘rave’; and now, almost 10 years later, I was heading back to San Bernadino for my first Beyond Wonderland.  Rave, Massive, Music Festival …whatever you want to call it, what it ended up being was life changing. But what the media reports, is an entirely different story, and it’s imperative that we acknowledge the connotations surrounding the word.

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One look at any mainstream media source and you’d believe that the events run rampant with illicit drug use and explicit, if not deadly, amounts of consumption, a place where rules and regulations are replaced with dystopian views of reality. But spend one day engrossed in an event, one moment in the dancing shoes of someone who’s been there…come over to the other side just once and you’ll be singing a different song. Our festivals are explorations of time and space, creating a world that celebrates the moment and the best that humanity has to offer, where attendants have each others backs and look out for each other. The current negative stigma surrounding raves is even more unfortunate because these events more than live up to the literal definition.  One look into the linguistics and etymology of the word, and you’ll understand why.

Rave descends from the Old French raver, a variant of resver – meaning ‘to dream.’ By the 1700’s, to rave meant to discuss something with great enthusiasm and admiration.  During the 1950’s and 1960’s in England, ‘rave’ was a term used to describe wild bohemian parties, a word revived by the electronic music scene of the 1980’s.  The rest you could say – is dance music history.

But, it’s the second denotation that gets me: a rave is a physical framework added to the sides of a cart to increase its capacity.  Over the course of this ride we call life, a rave absolutely can increase it’s capacity – by increasing our emotional magnitude for understanding and the depth of our being by enriching us and enlightening us to the wonder we cultivate.  Built on individuality and creativity, raves are for the odd balls and weird eggs, the rare birds of a feather that get down together every blue moon under an electric sky.

Last weekend on Friday, March 18 and Saturday March 19,over 60,000 music fans arriving in festival families flocked to the stunning landscape of the San Manuel Amphitheater to dance away the last moments of Winter and Danny and I were both honored to capture the magic of the occasion.

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From lovely lightning on the overhang of the entryway to decadent decoration adorning literally all of the trees, the entire park was illuminated in a warm technicolor glow as an array of costumed characters filtered in, filling the grounds. With the combined Friday night and Festival traffic, we didn’t reach the festival until almost 10.  Dancing our way in to the sounds of Chris Lake, we gave our legs a quick stretch while we jumped in line for some tasty cold beverages.

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After quickly surveying the scene, we scampered from the Queen’s Domain, through the Cheshire Woods where Kink was throwing a good old fashioned House Party, and made our way to the Outer realm hosted by Dreamstate to scope out the very end of Myon & Shane 54’s Trance Showcase. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an Insomniac show, and there’s no better feeling than the inspiring tones of trance booming from a glorious PK Sound System.  Next, Giuseppe Ottavianni & Solarstone dazzled the crowd with their ethereal, spine tingling performance as Pure NRG – but I had to pull myself back to the main arena for some feels as Galantis pulled out all the stops.

A supergroup made from Christian “Bloodshy” Karlsson of Miike Snow fame and Linus Eklöw, best known as Style of Eye, Galantis’ blissful beats layered over crooning vocals and textured synths made for one of the best sets of the weekend, playing hits from their debut album ‘Pharmacy‘ like ‘Runaway (U+I)‘ and my personal favorite’Peanut Butter Jelly‘. In a fit of irony, I tried to get a picture of their amazing Seafox visuals on my phone – but my phone apparently had other plans and took a hearty bath in my mixed drink. Originally annoyed, I quickly remembered that I knew all of three people out of the thousands in attendance, one of them being my fiance.  Almost immediately, I let a smile wash over my face as I resolved that the universe did me a solid by forcing me to forget about my electronic leash. Plus, Danny is an exceptional photographer and I knew I’d be able to rely on him to snap some stunners – which he definitely did!

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After another quick boogie with Kink in the Cheshire Woods, it was back to the Outer Realm to hear what Andrew Rayel had to offer: an uplifting, progressive Trance set that rattled your bones; a brand of ‘festival’ Trance that I immensely enjoy. While we were comfortably waiting on the lush grass, a jolly gentleman skipped by with his hands full of water bottles.  Eagerly, he turned to all of us – ‘Do you need any water…Would you like a bottle?’ He echoed, effusing the area with his infectious spirit. ‘We’re giving them out for free; here – have one!’ It’s this kind of spirit that creates the ethos of our community, and the type of giving that’s a cornerstone of our culture.

And then, what I’ve personally been waiting forever for – Ferry Corsten’s new live concept show: Gouryella.  From ‘Beautiful’, ‘Fire’ and’Into the Dark’ through ‘Black Velvet’ and ‘Twice in a Blue Moon’,  I’ve been a huge fan of Ferry’s for almost a decade now and  I find solace and strength within the weight of his music. And Gouryella did not disappoint – the poignant, visuals containing emotive questions forayed into mathematically influenced nature sequences as his driving brand of trance brought the music home.  At the end of the night, we made it back to the Queen’s Domain for some good, old fashioned champagne and bananas with Dada Life, as we kicked out the epic motherfucker to wind down the night.  The crowd was amped, with banana inspired totems, flags and costumes…which for the most part were amazing, but I have to admit that with a vast sea of totems clogging the bottom of the stage I feel like I’m missing part of the show.

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As I lamented the premature black screen of death on my phone while we sauntered out of the grounds, Danny and I were gleefully surprised as one of our favorite humans, and photographers, Juliana –known in the scene as Get Tiny,popped out of the woodwork as we made our way to our car.  If you haven’t seen her pictures, do yourself a favor – scope her out. One of the other two people I knew at the event, I was beyond ecstatic that our paths had crossed – but with the way festivals and coincides work, I was definitely not surprised – we were exactly where we needed to be.

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Get Tiny for Insomniac Events

With the last minute decision to attend Beyond Wonderland, I’ll be the first to admit that we weren’t the most prepared – but we did finagle a last minute hotel about ten minutes down the road from the event. Decompressing, we basked in the afterglow of Day 1.  As we cataloged memories, swooned over our favorite sets, I began to mull over the last few months and the direction of my life. Somewhere along the way, I’d convinced myself that I was growing up and out of the festival circuit. It’s not that I don’t, or didn’t, enjoy them – quite the contrary: I love festival. Maybe it’s the energy necessary to last at top emotional, mental, physical and spiritual shape for the entirety of the weekend events, or the detailed preparation that goes in from outfit choices to set times, the cacophony of personalities whose paths you cross…and on top of that, camping and surviving in the elements;  but, within that unique mixture of quality and quantity, I had burnt out.  Give me one night back at an Insomniac event, the music and the magic of community surrounding the event and the sheer ethos of it, and the fire inside has been reinvigorated ten fold.

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After an incredibly haphazard Saturday morning and afternoon that included absolutely no dull moments,  it was time to don our dancing gear and Caturday best to prepare to do it all over again – but with a twist!  Two of our good friends surprised us on Saturday afternoon after springing for a pair of tickets and we were excited to have our squad double in size for Day 2.  We made sure to get there with daylight to spare and headed straight through Sleepy Tom at the Queen’s Domain to the Outer Realm for Spag Heddi, one of our friend’s personal favorites and must see’s of the weekend. Hosted by the Bassrush Imprint on Saturday night, The Outer Realm highlighted the key players, movers and music makers currently in the Dubstep and Drum and Bass scenes…and not in Miami, but I digress.  It’s always more difficult to navigate a festival in the dark than the day, so we were on a mission to find the Ball Pit, the ‘Turning Wheel’,  Insomniac’s steam punk inspired art boat – the Beyond Wench, and their illusive fourth stage – The Upside-Down Room.

As we took in the sunset from the top of Lookout Mountain, it felt like the event was evolving in front of our eyes as layers of lasers at every angle cascaded through the cotton candy skies; and once again, we were off, off and away on the night’s musical adventure, gleefully bouncing back and forth between the stages, making sure to dance our way through each nook and cranny of the festival. Friday night had ample room to roam around, but with Saturday’s sold out status – I definitely felt the claustrophobia creeping in.  Good news is that I’ve never been around a more gracious group of people in my life, constantly with the ‘Please’ and ‘Excuse Me’…well, except for that one guy.  But apparently, more of the venue was used for last year’s festival and with the amount of flow toys that are admitted into the venue, I wouldn’t mind them expanding the grounds again for their next event.

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Klingande was an absolute delight, but I had to tear myself away for some Delta Heavy – but not before getting down to bangin’ Dirtybird sounds of Will Clarke.  One of my favorite groups for quite some time, I finally had my chance to catch Delta Heavy live.  Their euphoric drops and booming bass were doctor ordered and hearing ‘Ghost’ live was just as good as I expected.  Then it was back to the Queen’s Domain for a sonically salacious set from Slander, back again to the Outer Realm for an unbelievable set from Troyboi, who threw a full on electronically infused hip hop party.

After, we went back to the Queen’s Domain and headed  front and center for what I consider the best set of the weekend – an artist that refuses to fit into any one genre, Seven Lions.  Within one fell swoop during the height of his set, Seven Lions expertly fused ethereal Trance into a Bassnectar-esque breakdown and immediately into a Drumstep beat; I even had a few good cries to an incredible remix of Ferry Corsten’s ‘Beautiful’ and ‘No One On Earth’ from Above & Beyond.

With a few last minute changes, Doctor P was replaced on the lineup by the notorious NGHTMRE; I thought that my friends with last minute tickets would be a bit bummed by the revelation, but to the contrary – they were stoked!  After a few flight delays, NGHTMRE took the place of Ghastly on the Bassrush stage and oh my goodness, did he deliver – even giving us a hearty mix of ‘Gold Dust and closed out by bringing Slander on stage for one last song together.  Then, you guessed it, back to the main stage for the beginning of Deorro to get our Melbourne Bounce on.  As usual with the genre, there’s only so much I can take so I was thrilled to close out the night with some grooves on the giant Boombox, and then back to Datsik.

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While the clock neared 2 at the end of the night, Datsik started to close out his set with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ classic track ‘Otherside.’ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve actually heard the song remixed, so I was delighted to hear the emotive chord progressions of the original, an ode to our childhood and the music that inspired our musical tastes – the music that pushed us to where we currently are today.  As the soundboard insisted they cut the music, Datsik turned to the audience and urged us to sing along a capella – and sing along we did: tens of thousands of us, with an abundance of voices there were so many harmonies, scales and tones that regardless of how loudly or softly, on or off key you sang – you fit, you had a niche, your voice had a place, and the collective brevity of our voices can move mountains.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

For one weekend, thousands of friendly faces put their regular lives on hold in order to release themselves into a world where anything is truly possible.  A world where we give more than we take, offer compliments not condescension, decorate ourselves as loudly and boldly as we choose and can become whoever or whatever we desire.  We come together to celebrate the music and the moments, the beauty and the bass, while rediscovering our individuality within a heart warming community. For one weekend, we went Beyond Wonderland, and we’ve left forever changed.

Over the last twenty years, Pasquale Rotella and Insomniac Events have carefully created and curated an unshakable dynasty within dance music. The production value of the stages was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, it’s just as ostentatious, colorful and out of this world as it should be – and then some. I mean, did you see the water spouts on the Queen’s Domain, or that thrilling, shooting fire from the stage and sides of the Outer Realm, or any of the incredible fireworks shows?  Attend just one Insomniac Event and you simply won’t be able to take Fourth of July Fireworks seriously ever again.  Between the precise attention to each detail of the festival, pristine PK Sound System, ornate dancers and costumed characters in envy worthy costumes, a vibrant community with deep roots in the evolution of the dance scene and world class musicians, Beyond Wonderland proves once again that Rave is King.

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Next up for night owls and other rare birds of a feather – the sold out Bassrush Massive on April 2ndWe Are NRG heads to the NOS Center on May 20 + 21, Audio on the Bay May 28 + 29th in Northern California, and Nocturnal Wonderland was literally just announced for Labor Day Weekend. For those in Southern California, keep your ears to the ground for a new Warehouse party series in Downtown Los Angeles!

Be in the know on all things Insomniac and catch up on all the latest events through their social media channels.

Beyond Wonderland: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Insomniac Events: Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: Infinite”

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