Tag Archives: Lightning In a Bottle

[The Audiofiles] Coachella 2k17: Choose Your Own Auditory Adventure

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Photo:// Daniel Zetterstrom for Do LaB

Over the last two decades, Coachella has transformed from a simple music festival to a cultural time capsule.  Between the LA Weekly ranked munchies to the immersive artistic experiences, and of course the exceptional musical talent – the Coachella Music and Arts Festival provides an adult playground while tickling the senses in all the right places.

In event, and in ethos, Coachella is an elite gathering of international tastemakers and up and coming West Coast talent, ranging from musicians and artists, to stage designers, lighting and sound techs, production managers and more.  The festival curates from the creme of the crop, and the energy surrounding the event is palpable as everyone is operating at their highest frequency. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. For two consecutive weekends, Coachella plays host to 125,000 domestic and international audiophiles, ten stages of music and around 200 musical acts spanning literally every genre, and then creating some live, over a 72 hour span. That’s just on site – so, if you found those numbers overwhelming, now – imagine being there.

That said, one of the many beautiful facets about Coachella is that it’s truly a choose your own adventure type festival, making the weekend anything you want to be. You can go to a punk show at the Sonora Stage one moment, then indulge your inner lyricist with Hip Hop artists from Travis Scott, Denzel Curry, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q. Between the Heinekin Stage, Do LaB stage, Sahara Tent, Gobi and Yuma you can spend the weekend at a dance festival – wholeheartedly embracing the PLUR vibes that the event was made for. Or, you can only go to two days of the three day festival and spend the third having an actual vacation in Palm Springs, attend Desert X and come home revived for once instead of coming home burnt out. It can be a fashion show, a foodie’s wet dream or a family reunion, a chance for musical discovery and treasure trove of timeless favorites.  Sometimes it seems like the adventure chooses you, and not the other way around, but either way we all go in with one set of expectations and habitually have them slapped in the face, swirling at 180’s by the time we’re leaving.

The XX, Bon Iver and Bonobo were both gorgeous touches on the main stage, providing an oasis of calm in a colorful, and at times overwhelmingly overstimulating, storm; while in beautiful contrast, Kendrick Lamar closed the stage down on Sunday night, leaving the crowd with something to really think about. Per usual, the Sahara tent opened the doors to significantly more Rap and Hip Hop acts this year, once again providing a proper dance party with artists ranging from SNBRN, Galantis, DJ Khaled, Anna Lunoe, Gucci Mane, Autograf, GRYFFIN and more throwing down while keeping the energy up.

As with previous years, dance music has matriculated through the lineups on other stages beyond the Sahara. The Yuma provided a delightful disco den of deep, tech and progressive house with an internationally acclaimed roster of talent like Nora en Pure, Sasha, Tale of Us, Allison Swing, Dixon, Loco Dice, Hot Since 82, Four Tet-Daphni-Floating Points, and Maya Jane Coles.   Artists from Madeon x Porter Robinson, Justice, Tycho, Nicolas Jaar, What so Not, Jai Wolf, and Tourist were scattered from the Mainstage to the Gobi, and the Mojave to the Outdoor Theater. While the Heineken House and KROQ House both provided refreshing reposes from the rest of the grounds, with ample amounts of shade and air conditioning – two creature comforts that you have a hell of a lot more respect for after several days sweating to the beat in the desert. Last, but certainly not least, my home base and the place that always feels like a family reunion – the Do LaB stage.

As should be expected from Southern California’s premiere party planners, Do LaB’s stage designers outdid themselves with the construction of The Beacon, a bright and bold structure that will be coming with the crew to Lightning in a Bottle. Boasting a unique and expertly curated lineup for each weekend of Coachella, Do LaB’s stage is a wet, wild and whimsical artistic experience, fully equipped with dancing DJs, supersoakers, and high flying acrobatics; a festival within a festival, and a stage that’s a party within a party, quintessentially becoming a gateway drug to the beauty and beats of Lightning in a Bottle.

I think I’ve said this every year of Coachella, but kudos to the Do LaB for their impeccable bookings – perpetually and passionately giving us a birds eye view of the top acts in dance music.  If you’re in the mood for raw, upcoming talent – look no further than the first act each day: KNGSPRNGS, divaDanielle, Jonnie King, Oscure, Gone Gone Beyond and BOGL. Want a proper Sunday Funday dance party? Try the Desert Hearts squad on for size. And when it comes to big name artists, Do LaB provides an arena for artists to return to their roots – or just forge new ones, allowing for musical exploration and artistic experimentation.  For the first time since Chase & Status brought down the Sahara tent nearly a decade ago, Coachella had a true taste of Drum and Bass from Netsky and Liquid Stranger, oh – and then some guy named Skrillex showed up for a secret set and shut the place down, touching nearly every genre of music ever created and even creating a few new ones on the spot.  Other secret sets at Do LaB over the two weekends included Classixx, Richie Hawtin, Louis The Child, Rufus du Sol, Tycho and Autograf.

Two years ago, there was a giant caterpillar that roamed the festival grounds, metamorphosing into a lovely, large butterfly.  That was amazing.  Last year, there were corporate hippos, which were not nearly as cool as the butterfly but art being art, whatever – I liked them a lot more than the giant chairs and lamps which made me feel like my name was Alice, I ate something and now I’m in Wonderland…but Wonderland is just an Outdoor Ikea; anyways.  This year…well, this year someone let Dr. Seuss’s dildo collection loose among the main stages and though it provided some laughable moments, I just wanted that damn beautiful butterfly back.

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Coachella and the Goldenvoice name have grown exponentially over the last decade: adding more days, stages and weekends. But this year, for the first time in a long time – the festival increased in capacity as well, adding 25% in ticketed attendance and finally feeling the growing pains.  As festival population increased, the local Coachella Valley population also exponentially increases – and at a faster rate, to boot: consider the percentage of friends who would come and not even attend the festival, additional amount of event workers to handle the new stages, paired with a gross increase in the amount of events that occur in tandem with the festival – Goldenvoice’s LED Pool Party, Desert X and the menagerie of private parties for and by the musicians.

To combat the population  growth, the grounds were expanded and pushed back – but I actually had no idea where three stages were the first day, because fuck a map apparently. Yes, there’s a lot of room for activities but Coachella might finally be at the point of too much room for activities, when you actually get FOMO mid-festival because you simply can’t experience everything.   Handling the growth of the festival from inside it became relatively manageable by the end, but what wasn’t manageable was the parking situation which became exponentially worse as attendees trickled in through Sunday: causing up to a 3 hour backup as reported by the Press-Enterprise.  And if you wanted to forgo day parking and try using Uber, who has been touted as a partner with the festival itself, users were charged a disgusting minimnum of $175 – sometimes upwards of $250 – due to surge pricing as reported by the LA Weekly.  These two factors alone were enough to drive a variety of non-camping festival attendants to either exit stage left early Sunday and forgo favorite acts from Kendrick Lamar to Galantis, or take to social media to rant and rave about their first world travesties.

The adventures we choose at Coachella forge the musically monumental paths of the weekend, but I think the real testament to Coachella are the adventures we choose after we leave – did we find ourselves wanting more of a specific artist or genre?  Have we been rock fans our whole lives and suddenly find our niche with Dubstep and Trap?  Do we enjoy witty lyricisms in music and have a new appreciation for the incredible hip hop artists that were featured at this years event?  Do we snag our ticket to Lightning in a Bottle immediately upon returning home to decompress because we feel like we’ve finally discovered a hub of technicolor creation that mirrors the kaleidoscopic nature of our soul?

Despite the gradients of heat waves we endured for over 72 hours, each and every festival attendant left Coachella left feeling emotionally recharged, refreshed and revived – even if our sore muscles felt anything but.  We laughed, danced and discovered – not just music, but the true nature of ourselves: that child who had been forced to grow up that we’ve been shoveling under 40 hour a week jobs, forgetting that there’s another part to our soul that has needs and wants to – and fun in the sun with like minded souls to amazing music that touches every subject and genre is a large part of that. The idea of festival is necessary, when the only difference a stranger and I might disagree on is what our favorite act was – not which way they voted.

Keep your eyes on The DJ List as we dish on our top acts, best musical discoveries from the weekend and so much more.  To keep up on all things Coachella and their content curators, follow the links below – and be sure to keep your eyes and ears open because tickets for next year’s gala featuring Beyonce will probably go on sale any moment now.

Coachella // Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Goldenvoice //  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud

Do LaB // Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

KROQ // Website | Facebook | Twitter

Photo:// Watchara for Do LaB

[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

[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] Lightning in a Bottle: Life is a Festival

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Rivers coagulate and disperse, trees branch and form, humans quickly congregate and dissipate just as quickly; though I can’t tell you the mathematics behind it, I see the patterns while bending with the wind, ebbing and flowing with the gentle ocean breeze.  For as far as I can remember, I’ve seen the world in perpetual patterns with wide eyes and technicolor taste buds.  Instead of there being a past and a future, there’s always the present moment and time, if anything, appears cyclic to me; everything in harmonious discord and calming calamity. It makes sense when you stop looking for the reason why it has to.

In the strangest sense, LIB had always been my unicorn – my unattainable vision of the real life Venn Diagram where beauty, music, consciousness and nature intersect. I bought my first ticket In 2010 but had to sell it because of my health;  the next year in 2011 was my Best Friend’s bachelorette party and in 2012 I’d simply given up on the notion that I wanted to go. Three years ago, I finally experienced my first Lightning in a Bottle as a wide eyed, eager fan that was literally in the process of falling in love and now – six years after my first want for something more, I’ve found myself on the opposite side of the music industry, engaged to my best friend who just so happens to be an excellent concert photographer – and just as in lust with it all as ever.

Our wanderlust has taken us to Desert Hearts and Gem and Jam, Global Dance and Shambhala and I’ll tell you one little secret – you can go far and wide in a search for the best environment out there, but conversationally, communally, consciously, completely – Lightning in a Bottle takes my cake.  If there’s one thing that my life has taught me, it’s that doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is insanity – so to expect to change the world because you’re attending a transformational festival is like expecting a tiger not to eat you because you’re vegetarian; the change can only happen if you in fact change yourself at your very core.

Being held at San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, CA for it’s second year in a row, the Do LaB did what they do best – making lasting changes that impact the many when they are still the few.  With bamboo bridges linking areas like the Temple of Consciousness and the Silent Disco, they found vast ways to improve upon the layout and community, the ethos and the stages.  With so many separate paths to take to everywhere, the festival grounds turn into the most wonderful ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ scenario.

Whether you want to pick up culinary tricks from the Learning Kitchen, prance and party in the succulent sunshine, explore the immersive art sculptures, enjoy newly created canvases or delve into details on Festival Law with the Festival Lawyer himself – there’s room for everyone to experience their own unique version of Lightning in a Bottle. There’s simply no wrong place to be. What I’ve learned from the festival ethos over the last three years is that to appreciate each and every moment, you have to be willing to fully submerge, fully let go, fully give in and know that as long as you’re where you want to be, you are exactly where you need to be. For me, it took until this year at Lightning in a Bottle for that idea to truly sink in.

Last fall, Danny and I were supposed to cover HARD Day of the Dead and ventured off to the Pomona Fairplex from Eagle Rock, but at the gate, we got discombobulated, turned around, then we were told that the press request had never been submitted.  Between three friends, we’d purchased one ticket for the event, and nodding in agreement we gave it to one of our best friends.  As we walked back into the festival grounds and between lamenting that she’d been separated from her friend group and that her phone was dead – we heard a bubbly scream from a car yelling “Adriaaaaa!!”.  Looking at the two of us, she smiled “Oh, that’s Mackenzie!! Hopefully I’ll find them inside, too!”  The next day at HARD Day of the Dead, Danny and I rolled through, but this time with our confirmed passes and discovered one of the most beautiful, heartwarming things: call it chance, call it serendipity, but she did more than just find them, she created lifelong friendships with people that I’m now thrilled to call my closest friends.  Ever since that weekend, we’ve been planning, plotting, daydreaming about Lightning in a Bottle.  We’ve met almost every weekend since October, sharing drinks and laughs, schemes and grandiose plans – and finally, it was here.

On Wednesday afternoon, Danny and I took off early from work and zipped up the freeway to festival freedom.  For the last two years, I’d attended Lightning in a Bottle as a fan, and then as press – this year, I was coming from a brand new perspective – working with The Confluence.  Rolling into the festival at sunset, we found our friends that were painting for the Do Art Foundation for the weekend.  Three years ago, Danny and I said ‘I Love You’ in front of paintings by Andy Knights and Anthony Sirios West, we’ve hung their art in our homes so we could ogle it day in and day out – and now, they were our camp mates!

The first night we roamed the festival grounds, reminiscing about the year before and determining the new lay of the land.  The Lightning Stage had migrated to the next plateau over, the Temple of Consciousness had been pushed back into the festival and the Woogie had found another tree to grow its groovy roots from.  Laughing, roaming, and exploring the festival grounds while the rest of the festival was still under construction, between the easels and the moonlit structures  we felt like we were home.

Thursday morning we woke up with a smile on our face and a bounce in our steps – today was the day, it was all happening!  After I logged my first shift checking in press, then I was off to the races with the rest of the crowd – gallivanting through the camp areas in search of the patch my pod was posted on in bass camp.  Smiles radiated the same warmth as the sunshowers, while a menagerie of music ebbed and flowed throughout the grounds. Camps were being set up with fervor left and right while gregarious conversation filled the air like a warm fragrance.  Finally, through the turns and twists, brightly colored canopies and psychedelic tapestries – I happened upon home base. Brightly lit with holiday lights and adorned with a plush carpet, sweeping overhang and proper DJ booth equipped with projection mapping and a disco ball at the center – I’d finally found it, Camp RGL in all of it’s glory. For the multitudes of weekend rendez-vous, the group Google doc and the Facebook group, mass group messages and squad potlucks, the nuanced and out of this world plans that failed like our giant ball pit and the ones that succeeded on a mass scale; we did it, we Do LaBed it.

As the afternoon manifested into dusk, and then into the witching hour – we migrated away from our plusher than life homebase where our talented friends had just been spinning and off to the Silent Disco, hosted by the amazing Hush Concerts team.  It was hard to choose a channel, especially with San Francisco’s Motion Potion going up against Southern California’s Romy Ancona – but you knew who the Green Team was when they were over because we were all hungry for quesadillas.

Friday morning we awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed under the bright central Californian sun; for my first time at Lightning in a Bottle, I was up and at’em, ready to devour information from a seminar.  After meeting up with a few friends, we ventured over to the Mystery School, hidden within the Temple of Consciousness for Fest Law 101 with the Festival Lawyer.

Hands down, this is one of the most useful talks I’ve ever been to (okay, so it’s the only one I’ve been to at a festival…but I digress). We discussed our rights as festival goers, whether your tent or RV have an expectation of privacy (hint one does, one does not) and how to be an intelligent, conscious festival community.  Even if this knowledge doesn’t directly apply to you, consider the notion that we’re our brother’s keeper and the information is guaranteed to help someone you know. In the final moments, we got a wonderful treat – Emanuel Sferios, the co-founder of Dance Safe, who joined the Festival Lawyer on stage to discuss his new film “MDMA: The Movie” after a warm crowd welcome.  According to statistics, the market on MDMA is the most adulterated market in the world and as festival goers, we need to be aware of what people are ingesting. After a quick question and answer session, we were off to the races – the music had begun and Mikey Lion was waiting for us at the Woogie!

Between the deep, body shaking basslines and ethereal tones – Mikey Lion put on a show that made the Desert Hearts family proud while an inspired beat wove through the crowd. We then ventured off to the main stage before I had to split ways, I was heading off to my second work shift while my squad migrated towards the Lightning Stage.  For the first time in six years, Woogie phenom Pumpkin would be playing on the main stage – a much deserved feat; even though I wasn’t physically present, I loved hearing him float in and out of his effervescent, bubbly remixes of the classics our parents raised us on.  Meanwhile, those in the mood for some Future Bass ventured off to the Thunder Stage where up and coming bass tastemakers TastyTreat were living up to their name.

Surprisingly, reconvening with the group after dinner was an easier task than expected – all anyone needed to do was follow the laughter and unabashed good times, thoughtful conversations and serendipitous moments – and you would know you were at our camp.  But, as it turned out, staying together after we left camp was a whole different monster all together.  As parts of the group coagulated, and others dispersed, a fraction of us ended up wandering around the Woogie into the Grand Artique in search of some good, old fashioned entertainment.  What we didn’t expect, was to be greeted by the FUNN Machine, but boy were were ever glad we did!  Between the dozens of disco balls and plethora of bubble machines, we immediately forgot our final destination and gave in to the good vibes.  Slowly but surely, we made it to the Lightning Stage for ODESZA – like literally everyone in attendance flooded the main stage for a sonic seduction of amazing proportions, and the guys surely didn’t disappoint.  Expertly weaving famed remixes with their chart topping hits, we were lost in the throws of musical bliss – and for the record, I can’t wait for them to release that third to last song so full of rich bass and an energetic backbone. The only qualm was that we were pushed back into the merch booth and food stands, leaving almost no area untouched.  Last year, the Lightning Stage sat on an adjoining hilltop and seemed to accommodate more people.  We ventured off to the Thunder Stage where we caught the end of a beautiful Phutureprimative set; his music is only mirrored by his voice, humble and honest, asking us to take what we learn and love about our festival culture and ingrain it back into the ‘real world.’  And finally, Griz graced the stage where he got live and so saxxy on us – in my eyes, a redemption of his set last month at The Wiltern; his music, style and stage presence are so fitting for a festival setting.  As the main three stages were closing down, the side stages were heating up ; the Pagoda Bar featured Headtron favorites like JoBoT and Chris B while the Desert Hearts‘ Favela Bar takeover was in full effect on the other side of the festival.

As the music came to a close the first night, our wanderlust walked us home to camp for a nightcap featuring good beers and good bass.  DJs Firefly, Dreamlyfe and St4rfox lit up the night with a surge of electrcity while we danced our cares away under the crisp starlight.  Around 5 in the mornning when I was considering finally grabbing some sleep, I was threatened with a good time at the Silent Disco featuring Deep Jesus from the Desert Hearts squad and let it be known, those are hard to resist.  I rocked and raved until the sun came up, then crashed for a few hours before the Press and Artist Mimosa Mixer.

I have to admit that even a decent night’s sleep can be a game changer at a multi-day festival like Lightning in a Bottle.  After catching a wee bit of shut-eye, I was ready to take on my third day of the event.  Strolling into the Press Mixer, I had a tinge of anxiety shaken and stirred with a feeling of gratitude.  Last year, this was me – or, it at least would have been me if I’d ever shown up.  I distinctly remember Danny and I glancing at each other last year around 11 AM on Saturday morning, musing that other press outlets were all listening, watching, regurgitating the same thing so why not go our own way? But watching the artists, writers and photographers mesh like a sloppy watercolor painting, the influence rubbing off in each and every direction – I almost lamented my choice from a year before.  Lucent Dossier‘s Dream Rockwell and the Flemming Brothers, founders of the Do LaB and Lightning in a Bottle Festival, dished the dirt to eager reporters, lapping up information like a thirsty dog on a hot Summers day.  And I couldn’t have thought of a better way to truly get to know the other outlets other than handing them Mimosas and other festive, morning beverages.  

Gallivanting off into the masses with a grin on my face and a bounce in my step, I was ready to conquer the remainder of Saturday afternoon and evening with some of my favorite friends.  As we descended into the redesigned Thunder Stage that debuted this past April at Coachella, Lindsay Lowend went from 0 to 100 real quick – one moment lamenting that he only had three minutes left in his set, followed by ecstatic amusement that he actually had a half hour.  The music went from being a good party to a feel good dance off with banger after banger. Before he finally exited the stage, he went on a slight tirade about producers that have a microscopic focus, only playing one genre – that “No one wants to hear an hour and a half of Trap Music.” While I agree with the first half of the statement, he obviously had no clue that G Jones was about to come out and essentially decimate that statement with one of the best Dubstep and Trap sets of the weekend.   Hit after hit, the crowd was writhing seductively to the healthy doses of bass and filth radiating from the speakers.

Pulling ourselves to the Woogie stage for a bit of Lee Curtiss, we stopped to smell the proverbial flowers along the way – taking notice of each of the wonderfully immersive art installations.  The giant tea pots were always overflowing with bubbly characters, while the ginormous Skii Ball tracks attracted gleeful groups in the mood for something a bit different.  Sauntering up to the giant set of circular doors leading into a mysterious room, we each set out in front of a different one – eager to discover what was on the other side.

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

What does one usually find on the other side – especially the other side of ones self?  What secrets have we been keenly hiding from our minds and hearts, what joys have we denied ourselves, what worlds are within us?  For almost 365 days a year, we’re forced to go along with the grain of life – we finish school, more often than not with degrees announcing our due diligence but not our personal passions; we live in boxes so we can commute in boxes to other boxes, where we work in smaller boxes on electronic boxes so someone can reaffirm our standing in the world.  For almost 365 days a year we live in a world we didn’t create, so that we can uphold values that we’re not even sure if we stand by.  This is why we festival, this is why we celebrate in technicolor clothing and neon hair, sparkles and boas, gregarious smiles and outstretched arms.  We’re human, and as humans we need to connect – with nature, with our community and most importantly with ourselves. At a festival, each and every time you interact – you open a new door, you welcome a new way of thinking and a fresh perspective.  The people you meet at Lightning in a Bottle are prisms of your life, let the light shine through and you’ll see how rich your world is while each interaction is a doorway into discovering who you are at your core.

Getting our boogie on at the Woogie for Lee Curtis, we slowed our roll a bit to take in some of the amazing art that was being created live at the festival. Each year, Lightning in a Paintcan gathers some of the most sought after artistic talent and gives them the room to create, curating a warm and welcoming community of artists who pour their heart, time and sweat into their works.

Walking back and forth between the stages wasn’t just easier this year, but a hell of a lot more fun – I don’t know about everyone else but I’ve never been so excited for High 5’s in my entire life.  Each time my friends and I jumped on the bridges, we launched our lefts hand high while smiles were plastered to our faces.  Whether you grew up on a sports team and immediately started wishing everyone a “Good Game!”, or joyously giggled each time you slapped hands – those connections we made, that energy we passed onto each other – it wasn’t just wonderful, it was inspired.  And speaking of inspired, getting back to the Lightning Stage we all had to pause in our tracks and take in the wonder and beauty of Goldroom’s live set.  I’d only heard of them a few times in passing, but there was something to be said about a full band, rich sound and crisp vocals – it sounded like a daydream and washed over us like sunshine at night.  We stayed through the beginning of the ever animated and creative Lucent Dossier Experience.  It’s usually hard to pull myself away from the theatrics and fire dancing, but this was would be my first time seeing Opiuo – and he was bringing the entire band! Part funk, part soul, and all the way groovy, Opiuo makes the beats that makes everyone want to move their feet; his music defies generation gaps and you could easily pin him for twenty years too early for his time, or twenty years too late, but I’d like to think of him as right on time.  Saturday’s nightcap was Flume on the Lightning Stage and the set was beautiful beyond words – not to mention, it felt serendipitous to run into so many different friends while marinating in his music.  Time for one last night at RGL Bass Camp, and then tomorrow was the coup de grace – somehow, as if stuck in a time vortex, we’d been catapulted to the end of the festival; how does it always go by so fast?

We kicked things off at the Woogie, because hands down – it’s the best Sunday day party of any festival I’ve frequented.  Checking our watches while shaking our tail feathers, we counted down the milliseconds until Zion I graced the Lightning Stage.  Somewhere on my lavish list of the things I truly love about LIB, is how genres tend to dissolve while good music remains.  The high octane, passionately powerful set from the Zion I Crew was on par with The Opiuo Band with riddles hidden inside witty lyrics that unlock personal epiphanies layered over textured beats. As the last sunset fell over the fields, a collective howl crept from a soft call to a gregarious uproar. We came in small groups, some of us without even knowing a soul; we left as a pack, a family, a coagulation of ideas with an ethos of love.

As our festival family split up to change for the evening to prepare for Shiba San at the Woogie, Danny and I ventured around to the food stands in search of every bouncy kitty’s favorite eats – sushi! Just like the last two years, the fish was fresh and everything I’d been dreaming of.  I felt like Super Mario after eating a mushroom as each fiber of my muscles felt reinvigorated. Like a schoolgirl crush, I’d been talking up Shiba San’s set all weekend – but I never made it, because I found myself dancing around like a fool without a care to SNBRN as the last of the sunset fell out of the sky. After we’d collected ourselves and our camp mates for the night, we were off for one last wild ride, taking our time to smell the electric air. Random Rab ignited the Lightning Stage in a harmonious frenzy with a beautifully bouncy set, and then we were off to the Thunder to close out our festival with RL Grime.  One by one, friends that we hadn’t seen in hours trickled in and around, pulling us in with a dance or lifting us up with a hug or hilarious story. I’ve seen RL Grime before, but there was something so special about having him at Lightning in a Bottle.  Track after track, the crowd blissfully forgot they were on their 4th day of a festival and left it all out on the dance floor.

As Monday morning came, we drank up the sunshine in a jubilant daze while celebrating one of our best friends’ birthdays – and what a wonderful way to ring it in! Surrounded by smiling faces, good vibes, and some excellent morning music from our talented tribe we popped champagne and toasted to our last day of LIB. In just a few hours, we’d have to ravel our lives back into a car while we underwent a psychlogical metamorphosis.  Our generation has spent an elaborate portion of their lives following in someone else’s dream, be it through milestones, academic merit or romantic engagement.  Lightning in a Bottle is a wonderful deviation from that forced reality, opening minds to how you can live your life as a festival, one grandiose moment at a time.  Air smells fresher, strangers seem kinder, flowers perk up with interest while butterflies weave to and fro with delight; moments of serendipity appear far less like coincidence and my relationships have become that much more profound.

I usually write these closer to the event, but if I had – this story would be different, I would feel different. You’d be hearing more of how the self-made signs and Temple of Consciousness were defaced and less about how Flume and Goldroom played beautiful sets on the main stage.  Instead of bridges and shade, we’d be up in arms about common courtesy and property theft. The artistry would be overshadowed by the 1%, where the beauty ran rampant because 99% of the people there were there with a purpose, they were there because they want to be part of the beauty and the magic.

The world itself is more like the former, but as a giggling, eager, inspired part of the later – Lightning in a Bottle has taught me that it’s up to us to take what has transformed us and give it back to the world.So, how do you truly embody the experience of Lightning in a Bottle within your everyday life? How do you take what you eagerly learn, wholeheartedly feel, and fully believe for those magical five days then reintegrate it back into your universe? High five your neighbor, hug a stranger, educate the uninformed, smile at cars when you’re stuck in traffic, help without being asked, thank the people that help you and make a real connection with each and every person you interact with – life is a festival, join in.

All photos provided are from Daniel Leist Photography.

For more amazing images from Lightning in a Bottle, head over to The DJ List’s Facebook Album

[The Audiofiles] We Don’t Dance, We Woogie All Weekend Long!

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Over a decade after their first renegade stage at Coachella and the inaugural installment of California festival favorite Lightning in a Bottle, the esteemed production hub the Do LaB is gracing us with the latest and greatest in festival weekends featuring one of the main attractions of LIB – the Woogie!

Anyone who’s been to Lightning can tell you – the Woogie is a special place to play during the day and dance your blues away at night. There’s some people who don’t ever leave the Woogie, and who could blame them?! Day in and day out, you’re led on a whimsical adventure down the auditory rabbit hole of bouncy, deep, playful and body bumping music. So it’s only right that we’re finally getting a whole weekend dedicated to it.

Taking place at Lightning in a Bottle’s old stomping grounds in Silverado’s Oak Canyon Park, the Do LaB proudly presents Woogie Weekend spanning from July 17 to July 19, 2015. Keeping with the LIB ethos, Woogie Weekend is a ‘Leave it Better, Leave it Beautiful’ event that promotes conscious living within a collaborative, creative community. However, in deviation from LIB this event will be strictly 18+.  The 48 flash pre-sale ends tomorrow morning at 10AM , so don’t sleep – Woogie your way to your tickets right now and be part of this extra special weekend.

For more details on Woogie Weekend, head to their website and for more information on the Do LaB – check out their socials:

Website |Facebook| Twitter.

Cross Published on The DJ List

[The Audiofiles] Losing a Laptop and Facing the Music

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I should preface this by saying this is not the recap article I was planning on writing. When we had the opportunity to cover Lightning in a Bottle for the second year in a row, Danny and I didn’t even have to bat an eye before conferring on an answer. Yes, yes, unequivocally yes.  Since the time I heard of Lightning in a Bottle several years ago, I knew deep down in my heart that there was something so intrinsically special and important about this festival.  Our lives, our friendships and our relationship all revolve around live music.  From concerts and clubs to raves and multi day music festivals, we eat, sleep and breathe music and dance like every cell in our body is affected.  It’s something that we can both experience individually, communally and romantically all within the same moment.

Two years ago, we said ‘I Love You’ for the first time at Lightning in a Bottle.  Last year, we conquered our first major festival as contributors to The DJ List and this year, we were back for the third time – for him, to cover the festival as a photographer for The DJ List and for myself, working on the Press Team with The Confluence – one of the hardest working, boutique PR firms on the West Coast.

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We had an amazing weekend and met dozens of warm hearted, life loving, amazing individuals.  Unfortunately, those memories are now marred.  On Monday morning while we were packing, we noticed that things weren’t right.  First, we noticed that our 13″ Apple MacBook Air was stolen.  Then, we realized that other trivial things like an Apple Lightning Cord + Phone Charger were gone…and so was our favorite pillow. After putting 2 and 2 together to make 4, we’ve come to the conclusion that we’d been watched all weekend.  The two of us had gone back and forth to the tent from the Press Area with our gear several times, and over the course of the week – someone must have been watching.  We weren’t just robbed, we were targeted.  They didn’t just take from us, we were violated. And, this isn’t just a laptop – this is Danny’s photo laptop.

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This is where he’s edited pics from Lucent Dossier, HARD Day of the Dead, Gem and Jam Festival (one of which was featured in the Huffington Post!), Desert Hearts and Sea of Dreams; not to mention, artists like EOTO, Russ Liquid, Paper Diamond, Dreamlyfe, Seven Lions, Bassnectar, Krewella, Cosmic Gate, Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Zion I, G Jones, RL Grime and so much more.  He’s also working as a live theater photographer and has deliverables to turn in weekly.  The stolen laptop is more than an inconvenience, it’s a monetary drain and is putting his work – his AMAZING work – on hold.

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What’s personally disappointing is that this is billed as a transformational festival; this is a supposedly safe place where we can be free, vulnerable and open – with our hearts, our homes, our minds and our belongings.  The fact of the matter is that this could’ve happened to anyone – but it happened to us; just because we had to learn a difficult lesson, doesn’t mean you need to learn one yourself. We’ve thought of a few tips and tricks for you guys so regardless of if you’re a photographer, videographer or simple a festival freak who enjoys enjoying themselves – take some notes, be safe and let’s make sure we keep our ever evolving community in check.

  •  Apply for Car Camping!  When your car’s locked, it’s just a giant lock box.  If you can manage to keep your car next to your campsite, you’ll be set the entire weekend.
  •  If Car Camping isn’t available, see if you can get back to your car easily every night to put things in a safe place.
  •  Check with the Press Team and see if Lockers are available.  Bring your own lock.
  •  Minimize expensive equipment.  You don’t need your entire closet of cables, computers and camera gear – just bring your bare necessities.
  •  Always close your tent completely; lock it if you have a lock
  •  Never rush through camp – make sure you cover your equipment and retrace your steps.
  •  Keep your gear on your person as much as possible
  •  Back up your data on a portable hard drive or on the cloud
  •  Download ‘Find My Phone’ to keep tabs on your gear
  •  Stay sober-ish.  I’m not saying have fun, but an inebriated mind isn’t the best judge of character or equipment safety.

All of the pictures used in this post wouldn’t have been possible without the gear we’ve had, and I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t have to miss amazing opportunities and coverage because someone decided to be selfish and horrible.

With the immense amount of support I’ve gotten – my friends have told me to make a Go Fund Me page – so here we are.

–> Go Fund Me: Let’s Replace Danny’s Laptop <–

If you’d like to donate, even if it’s only $5 – anything helps! I don’t care if we make all of the money back for a new computer, I don’t even care if we only make half – I just want us to continue doing what we love doing, because covering live music and being part of this community is something that both of us are so passionate about.

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Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

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Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

[The Audiofiles] Partying with a Purpose: The Dawn of Transformational Festivals

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We remember the sound of dial-up modems and the touch of rotary phones, make references to archaic cartoons like Jem and the Holograms and Legends of the Hidden Temple and laugh at our assorted childhood crushes from Saved By The Bell and Boy Meets World. The powerful product of the love generation, we’re toeing a thin line between Gen X and the Millennials, though in all honesty we’re somewhere delightfully in between.   I was already well-integrated into my collegiate career when Facebook sprouted, like a rogue weed from the garden of the interwebs.  Not to say I wasn’t already an avid Internet user, with multiple AOL and AIM screen names, frequenting chat rooms and discussing the latest music trends; but the social world was more or less turned on its head with the advent and evolution of Facebook and Twitter.

While the world spins itself into a frenzy at the latest and greatest “social” apps – like ‘Ello, Path, MySpace – my personal belief is that we’re losing our emotional and social intelligence in favor of quantitative statistics, figures and metrics; attributes that honestly have no foundation or basis within our communities. We’re a generation of dreamers and doers, who haven’t had it lost upon them that good things come with hard work and diligence; and we’re at a turning point in our lives where we desire to be a bigger part of a community, perchance even starting our own “tribe” with an intermingling of friends, extended family and blood relatives – or, a family of our own. We’re an enigma, we’re an entity; hear us roar.  

As the children of hippies, whether we’ve known it or not, we’ve been raised with similar morals, ethics, a general lack of organized religion and push towards spirituality.  And now that I’m engaged, turning 30 and settling down in my lifestyle a bit, I’ve found a new respect for the values that my parents implemented in my youth.  Growing up, I was used to having .  On the flip side, one of the beautiful things my parents did was opting for African-American and Native American Fables and tales over the Bible or the Torah.  I always lamented that I was missing out on the community aspect of organized religion, but as I’ve grown older – I’ve discovered that, I’ve discovered that I can pursue and derive that community on my own terms, which is infinitely better.  For me, that community is bas(s)ed on a shared love of music.

Raised on hearty Rock ‘n’ Roll riffs and Motown hits that I can now understand my parents were sarcastically referring to as oldies, there was something so enticing about music of my youth; from soulful storytelling, to moving melodies and music with a symphonic, harmonic message. As my musical tastes ebbed and flowed over time, I found myself front and center at rock shows, ranging from Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold, Bad Religion and Taking Back Sunday – the heart and soul of the music were there, but so was the pushing, raging, shoving and screaming.  The concerts and shows I frequented, regardless of how big or small of a group I was with, became individual endeavors, a solo experience

Dance Music has been fueling my life for the last decade, starting with my first EDC while I was still in college…

“I remember walking in, arms firmly linked through a best friend on each side. I was trying to figure out which side of the rabbit hole I wanted to wake up on; I was trying to come to terms with my world spinning  inside out and upside down. Girls in neon tutus blocked every other turn but we were always greeted with friendly smiles, open arms and PLUR handshakes.

About ten minutes into the festival, my friends nodded in symmetry and announced they wanted to sit down and chat. I nodded in turn, but in silent agreement that I wasn’t in the mood for those kind of shenanigans.  I did a quick gut check and dove right in; or at least – tried to.  I must have looked as out of place as I felt, because immediately a charming sprite of a girl grabbed my arms and insisted I follow her to the dance floor. “Is this your first EDC?” she mused, but didn’t wait for a reply because she already knew the answer.  “You need to let it go…” she continued, her eyes dilating with excitement “…let it all fall down; shake it off and breathe it in.” She was speaking in tongues but I understood every word.  One by one, my hands wound up entwined between her delicate fingers and then, with glee, she announced my next move: “Spin! Faster! And now, just let it go…”  For the next five minutes,  I twirled with the delight of a toddler and every preconception I had about that night washed over and off of my like Spring rain.  She smiled whimsically, like whatever magicians trick she pulled actually produced a rabbit out of a hat.  She smiled with satisfaction; I smiled back in wonderment.  We hugged and danced off in different directions – but the lesson remains:  I haven’t been the same since.”

I walked away from that event completely transformed, set off on a bold, new tangent; entering a new phase of life; evolving into the individual that I want to become. There was something so special about the outlying community, a group of strangers waiting to become your friends, equally enamored by the music and the sense of personal expression.  But, after your ump-teenth rave with your friends, you find that instead of PLURing together – they start to blur together; basslines, sets, stages, days, events. Is there something more? And the answer is yes. My parents always quipped that doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is a form of insanity; after a certain amount of raving,  I think the same can be said for the mainstream quotient of our current festival scene.

In the last five years, EDM has catapulted into the spotlight; but for those of us that have been there for years, and even before my time, EDM symbolized an underground movement where the freaks, the misfits, the lone wolves and wistful wallflowers could come together and become something greater, together. Now that it’s gone ‘mainstream‘, so have many of the concerts – held in large metropolitan areas with crowds in cookie cutter outfits, bobbing on queue to the same beat and ample amounts of vendors (whose money more often than not doesn’t go back into the community) and leaving the venue in a general state of disarray. IMG_2272.JPG

Here’s the thing, musicians – and the unique world they curate – are by proxy, always evolving, ever-changing, catalyzed by passion and moved by the moment.  And with the community surrounding Dance Music, one thing has become crystal clear: there’s a want for something more meaningful than just partying all night; something deeper than tossing back bottles and breathing in cigarette ash; something that resonates with you for longer than one night and inspires you, as an individual, to become a better version of yourself while engaging in your community.

Though I’d had my sights set on Lightning in a Bottle for a few years prior,  Coachella was my gateway drug to Transformational Festivals; it was the first time I’d had my 360 view of the world turned upside down by my surroundings, and for multiple days at that.  The costumes, the stages, the stage makeup, the bass frequencies, the art installations – the art !!, the theatrics of The Do LaB’s stage at centerfield, submerging myself in my first of many Lucent Dossier Experiences and an extreme sense of community and belonging.  After two years of watching the Polo Fields turn from green to a muddy brown, strewn with garbage and leftover fabric from meticulously planned outfits meticulously while seven stages bled together, I knew that it was time to move on. With each and every one of their events, from large scale multi-day festivals to low-key concerts, The Do Lab unabashedly embodies the essence of Transformative Festivals all along the California Coast.  From local level to large scale, their shows constantly offer up novel musical pairings in conjunction with a live painting, immersive entertainment and an enigmatic community of modern day Renaissance personalities.

After years of pining, months of planning and weeks of anticipation – I  to LIB in the Summer of 2013; no expectations, just wild eyed in wanderlust, anxiously awaiting the next music laced adventure.  Waltzing through sculptures that were thrice the size of my body, the live art humbled me – and was unfolding in front of me; I was amazed by the live acrobatics, performance art and creative prowess of not just the artists – but the community at large.  Music takes the backseat to personal growth as bodies gracefully collapse underneath themselves during mid-morning Yoga sessions. Minds expanded and consciousness, both personal and communal, during group workshops and seminars featuring discussions on Sustainable Living, Music as Therapy, Meditation Techniques,  The Art of Tantra, Self Actualization and so, so much more.

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From that weekend on, my three day tango with Lightning in a Bottle manifested into a deep rooted curiosity with Transformative Festivals, Counter Culture and Permaculture, Burning Man ideology, flow performance art and the rich history of West Coast Bass Music.  Plush with the fusion of art, music and culture, living in Los Angeles is the perfect catalyst to cultivate those feelings.  Between Do LaB events, the Melrose Trading Post, the Downtown Art Walk, Venice Beach, Hollywood, the U R Art Festival, or a Sunday at Grand Park – this town is always painted some sort of neon, with shimmer, glitter and technicolor combined. Take one step outside of the city, and California – and the West Coast are essentially the Meccas of Transformative culture, and have been for some time. Burning Man, making Nevada weird for 26 years, started in San Francisco in ’86; the event is almost as old as I am and founder Larry Harvey is my mom’s age.  When I gushed earlier about the commonality with my friendships being that we were instilled with similar values, I can easily parallel that to why we’re equally attracted to Larry Harvey’s brainchild; it’s roughly the same age as we are and the 10 Principles are incredibly reminiscent of   the value system that my parents had in place, where individuality is coveted, creativity is rewarded, art is meant to be climbed on, hugs have more klout than handshakes and the weirder – the better. You call it new-agey hippie shit; we call it a lifestyle choice that we make on the daily.

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At this point – I owe you a definition- Transformative Festivals are an ecologically friendly, multi-day counter culture events with equal focus on mind, heart, body and soul.  They’re set in a lush, natural location so participants can return to their roots – not just as individuals, but as a community with workshops ranging from sustainability to personal growth and artistic expression paired with rich musical entertainment and a ‘Pack in, Pack Out’, or ‘Leave No Trance’ mantra. Over the last two decades, multitudes of these have sprouted all along the Pacific Coast – but most notably in California. Southern California’s Lightning in a Bottle has been going strong for 20 years, Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo, BC has been around for 17 and now that it’s 2014, you can take your pick from a slew of newer ones like Symbiosis, Lucidity, Youtopia, Sea of Dreams, Colorado’s Bloom Festival, Desert Hearts, Forever Never Land and Costa Rica’s Envision Festival – not to mention, the theatrics of live concerts from Emancipator, Beats Antique, Shpongle, and the Lucent Dossier Experience

The more I understand about the culture, the more I want to know – so I invite you to journey with me through my series on Transformative Festivals! I’ll be focusing on their rich history on the West Coast, the infusion of their principles into daily life and the unabashed creativity, energy, effort and curation of an ecologically friendly, socially innovative musical affair. I’ll be interviewing key players, dream weavers, festival organizers and musical tastemakers within the Transformative Community – all in an effort to help you, your friends and the music community both understand the necessity of these events and learn how to incorporate them into our daily lives.

Ps.  This is one of my favorite TED talks – it’s by Jeet-Kei Leung, who’s since gone on to create the Bloom Series – which I’ll touch on in a future post. Enjoy!