[Note: This article has been updated since it was originally published with a statement from Dream Rockwell, which is reprinted in full below.]
On a dim and misty stage, living wind-up dolls stomp and writhe while up above, a befeathered acrobat dangles from a crescent moon. A group of wigged and painted performers appears, moving across the stage as gracefully as a shoal of sardines. Dancers wield fans that are ablaze in rippling tufts of fire, which wiggle to the bass-driven, electronic calliope music, as the audience feels the warmth emanating from the flames. This otherworldly act is Dream Rockwell’s Lucent Dossier Experience, a steampunk-themed, neo-tribal circus performance troupe that was once a fixture at Lightning in a Bottle as well as at Coachella’s Do LaB stage.
“Life is a series of surprises — so many unexpected delicious moments and a few painful ones,” Rockwell says. She talking about recent events in her own life, but might just as well be describing a typical Lucent Dossier performance. “Our job as humans is to learn, grow, keep singing, keep dancing and lead a prosperous, full life, no matter what gets thrown at us,” she continues. “I have grown so much from this experience. I have seen visions of new creations and projects. Lucent Dossier is flourishing [and] going on tour beginning July 28.”
The aforementioned experience from which Rockwell has “grown so much” was a very public falling out with close friends and business partners Josh and Jesse Flemming. More than a decade ago, before music festivals were a fashion trend or a hashtag, the twin Flemming brothers and Rockwell (née Marcia Webb) came together to establish what has since become one of the most recognizable event production companies in the world: the Do LaB.
While they began as a team — with Josh and Rockwell dating for a time and Dede, a third Flemming brother, joining later — years of gradual erosion in their personal and professional relationships led to their recent split. Now the lawyers have been called in to sort out the details, but both the Flemmings and Rockwell agreed to share their sides of the dispute with L.A. Weekly, despite ongoing litigation.
“I met Josh Flemming at an L.A. event called the Pajama Jammy Jam,” says Rockwell, who is originally from Canada. “I was still new to Los Angeles and went to the event by myself. Josh was there to do lighting for the party and [we] connected instantly and deeply. … Josh introduced me to his twin brother, Jesse, and the three of us were off to great things.”
Do LaB, famous for its flagship festival Lightning in a Bottle, was established in 2005 and has grown in both size and acclaim. The company has undergone several iterations since its initial inception, but its biggest change has been the departure of co-founder Dream Rockwell. The rift between her and the Flemmings had been slowly building for years but was made public after she released a statement only days before Lightning in a Bottle kicked off its 13th year this past May.
“On behalf of all women who are marginalized or slighted by their male counterparts, I felt a duty, no matter how painful, to reveal the truth about my relationship with the Flemmings,” Rockwell says now, explaining her reason for issuing the statement.
The Flemmings, who believed Rockwell’s statement was an act of retribution, retaliated with a statement of their own, describing many of her claims as “baseless accusations.” Though she provided several documents that prove her role as co-founder and board member of Do LaB, Rockwell claims that she was sent cease-and-desist letters by the Flemmings upon any public mention of her title as co-founder.
“I'm not sure the full details, but to see legal documentation of Dream’s involvement in founding [the Do LaB and Lightning in a Bottle], then seeing the cease-and-desist demands from Do LaB saying she can't mention her involvement, is simply wrong,” says a person close to both the Flemmings and Rockwell who would only comment under the condition of anonymity. “It's sad that all that glitters isn't gold and that these two forces of culture and creativity can't pull it together for the sake of the community that birthed both of them.”
Though the Flemmings initially wanted to settle the dispute quietly, Rockwell’s lengthy letter made that impossible. “Dream's statement is very upsetting to us,” Jesse explains. “We tried to sit down to work on resolutions privately, but she and her attorneys seem more interested in hurting our reputation and trying to make this into a gender battle that it simply is not. … Our company and festival production is run mostly by women … and we strive to empower them to grow in our company and otherwise.” To corroborate this claim, the Flemmings provided L.A. Weekly with a copy of Lightning in a Bottle's 2017 call sheet, which did indeed list more than 30 women in positions such as director of human resources as well as many other lead roles: executive producer, creative content director, production coordinator, build lead and design lead.
“We can only speculate about her motives for suing us,” Josh adds, “but we were told by our attorney that when he asked Dream’s attorney what Dream was looking for in this case, her answer was, ‘A very big check.’” (After this article, Rockwell sent a statement to L.A. Weekly via text message responding to this and other allegations by the Flemmings and their lawyer. That statement has been added in full to the end of this article.)
In addition to Rockwell’s creation of the Lucent Dossier Experience, she was responsible for the organization of Lightning in a Bottle’s Temple of Consciousness, a hub for educational workshops, movement classes, yoga and lectures that became a paradigm in the alternative festival scene. At the time, very few music festivals offered anything more than a lineup and some art installations.
For years, the Flemmings granted Rockwell autonomy for whom she curated at the Temple of Consciousness. However, when David “Avocado” Wolfe, a social influencer known for being a staunch believer and proponent of the so-called “flat Earth theory,” was invited to speak on a flat-Earth panel moderated by Rockwell, a confrontation erupted between Rockwell and the brothers, who strongly oppose Wolfe's ideas. According to the Flemmings' lawyer and several off-the-record sources within the scene, this was one of the biggest factors behind the split.
“The flat-Earth lecture was certainly a part of the Do LaB’s decision to no longer hire Ms. Webb to produce the Temple of Consciousness at LIB, although her lawsuit against the company really cemented that decision,” says the Flemmings' lawyer, Stephen Doniger. “Dream’s insistence on, inter alia, advancing the argument that the world is flat as a sound and enlightened theory at LIB required action by the Flemmings to protect the integrity of the event and their organization.”
The Flemming brothers, who first coined the name Lightning in a Bottle for a series of private birthday parties beginning in 2000, are the brains and brawn behind the event’s lighting, staging, installations and iconic aesthetics, while Rockwell was in charge of the more experiential aspects, including running LIB's in-house performance troupe, the Lucent Dossier Experience. Unfortunately, according to the Flemmings, it was Lucent Dossier that first began to create a rift between the Do LaB's founders
“Originally the company was focused on providing lighting, decor and performance at events,” Jesse explains. “In addition to creating art and sculptures, we created a performance troupe called Lucent Dossier. Dream was primarily focused on Lucent Dossier while my brothers and I focused primarily on building the Do LaB’s overall business. After a few years, Dream decided to take Lucent Dossier for herself and start her own legal entity without any discussion about it with us.”
Just as the Flemmings believed Rockwell was acting in secrecy, Rockwell believed the same of the Flemmings. Her statement alleges that the brothers secretly dissolved their company by first changing the Do LaB Inc. to the Do LaB LLC., then re-establishing it once again as Do LaB Inc., removing her title as co-founder of the company as well as of Lightning in a Bottle in the process. She states that this was done without her knowledge, but the Flemmings and their lawyer claim otherwise, saying that when the original Do LaB corporation was dissolved in 2011, Rockwell knew she would not be a part of the newly created LLC.
In June 2016, Rockwell says she reached a breaking point (“after a fruitless attempt to reconcile with them”) and initiated a lawsuit against the brothers. “I reached out to Jesse, asking for copies of Do LaB’s corporate records,” says Rockwell — whereupon her former partners told her she had no legal right to them. “Jesse informed me, in an email, that I did not have any ownership interest in Do LaB and had not since 2011. I was shocked — it was heartbreaking.”
Dream Rockwell “was no longer part of the Do LaB in early 2011
According to the Flemmings' lawyer, however, this does not ring true. “The Do LaB Inc. was formally and publicly dissolved on Jan. 31, 2011, yet Ms. Webb filed this action on June 24, 2016,” Doniger states. “Ms. Webb appears to be crying fraud as a ploy to toll the statute of limitations. Unfortunately for her, there is substantial evidence that she knew of the dissolution and that she was no longer part of the Do LaB in early 2011.”
Relatively early on, Jesse claims, Rockwell was becoming less and less involved with Do LaB affairs, rarely attending meetings and focusing solely on Lucent Dossier. By 2010, they had become estranged. “After years of barely speaking and her not participating in anything Do LaB–related, other than the Temple at LIB,” Jesse says, “it just seemed absurd for her to continue as a one-third owner, especially since she had claimed Lucent for herself.”
Together, the Flemmings and Rockwell redefined the festival experience, each being monumentally important to Lightning in a Bottle’s growth. Though what they have created together will continue to thrive, their partnership unfortunately will not.
In spite of the ongoing legal squabbles, both parties are moving forward with their respective projects. Lightning in a Bottle is still one of the largest, most highly regarded alternative festivals in the world, and Lucent Dossier Experience continues to present its unique shows, with a performance in Los Angeles at the Wiltern on Friday, July 28.
Though many negative words have been exchanged, there is still a mutual respect and distant love that exists between Rockwell and the Flemming brothers. While their professional relationship will remain forever severed, there is still a chance for time to heal their friendship.
“We hope for an amicable resolution so that we can all move on with our lives,” Josh says. “This whole ordeal has been very difficult for everyone involved, but we still care about Dream and hope for the best for her in the future.”
[Update, July 25, 2 p.m. PDT: After this article was published, Dream Rockwell sent the following statement via text (some typos corrected for clarity):
“Lucent Dossier was incorporated in 2007, years before the Flemmings fraudulently dissolved the Do Lab Inc. They are two separate entities. For them to say that we parted ways in 2011, with me taking Lucent and them taking the Do Lab, is a fairy tale. In the years prior to Lucent’s formal incorporation and after, the Do Lab paid Lucent as a performer. Lucent is and always has been a very pure expression of my soul and it has always been my company.
“Josh, Jesse and I each pursued separate ventures while also developing the Do Lab together. For instance, neither Lucent nor The Serotonins belonged to the Do Lab. The Lucent narrative is a ploy to distract from what the Flemming brothers did. Why would I give up a thriving company into which I poured my heart and soul without any compensation or even a written agreement? It does not make sense. The real issue here is the fact that they took not just my ownership but tried to erase me and all I brought to the table as I had years of experience when we meet.
“Candidly, one has to wonder whether I’d be asked the same questions concerning my ownership in the Do Lab if I were a man.
“The brothers tell stories to create the illusion that they did this thing by themselves or rather without a woman. I’m not saying amazing women don't work for the Do Lab — many do, as employees. However, I was a founder and equal partner. It’s different. LIB and everything it stood for was a huge piece of my soul: the music, the kids area, the greening initiatives, the Grand Artique, the immersive interactive areas, and of course the Temple of Consciousness and all its stages of healing, yoga, speakers, indigenous arts, consciously culinary, sound baths and so on. I loved all of this. Bringing people into a world beyond their imagination, sharing concepts and ideas that would spark curiosity. I would never have walked away and I didn't. We were very successful in 2010. Why would I just give it away to the boys? Why would I do that? Why would I give up my executive leadership and keep working for them? I would never have walked away from the very thing I was so passionate about.”]
The Lucent Dossier Experience performs at the Wiltern on Friday, July 28. Tickets and more info.