A crowd walks across a long bridge, each person high-fiving every stranger they pass. Groups of people meditate to the sounds of gongs and wind chimes, surrounded by larger-than-life sculptures depicting iron teapots and colorful tents decorated with geometric shapes. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of thudding bass keeps a measured time.
Welcome to Lightning in a Bottle (LIB).
Graphic by Lexy Solomon
This five-day music festival in Bradley, California — 55 miles from Cal Poly — features a wide variety of musicians, artists, vendors and colorfully-dressed music lovers seeking the experience of a lifetime.
Business administration junior Ali Hanley first attended LIB as a freshman and it left her wanting more.
“Every time we talk to people about it, we just say it’s magical. There’s no other way to really describe it,” Hanley said. “Every time I go, I leave feeling like I could do so much more.”
LIB is unlike any other festival, according to Hanley, who has been to Coachella, Woogie Weekend, Boogaloo, SnowGlobe and other festivals. In addition to musicians and DJs, LIB also features yoga lessons, workshops on sustainability and healthy eating, art installations and other interactive environments.
“My favorite part was waking up in the morning and doing yoga and tai chi,” Hanley said. “LIB is about so much more than the music.”
Video by Victoria Howland
Though music is a huge part of the experience, LIB is rooted in celebrating community and spiritual connection. What started as a birthday party in 1999 became a five-day event that brings people from all over together.
Founded by the DoLaB, the festival has moved locations within California several times, from Santa Barbara in 2006, to Silverado in 2010, Temecula in 2013 and now Lake San Antonio, where it has been held for the past three years.
In addition to the changing location, the festival itself evolved over the years. DoLab press representative Graham Berry said LIB is focusing more on activism and the humanitarian messages of the festival.
“Ultimately, the future of LIB will depend on the people who come and whether or not they choose to take the ethos of the festival to heart,” Berry said. “It will require a lot of extra work, but we think it’s worth it.”
In addition to the music, festival-goers can immerse themselves in a variety of activities. These environments include Amori’s Casino & Burlesque club, Giggle Juice cafe and Frontierville Gypsy Encampment — where you can visit the leather trader to make your own belt or drop off your dirty laundry to be scrubbed on a washboard and hung to dry.
Another popular aspect of LIB is the Beacon, a place for workshops, panels and rituals for those seeking community and connection to their spirituality. This year’s Beacon theme is “Illuminating Our World: Visionary Guidance For Strange Times.”
For the tenth year in a row, LIB will feature Lightning in a Paintcan, a live painting experience where people can watch different artists create works of art and purchase pieces to take home. This year, artists will produce eight large-scale murals, as well as smaller works throughout the festival.
The most significant change to this year’s LIB has nothing to do with the music, art or people — it’s the lake. Thanks to this year’s rainfall, San Antonio Lake is currently at 50 percent capacity, allowing festival-goers to wash off the dust and cool down in the lake throughout the weekend.
“The ability to swim is certainly opening up a world of possibilities,” Berry said. “We’ve had water nearby LIB a few times, but we’ve never had the option to swim before in almost 15 years doing the festival.”
Business administration junior and first-time LIB attendee Mason Tobia explained that the art, music and culture of this unique festival drew him in.
“I think LIB as a festival will allow me to experience music in an atmosphere that is very hard to find,” Tobia said. “I’m looking to experience a journey where I can learn more about myself and enjoy my surroundings without being confined to the norms of the outside world.”