Deep in central-California farmland, there is a place called San Antonio Lake. Just over an hour outside of Monterey, CA, San Antonio Lake is pretty much the same thing for the majority of a year: a lake. But for 5 days out of the year, this area is transformed into something so much more. Every May, for the past 16 years, a corner of San Antonio Lake hosts “Lightning in a Bottle” music festival, and while there is definitely plenty of music, LiB is SO much more than that. LiB feels more akin to a gathering of the minds and spirits, with the festival offering everything from art installations, TED-Talk-esque lectures, and cooking classes, to a non-stop schedule of yoga classes, meditation sessions, hands-on crafting classes, and a general vibe that everyone is looking out for each other. You can party, yes, but you don’t have to. You can go there to be enlightened as well. Continue reading to find out what makes Lightning in a Bottle the most UNIQUE music festival you will ever go to.
Lightning in a Bottle is produced by local California company “DoLab” which oversee’s everything from the artist curation to the beautiful pavilions that are seen around the festival. Lightning in a Bottle has grown to have such a unique style that you can immediately spot a LiB photo because of the beautiful tapestry buildings.
Everyone at LiB, from the patrons to the purveyors, is extremely welcoming. LiB is everyone’s weekend to let loose and be themselves without society judging them, so why not let welcome each other with open arms? There is no time to be judgemental, there is so much to do!
LiB is known for it’s jam-packed schedule of activities, and there is always something to do if you’re looking for it. From the roaming fun-cart blowing bubbles and starting impromptu dance parties…
…to the hidden tea house with non-stop walk-in free tea service. If you like to explore, this festival is for you. This place wasn’t even on the map, you just kind’ve gotta find it.
24/7 Spiritual Fulfillment
LiB isn’t just about fun and partying, it’s also about enlightenment. LiB offers non-stop Yoga and Meditation sessions taking place in 3 different large-scale tents.
Not only do they have ample meditation and yoga sessions, you could head to the Cauldron and the Beacon and take part in many cultural ceremonies. The area around the San Antonio Lake is home to many native tribes and LiB gladly has them as guests to provide learning and cultural enrichment to the many eager patrons.
…but Where Do I Stay…?
LiB is an extremely unique experience in that it is 100% a camping festival. And oh do people camp! LiB’s “tent cities” are a sight to behold and definitely provides an adventurous side to the fest. I think one of the best things I took away from the festival is the sense of community all of the campers had. If you needed something, everyone was willing to help out.
The camping is an experience in itself, and you will meet people from all walks of life. And people get a little wacky. This guy was squeaking at passerby on the way into the festival.
…But What Do I Eat?
As far as food goes, everyone is encouraged to bring food as if they were camping. But if you don’t feel like whipping out the propane stove and lugging 4 days worth of food to your campsite, LiB has PLENTY of food options. There are 30+ quick service options scattered around the festival, as well as a handful of sit-down “dining experiences.” Our favorite was “The Rancho,” which was a 5-course locally-sourced feast featuring Eggplant Parmigiana, locally-caught Yellow Snapper, and a delicious raw-cacao dessert. There is a significant upcharge for the experience, but I would say it was well worth it. We even made a few friends during our dinner!
Lib features an art pavilion with local artists work on display, as well as a day-long rotation of art classes to choose from. All the art-classes are free with your admission, so whip out your painting shirt and have at it! They also have multiple black-smithing introductory classes, but unless you want to devote 6 hours of your festival to it, you might want to pass.
The White Library
The White Library was a lonely building that sat on-top of a hill, and at the beginning of the festival all the walls were blank white. As the festival went on, patrons were encouraged to write words of wisdom on the walls, and one of my favorite experiences was going into this room on the last day and reading all of the kind and inspiring words people had written. It really was a place of inspiration.
The Soap Box Derby
In the midst of all this party and zen, on saturday afternoon the festival hosts it’s annual soap box derby, and it’s something you don’t wanna miss!
10 groups of staff members build their own cars from scratch and throw themselves down the biggest hill in the festival to compete for the best time. Is it safe? Sure. Is it entertaining? You bet!
Neck and Neck
While some of the races were EXTREMELY close, some racers barely rolled across the finish line. But it’s not always the destination that is the reward, it’s the journey there!
Crash and Burn
There were definitely some marvelous crashes, and the crowd made everything that much better.
In the end, someone had to be crowned the victor. What car was it? I don’t really know! But these guys look like winners to me.
Did Someone Say Party?
While There are plenty of extracurricular activities, LiB is definitely a party. With music going as late as 4am, people here know how to have a good time! Whether it be the Woogie Stage…
Did You Hear the Thunder?
…or the Thunder stage, you will get your bass-fix no matter what. That’s not to mention the Favala Bar, the Grand Artique, or the Pagoda Bar at your disposal!
I think one of our favorite parts of the festival was the amount of creative totems we saw. Here are a couple of our favorites.
The Big Boys (and Girls)
Every night, the festival comes together to watch the headliners on the mainstage. Our favorite was Anderson.Paak and the Free Nationals. They put on an unforgettable show and we HIGHLY recommend checking them out if you don’t know of them already.
Anderson.Paak is truly the entertainer, switching on and off the drums often, never playing to a backing track. It’s all Paak, all the time, and we couldn’t get enough.
Oh, Did We Mention the Lake?
The San Antonio Lake was prime swimming temperature during the festival and everyone wanted to take a dip to cool down. This groups floaty was SO BIG that it took 10 people to carry.
A Weekend You Will Never Forget