Lots of changes are in store this year at Lightning in a Bottle, which runs tomorrow through Monday. For starters, the DoLab-produced music and arts festival has moved north of San Luis Obispo to the San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, California, following an undercover police sting at last year's Lake Skinner incarnation.
We spoke to Dede Flemming, a DoLab co-founder, about the controversy, their motivations for the move, and other changes.
Why did Lightning in a Bottle move this year?
We decided not too long ago that we wanted to see what other options were out there. It was a strategic move because Lake San Antonio is located between San Francisco and the northern Los Angeles cities, where a lot of our audience comes from. It's also beautiful – it's just an absolute epic backdrop for the festival. The park was really receptive and welcoming, and here we are. We're optimistic to spend many years here.
What about the police presence?
The reality is, law enforcement has been a part of Lighting in a bottle for years. We've had countless meetings with law enforcement, and we've always been working with law enforcement. We're a team to make sure everyone is safe and protected. We've explained the situation in the past, and we're working together to have the best event possible.
Were the undercover crackdowns at Lake Skinner part of the reason LiB is being moved to a new location?
The sound was the biggest issue. They wanted to clamp down and put more restrictions on the sound, so we knew immediately that we didn't want to come back. They also wanted to make it a little earlier this year. That was the deciding factor. We've already had meetings with them, we've sat around the table with the law enforcement. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we couldn't come back and try to do the festival with even tougher sound restrictions.
Will there be sound restrictions this year?
The larger stages go until 2 am, and then after that, there will be plenty of areas to dance and do your thing late into the night. We're choosing to shut it down at 2 am, we don't want to be bad neighbors. We are working toward the future at this park and we believe that's the best decision. We hope to have a long future here.
What else is going to be different about LiB this year?
The biggest difference is simply the geography. We're absolutely out in nature. We went from a pristine, sterile park to the roots of LiB and where it came from. When we started, we were in Lake Cochuma by the Santa Ynez mountains outside of Santa Barbara. San Antonio very much looks the same, but where [Santa Barbara] was a very small, intimate, campout kind of festival – this is a very large, intimate campout kind of festival. The more time we spend out here, the more we see the LiB of old.
Will there be any programming or institutional changes?
As far as stage elements, there will be new artistic sculptures and structures. The Village is a much larger aspect of the festival this year, and we also added another yoga area. The [yoga area] in the center of the Temple is much larger than last year – it was so popular last year and we really wanted to expand it. The Learning Kitchen has also expanded a bit.
Any new stages?
The Grand Artique, which has been this small, western-style interactive environment, was getting a lot of praise, so we decided to make them a full-blown stage. They have a larger presence with larger acts. We're also bringing back Silent Frisco.
Is the camping situation different this year?
When we were in Irvine last year the campgrounds were completely separated, and this year, it is completely intertwined. You have two choices this year – you can park and walk in with your stuff to the outskirts of the festival, or you can [shuttle] deeper into the festival, and get closer to the stages. Now, you can get a lot closer and curate your experience that way.
Any advice for LiB newcomers?
Read the website through and through and figure out all of the logistical components. Come with an open mind, come by yourself – if you have it in you. Come on your own terms, without having to chase people from stage to stage. Let go and let the festival come to you. There's so much to do, and hopefully you get to see some of it, but don't try to see it all, just kind of go with the flow. And if you haven't been – take a chance, because it is as good as everyone says it is.