L.A.-based art collective the Do LaB is known for a lot of things. They promote concerts and throw festivals, but they’re also known for building large-scale art installations that take over the space at these events. Maybe you’ve come across their bright-colored camp smack-dab in the middle of Coachella over the years? Maybe you’ve been to their Southern California music and art festival Lightning in a Bottle?
This here is the story of how the Do LaB came to be. How a group of starving artists — twin brothers Jesse and Josh Flemming, younger brother Dede and some close pals — found a downtown L.A. warehouse to throw parties in and eventually turned things around into a legit business. Along the way they embraced their mistakes and turned them …well, quite frankly, into magic, or otherworldly environments people are meant to enjoy and get lost in.
The Flemming brothers grew up in rural Pennsylvania. “You could stand in our yard and reach over the barbwire fence and pet cows,” Jesse tells VIBE seated at the Do LaB’s current downtown L.A. warehouse. ”We were always really active and needed a lot of stimulation, so we ended up getting into a lot of trouble.” Their restlessness also led them to build things around the yard, something that would come in handy later. After realizing college wasn’t for him, Jesse and his best friend Y2, now the Do LaB’s marketing director, headed out west.
“I remember hugging my mom goodbye and she was like, ‘Have a nice trip!” he says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Mom, it’s not a trip. We’re not coming back. We’re, like, we’re leaving.”
That was 14 years ago. Jesse’s brothers Josh and Dede soon followed. “We wanted to get into film and the movie business,” Flemming admits, “but after working a few jobs, we realized it wasn’t really for us and we ended up doing events.”
They’d throw parties. Big parties. Big enough that they needed their own venue.
“We were doing this Valentine’s Day party called Lucent L’Amore, and we needed to find a location in a warehouse downtown,” recalls Flemming. “At the time, the area was thriving with people throwing parties and artists getting warehouses and just building art out of the whole Burning Man culture in LA.” (Today the same downtown area is lined with coffee shops and fancy hot dog eateries.) They found a warehouse, but there was a catch: It came with a five-year lease. They pulled the trigger and called it home for the next half decade.
“It was good times,” says Jesse. “We were a little younger then and living on a filthy downtown street, which was an acceptable things to do at the time. And, there were a lot of friends, a lot of people in the neighborhood that were doing similar things, so it was a lot of fun. We would take any project that would come our way. We would do some lighting for a small event here, and build some weird sculpture for something over there.”
Eventually they out grew their warehouse, but not their passion. The Do LaB has become a sustainable and growing music presence in the Southern California area with organized events spanning from San Diego to San Francisco. 2013 marked their ninth year building a stage from scratch at Coachella. This July, they will hold their 13th Lightning in a Bottle festival in Temecula, California.
“I think a lot of our fan base comes from that, comes from a community that we’ve been helping to nurture and build over the years and a lot of the music artists that we work with and book have all kind of grown out of that scene as well,” admits Jesse. “We helped and nurtured a lot of smaller artists get bigger and some of them have taken off in the world.” DJs like Bassnectar, the Glitch Mob, Beats Antique are all acts that the Do LaB gang calls good friends now.
“We started doing these parties way back in the day, before anybody knew any of these guys,” says Jesse, “and now, a lot of them… Bassnectar, especially, is one of the biggest in the world. It’s crazy some of our friends have shot up to the top like that. I’d like to think that we had tiny little hands in that.”
Special thanks to The Confluence for additional footage. Music by Purity Ring and The Herbert Bail Orchestra.