Photo Credit: Dustin Downing
Reporting by Sam Yu and John Ochoa
Anyone can walk into a transformational festival and have a good time. But if partying was all you did, you completely missed the point. The point of a transformational festival is to do just that: transform you, and transform your surroundings. These events focus on community as well as personal growth, and they promote social change and responsibility via a number of values: healthy living, creative expression, environmental sustainability, and so forth.
As the saying goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And that’s what we learned this year at the pinnacle of all transformational festivals: Lightning in a Bottle. To change the world for the better, we must begin by changing ourselves. It’s one of the many life lessons LIB taught us.
For the record, you don’t do LIB because you’re looking to bro out to bombastic beats or hit up a hipster hangout. Nah. You go to the Do LaB-produced gathering with the intention of returning home anew (as any festivalgoer should). Did we? Well, between the plethora of knowledge nuggets offered at lectures on sustainable living and permaculture practices, the all-day yoga sessions and a soul-stirring lineup of musicians and speakers, you practically have to fight with all your might not to. And it would have all been in vain if we didn’t take what we’ve learned and tried to pay it forward.
Here are 10 life lessons we learned at Lightning in a Bottle 2015:
There’s More to Music Festivals Than Music
Photo Credit: Dustin Downing
Banging beats galore will always be available at any music festival you attend. It’s probably the main reason you’re there, right? But at LIB, life lessons lie beyond the bass. As a truly transformational festival, LIB offers just as many, if not more, workshops, classes, lectures and meetings as it does musical acts via their meticulously curated learning areas like the Temple of Consciousness, the Village and the Learning Kitchen. Much like the daily music lineups, the workshop schedule is packed to the brim and offers a vast array of educational opportunities from every school of thought imaginable. Wanna learn about meditation? No problem. Curious about essential oils? LIB has you covered. Next time you’re at a festival and there are non-music educational opportunities available, take a break from the bass and get your learning on. It’s a guaranteed way to open your mind and awaken your third eye.
Sometimes the Best Music Comes From the Most Unexpected Places
Photo Credit: Watchara
There are times when an act you’re really counting on to take you to new heights just flops belly-first. It can happen to the best of us, so there’s no need to point fingers when these little letdowns happen. On the other hand, there are moments when you find respite in the most unusual of places. It’s like stumbling onto an aural goldmine. In lieu of the infamous renegade parties that have gone down at previous LIBs, there were legitimate after-hours happenings hidden in plain sight across the festival grounds. The Favela Bar was probably the most worthwhile of the bunch. It’s not that quality music was slim pickings by any means, but it was there you could gig out to the game-changing grooves being thrown at you by the Desert Hearts crew. Amori’s Casino was another hotspot that was never much of a gamble, as you could unwind to live performances from the Sour Mash Hug Band, which was playing all sorts of goodness our ears aren’t normally in tune with. Suffice to say, seeking out the usual suspects might leave you in the dust, while exploring the unknown could give you a nice story to tell.
Planning Fun Is Never Any Fun
Photo Credit: Carolyn Crafty
You’d be surprised how much time can be squandered trying to stick to a strict festival schedule. Rule of thumb: Throw your fun plan out the window, and just roll with the punches. We love our friends, and there’s nothing worse than when meet-up arrangements go horribly awry. But sometimes you have to let it all go in order to find what you’re looking for. Slipping away from Shiba San’s thumptastic set was not originally in the cards, but it was the only way to discover the LED magic taking place once you enter the abdominal cavity of the towering, wooden nesting doll installation. And departing from the group while they caught OTT allowed us to wander into a pyramid structure that shot a beam of light into the celestial body above and housed a mattress with a print of an aerial shot of Burning Man (shout-out to the dudes who big-upped the Wide Awake Oasis Bar). Although these moments of spontaneity resulted in misfires that kept us from relishing the musical offerings of acts like OPIUO Band and Goldroom, among others, the random convos with our newfound, lifelong friends was worth it all in the end.
Yoga, Art and Meditation Can Save Your Life
Photo Credit: Dustin Downing
Hands down, LIB had some of the best art we’ve seen at any festival this year so far. From the giant teapots that formed the Lost Tea Party to the trippy, 360-immersion MOVA Gallery dome from Andrew “Android” Jones, we saw and felt world-class art everywhere. Makes sense, as art is one of the pillars of LIB—just take a look at the Do Art Foundation, the public art nonprofit from the Do LaB. Paired with endless yoga workouts and meditation sessions, we were able to see colors in a new way and feel our bodies changing. When the music got to be a bit too much to handle, we headed to the top of the hillside Meditation Nest above the Temple area. It was here that we really found ourselves and basked in our inner peace, balanced our emotions, and simply existed. This combination of yoga, art and meditation seriously changed our festival experience evermore.
Everyone Needs to Learn About Permaculture
Photo Credit: Andre Schnyder
One of the most highlighted and popular topics throughout the weekend revolved around permaculture. For those new to the subject, permaculture is an agricultural system intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. Its philosophy aims to work alongside nature instead of against it and stresses the design of human systems based on natural ecosystems. It’s a wide subject involving many schools of thoughts, opinions, practices, and fields of focus, which can complicate the overall progress of permaculture. Ultimately, it’s a positive, some say inevitable, change that could benefit the planet universally and indefinitely. LIB hosted tons of permaculture-focused workshops and events, including a permaculture action hub, which featured topics like alternative energy and system solutions, nutrient cycling, food foraging and more. If you missed the permaculture talks, there are tons of resources available online, including the Permaculture Research Institute.
Sustainability Doesn’t Have to Feel Like a Chore
Photo Credit: Dustin Downing
One of our favorite songs from the weekend (it’s definitely up there with Fur Coat’s fuzzy feel-inducing “Seven” and the first public play of ODESZA’s “Something About You” remix) has to be the responsibility-reinforcing “Cleanup Song.” More rewarding than any encore offered at your garden-variety concert, this song of sustenance is the ultimate nightcap—which is only partially true, as the festivities carry on long after the mainstages stop pumping out sound. As soon as the house lights come on, instead of scattering like roaches, LIBers do their part to pick up trash to a jingle that encourages them to, well, clean up. It’s not hard to believe virtually everyone is down to lend a hand to the cause, considering the “leave no trace” principle lives at the very heart of this community. The idea is simple: Walk away from the location leaving it looking better than when you arrived. And we’ll be damned if this song doesn’t linger in your head for days, making you want to change your litterbug ways.
Family-Friendly Festivals Are Good for the Future
We’d be lying if we said everyone in attendance was completely comfortable with children crossing their fun-frenzied paths. Although it can be awkward for someone who might be hitting the bottle a little too hard, sharing the space with the adolescents might not be as much of a hindrance as turnt-all-the-way-up heads may perceive it to be. Transformational fests stand out because they are inviting of creativity and development of the self. While we were busy trying to soak up as much of the wealth of wisdom being offered as humanly possible, the kids were just as welcome to participate in arts and crafts and frolic along with the kiddy parade. With a culture as empowering and willing to expand the horizon, why on earth would you ever want to deprive the youth of this experience? A family-friendly festival makes more sense than you can ever imagine.
The Sun Is a Giver of Life
Photo Credit: Aaron Glassman
We made our way back to the campgrounds Sunday afternoon as the sun began to set. As dusk started to nestle in and the sun gave its final, begrudging goodbyes, we noticed a man standing alone, stoically staring into the big, bright star. It was his way of worshiping. Soon after, a crowd of festivalgoers began to howl and hoot and clap as they caught their final glimpses of the celestial beauty. It was like a scene out of Lord of the Flies. We joined in, howling at the top of our lungs and clapping as if we’ll never see the sun again. We felt like tiny little flickers of existence under its powerful rays, and it taught us to appreciate our lives, love ourselves, and embrace the sun as the giver of life it is.
Dub Is a Way of Life
Photo Credit: Andre Schnyder
Let’s get this straight: We’re not talking about dubstep. While the “dub” in dubstep derives from the Jamaican genre, the focus here is actual and original reggae and dub music. Throughout the weekend, the Temple of Consciousness held a number of special events celebrating the beautiful sounds of these musical treasures, including the Life of Bob Marley event, a multimedia presentation from renowned Marley scholar Roger Steffens at the Temple Stage. We stumbled on a pure reggae and dancehall DJ set from Los Angeles reggae revivalist Crooks Ansata, featuring performances from Tijae. As we rested on the cushy ground pillows, we caught our breath and watched the nearby children play, the deep basslines running through our veins. It was then that we realized dub is, and will always be, a way of life. There wasn’t much to complain about. Our life is irie. Mi deh yah.
Dust Yourself Off and Try Again
Photo Credit: Juliana Bernstein
You have to hand it to the Do LaB for returning to San Antonio Recreation Area for the second year and ironing out all the kinks. Even though last year’s Bottle bonanza was quite a blast, most would attest to the treacherous trudge it was trekking from stage to stage, with fest-goers having to mount intimidating inclines that could scare away the short-winded folk. However, with the arrangement of smarter camping plots and placement of two life-saving bridges connecting the islands hosting the stages, shrugging off invitations to catch a dope act on the other side of the venue was no longer a necessity. In fact, it turned the act of hopping from the Woogie to the newly introduced Thunder Stage (we miss you, Bamboo Stage; it was real) into micro pep rallies. The bridges became a spirit lifter where thousands of passersby would exchange high-fives while reciting, “Good game!” It became an inside joke that, by the end of the weekend, all were privy to and no one would let die. If only someone were keeping count, because we’re pretty sure a new world record was set for high-fives.