“What time is it?” asks a total stranger while a whirlwind of fire dancing, gymnastics and psychedelic visuals unfurl before my eyes. “No idea,” I respond. I gave up on the concept of incremental time a while ago. “That’s what I’m talking about! That’s what time it is!” he screams while jumping up and down. “It’s party time!” he exclaims while giving me a bear hug. I hug him back, in a state of inexplicable bliss. He moves over a few yards and asks the same question to another stranger.
That interaction epitomizes the spirit of Lightning in a Bottle Festival in two ways. First, Lightning in a Bottle is one giant love-fest. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more peaceful and welcoming group of festival goers. Get ready to see an outpouring of hugs, kisses, smiles and compliments if you plan on attending. Everybody seems to see the best in everybody else and nobody is afraid to share. Second, at LIB, (as at many other of the best festivals) time moves at its own pace. Electro beats pulse through the entire camp until the break of dawn. And you better hurry and catch a nap in those few hours before the sun rises, because by mid-morning the campsites, which are placed in the hottest, most barren part of the park, are sweltering. And forget about your phone, unless you’re willing to stand in ridiculously long lines to charge it. And honestly that defeats the purpose; LIB is a place to wonder from moment to moment, person to person. Leave your game plan at home and just let the event unfold.
The loving, free-flowing spirit of Lightning in a Bottle occurs in large part because the festival is much more than a music festival. In addition to three magically designed music stages that rock for twelve straight hours each day, LIB also offers yoga classes from sunrise to sunset, guided nature walks, lectures on art and new age spirituality and enough psychedelic art to send your third eye into overdrive. There is an excellent balance between the reflective and introverted (take a yoga class, meditate by the lake, listen to a lecture) and the hyper extroverted (dance your ass off til dawn!). Each person can take as much from each element as he or she needs. That flexibility just works: everyone I talked to left the festival with a sense of personal growth and empowerment.
As for the music? Well, let me just get something off my chest: I missed a lot of the big boys, so there will be no review on Nicolas Jar, Rusko or PANTyRAiD. And you know what? That’s just fine, because there was no shortage of phenomenal electronic acts on display at LIB. Below are eight sets that really stood out.
Andreilien: This San Francisco based DJ offers a very quirky take on dubstep. His sound is like being caught in a multidimensional portal that interweaves a Jamaican forest with a craggy extraterrestrial landscape. Deep, funky dub beats are bathed in wacky electronic beeps and buzzes, some of which expand like wormholes and engulf the entire track only to spit it out into the same deep, funky beat. There’s also a splattering of sweet reggae hooks. Andreilien’s set was a wild mash of weird, fun and imaginative.
Cari Lekebusch: When it came to more traditional techno, Swedish vet Cari Lekebusch was the definite highlight. His cuts are grounded in foresty tribal beats that are dark, driven and focused. The beats are overdubbed with a variety of quick hitting and dragged out notes, all which share the same icy ambiance. The net result is thoroughly hypnotizing music that is simultaneously sexy and haunting.
EPROM: One of the most mind-bending sets of the weekend came from the San Francisco based DJ EPROM. Most of his cuts are grounded in low, wobbly hip hop beats that split apart into a maddening kaleidoscope of disjointed and off-kilter progressions that crumble apart, often flirting with total disintegration. The sounds vary from video game hooks to birdlike chirps to noises that are more akin to rain-sticks. Just when you’re brought to the brink of total disorder, EPROM will reintroduce an infectious groove. The interplay of order and chaos was simply excellent.
Giraffage: Giraffage creates beautiful, flowing pieces of ethereal R&B and dream pop highlighted by catchy vocal hooks that are repeated ad infinitum. The vocals range from low, trap style drones to high, feminine coos. The atmosphere is sensual and nostalgic. Yet amidst the beauty there are madding breaks where the beat suddenly accelerates or decelerates and the melody splinters. Other times the beat drops out altogether and all that is left are waves of fractal notes. These brief moments of chaos within otherwise dreamy arrangements keep you on the edge of your seat even while you drown in wistful bliss.
Kaminanda: Kaminanda offered one of the more robust and eclectic sounds at LIB. Kaminanda integrates traditional music from South America, Australia, India and elsewhere into a blend of glitch and dub. Part of Kaminanda’s force comes from the cleanliness of his compositions and arrangements. The percussion sounds especially bright, often employing complex Caribbean and Latin American rhythms. Kaminanda usually opts for real instruments, including guitar, violin, didgeridoo and piano, resulting in a fresh & visceral sound. There was also plenty of low and high pitched electronic tones that weave their way in and out of the instrumental foundation. It was clear that Kaminanda’s pieces are very well written, flowing through a variety of passages and that lead the listener through an immersive journey.
Lucent Dossier Experience: For most of LIB the spectacle came from the wildly dressed (or not so dressed) members of the crowd rather than what was actually happening on stage (usually a DJ standing behind a MacBook Pro). Lucent Dossier Experience was most definitely the exception. Sensuous Arabian and Eastern European melodies are deployed on a symphonic scale and then knocked into overdrive by waves of growling wobble bass and electronic surges. At the same time, fire dancers, belly dancers, aerial acrobats and just about every other kind of fringe performer struts their stuff before a backdrop of psychedelic videos. The costumes are excellent, ranging from vaudeville to gypsy to steampunk and some of the dance moves are totally hypnotizing. It was pure eye candy for all.
Phutureprimitive: Phutureprimitive could not have chosen a more fitting name. The Portland based DJ’s sound is equal parts futurist and primal; his greatest skill is his ability to balance oppositions. There are heavy surges of wobble bass set to mechanical stop-start patterns, but there are also lush, earthy undertones, including sprawling soundscapes, ethereal vocals and gentle keys. The songs stick to steady mid tempos as the two elements take turns at center stage, flowing in and out of each other before merging in exquisite syntheses of soft and harsh, high and low, light and dark.
Purity Ring: The Canadian duo closed out the main stage on Friday night with its signature style of electro dream pop. The songs are highlighted by memorable melodies that range from the elegant and glitzy to the playful and childish. Vocalist Megan James’s light, fluttering voice was delectable; her heartfelt delivery captured the simple beauty of each song. The cloud-scraping lightness of the vocals and lead melodies were grounded by rumbling hip hop beats, which were heavy enough to make the earth shake. The culminating effect was music that filled the entire sound spectrum.
While electronic music was the main dish, side stages offered everything from solo didgeridoo to shredding blues guitarists to soul choirs. Heck, there was even a sound-bath of gongs and chimes. No doubt, there were sounds to please every ear. But most of all LIB highlighted just how much creative and original electronic music is out there. If you’re a fan of the genre, make sure find your way to LIB 2014.
Photos by Alex De la Hidalga
Written by Jael Reboh
OurVinyl | Contributor