Putting Together Lightning In A Bottle Festival


The 13th annual Lightning In A Bottle music and arts festival, taking place July 11-15 along Lake Skinner, just outside of scenic Temecula, California, almost didn’t happen this year.

“We lost our old location,” LIB creator Jesse Flemming tells VIBE seated inside the Do LaB’s downtown Los Angeles warehouse. “Somebody is looking out for us because everything kind of fell into place perfectly, and, within a matter of four months, we were able to find a new location and go through the entire permitting process with the county.” The feat is, indeed, nothing short of amazing in the timeline of putting together a festival.

Upwards of 15,000 people are expected to flock to the LA- area boutique fest. Now in its 13th year (7th official), LIB started out quite naturally — as a dance-fueled birthday all-nighter for Flemming and his twin brother Josh. Word of mouth quickly spread.

Flemming admits that the original LIBs were definitely renegade. “We would just drive out into the mountains and find some open space, a really secluded space, enough places for cars to park and set up a little dance floor.” They drove up and down all over California, going down backroads, calling signs with phone numbers on them and just asking if they could use people’s property. “We always wanted it to feel like you’re secluded and out in nature so it’s pretty difficult to find that sort of thing,” explains Flemming. “But we feel like we kind of hit the jackpot with this new location. It’s got everything we want, it’s secluded, it’s beautiful, it’s big enough to hold all of the people and even have some growth.”

By the fifth year, they decided to open up their grassroots birthday bash to the public. “More people could come,” he says. The rest they figured out along the way. By now, Flemming, his brother and several pals became well-known in the LA-area for throwing DJ-helmed and art-infused events under the Do LaB tag. “After that, we decided we wanted to make it a three-day festival, so we took a year off and we found a location in Santa Barbara. We just promoted it all over the West Coast, everywhere we could and that’s kind of like the birth of Lightning In A Bottle.”

This year LIB headliners include Purity Ring, Nicolas Jaar, Rusko, Griz, Paper Diamond, Emancipator and more. Headliners in the past have included Bassnectar, Shpongle, the Glitch Mob, Pretty Lights, Thievery Corporation and Booka Shade.

Lightning in a Bottle 2013 lineup

“The hardest part of booking the festival is deciding on headliners, and getting them actually booked is pretty difficult,” admits Flemming, who books two of the main stages (about 45 artists) and oversees the rest of the music. “I have to narrow it down from hundreds and hundreds and there are a lot of artists that have been playing for years with us, but there’s such an influx of new and up-and-coming artists that it’s hard; like you have to find a mix of the old artists and the new ones. It’s tough. It’s definitely, you know, I’m always worried like, ‘Am I making the right decisions? Choosing the right people? Are people going to like it?”

Usually overworked and beyond exhausted by midnight during the festival, Flemming found himself in the spectator seat last year. “I was able to stay up late,” he says. “I stayed up till sunrise and kind of experienced the festival. There was a stage, some weird bands happening over here, and some little DJ’s set up over there, and people climbing all over the art over here, and all these little parties and scenes happening. The interesting part is … we didn’t program any of this stuff; these were all things that people just kind of brought and contributed and set up in the campgrounds. It’s kind of like Burning Man where people build the festival with us and are allowed to bring their own projects out and interactive areas, and participate with the community.”

Adds Flemming: “I couldn’t believe that all this stuff was going on. It was fun. It was crazy. It was such a wild experience. I was just blown away.”

For more information on Lightning In A Bottle or to buy tickets, head to LightningInABottle.com.

A special thanks to the talented Galen Oakes (facebook.com/galenoakesphoto) and Aaron Rogosin (AaronRogosin.com) for their additional video footage from Lightning in a Bottle. Music by Purity Ring, “Obedear” and “Fineshrine.”