The Do LaB has thrown the Lightning in a Bottle festival for many years now, and in its second go-around in Bradley, CA, they were focused on upgrading the living experience and delivering more music than ever. WIth three and a half days worth of tunes, dozens of art installations, and vast improvements to the festival experience, they did just that.
Best New Addition: Bridges
This isn’t even a question. The jaunt up and down a hill patrons had to take every single time they wanted to go anywhere last year was exhausting. The new, sturdy bridges gave folks a shortcut to the fun around the festival and led to nearly non-stop high fives. Something about cramming people down a tight corridor in a place like this just breeds a sense of community and fun that you wouldn’t get at nearly any other festival. Good on The Do LaB for hearing the largest criticism from last year and doing something fun and safe about it!
Best Art Installation: The Lost Tea Party
This Burning Man staple made it’s way to Bradley this year and it is a beauty. Three extremely tall bronzed and Steampunked tea cups stand high above the ground, offering a stellar view to anyone brave enough to climb a ladder and sit inside. From the outside, they look faded and used, but still have an air of beauty and dignity to them, especially during dusk. Big Horn Palace was another stellar piece, as a giant outdoor canopy is smashed on either end by two large bulls. The thing was massive in reality and looked killer at night.
Best Non-Stage Area: Pagoda Bar
This bar nestled between the two main stages had just about everything: reasonably-priced drinks, enough room to dance or chill out, and a stacked lineup of musical talent. Artists like Goldrush, Kraddy, and Laura Low are just some of the excellent choices to make this wide open space feel small and intimate. Although there was a bit of bleed from the two monster stages, the place felt enclosed enough to have it’s own vibe. Oh, and the 80’s dance party on Thursday had people grooving all night, including a prom theme equipt with its own king and queen!
Best Remix/Sample: Made In Heights – “Skylark Interbang!”
Most festivals littered with DJ’s and producers are bound to have some interesting remixes, like Phutureprimitive’s “Mad World” remix to Jay-Z and Dolly Parton mashup made by KMT blasting from different corners of the grounds. But when Made In Heights started this track and the piano portion of Sufjan Steven’s “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland” came on, anyone in the know was a bit stunned. Most midwest indie guitarists do not find their way into massive festivals with lasers and four on the floor, but somehow this whole thing worked well.
Best Non-Musical Act: Bubble Gutter
Hailing from Los Angeles (and probably parts of outer space), this funky dance troupe combined all sorts of urban genres of fluid movement to keep the crowd more than entertained before Odesza’s big set on Friday night. Their beatboxer/emcee/DJ kicked things off before the foursome came out and slayed a 30-minute set that involved half a dozen sketches and more moves than a game of Risk. Two women and two men fought green monsters, evil government, personal hygiene, and even their own hormones as they crunked and clowned their way through the night. This was an unexpected treat for those waiting all night for the big names on the poster.
Best Set: Griz
The headliners were great, the smaller tents were jumping, but the most fun had at Lightning in a Bottle may have been Griz. His saxophone-infused funky performance had the crowd at the newly designed Thunder Stage rolling from end to end. The Michigan native has toured with some of the greats in the industry, but this finale set showed why he’s grown so much in such a short time, as the 24-year old producer laid down a killer set. Maybe it’s the fact that he gives away his music for free, or that his huge following considers themselves one big happy family, but the entire crowd was dancing in unison for a hard-working man that night. From the non-stop beats to the “We Are The Champions” finale, Griz closed off the first night in major style.