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Catch Lightning in a Bottle's free spirit in O.C.

The eclectic festival offers family and eco-friendly activities during the day and dance music galore when the sun goes down.

May 26, 2011|By Ramie Becker, Special to the Los Angeles Times
(Daniel Jung )

People come to Lightning in a Bottle to hear cutting-edge dance music, but there's so much more. The four-day festival, which takes place this weekend at Oak Canyon Ranch in Orange County's Santa Ana Mountains, features nighttime headliners Thievery Corporation, Pretty Lights and an onslaught of electronic acts spread over four stages. But people also come to Lightning in a Bottle, or LIB, for a chance to live a utopian dream.

LIB is often referred to as a "mini-Burning Man," a "techno-chella" or "a Woodstock for the cyber age." With daytime seminars featuring spiritual guru to the stars Marianne Williamson and sessions on "Buddhist Yoga, Meditation and Sound Healing" by Priya Deepika Mohan, LIB captures the idealistic ethos of New Age spirituality and eco-pioneerism and combines it with the playful hedonism of dance music culture.

Like Woodstock, which gave voice to the 30-and-under generation, LIB is young: The cutting-edge DJ lineup makes it clear that dance music reigns over more classic festival sounds such as blues or rock. But LIB aims to appeal to everyone: families, teenagers and those who lived the hippie days the first time around. The schedule is chock-full of family friendly activities, yoga, dance and fire-spinning classes; ongoing workshops in eco-conscious living, holistic health and spirituality; plus live art demonstrations, galleries and interactive displays. And the nights? Think multiple stages of music and performances, glowing with LED sculpture and bumping with futuristic dance beats.

LIB's producers, the Do Lab, have made the festival absurdly ambitious, but then they always swing for the fence. As the architects behind the popular misting oasis/DJ space at Coachella, the massively successful Lucent L'amour parties in downtown L.A., and the towering, mobile and illuminated flower sculptures at Burning Man, twins Dede and Jesse Flemming (along with a talented crew of fabricators and artists) have developed a solid rep for their organic, other-worldly designs.

It also happens that Do Lab has great taste in dance music. "This is really what the Do Lab excels in," explains electronic music producer Matthew Kratz, known as Kraddy. "They focus on creating holistic environments for the people attending: visual, aural, everything."

For Dede Flemming, this unique environment is the whole point, "It's a community and a small city for five days, not some venue to just hear music and dance but a place to let your guard down, try something new, learn something and meet new people." Hippy grandma, meet dub-step. Techno-head, meet kombucha-making.

That attention to environment also led to this year's festival site at Oak Canyon Ranch. LIB volunteer Eric Larson reports, "It's just gorgeous here. We aren't that far from civilization, really, but you'd never know it once you're on the ranch. Rolling hills, trees and grass, it's just amazing." And, for anyone who's toiled in desert conditions at Burning Man or boiled while waiting for their favorite band at Coachella, the idea of natural shade is welcome indeed.

The gates open Thursday, and Friday is the official opening ceremony, followed by seminars including "Living With Solar" and "Indigenous Ecosystems, Sacred Places, Settler Colonialism and the Environmental Movement." Four areas of music and live performance will continue into the evening with the Lucent Dossier Experience, Mimosa and PantyRaid heating up the night. Williamson makes her keynote speech at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and the ever-popular, big-hit-at-Burning-Man participation event, "Monkey Chant" happens after sundown. That night, Pretty Lights, Beats Antique and Kraddy headline the main stage, as well as a show from future-primitive performance troupe El Circo. Sunday's attractions include speakers Don Jose Ruiz (co-author of "The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery") and Kute Blackson, and night performances by Bonobo, Baths and Thievery Corporation.

Festival veteran and DJ Nick Alvarado (known as Pumpkin) gives LIB newcomers some simple advice: "Read your info booklet! I flew by the seat of my pants the first year I went and missed so much good stuff, so plan ahead. "

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