Why The World Needs Festivals Like Lightning In A Bottle

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Words by Crystal Garcia & Photos by Jacob Avanzato 

The world is a crazy and chaotic place to live in today. Terrible things happen everyday that just can’t be made sense of no matter how hard you may try. It’s difficult to open the news tab on your phone in the morning because you already know what you’re in for- murders, shootings, bombings, war, etc. We live in a world where this has become the social norm and we’ve grown accustomed to hearing horrible news while thinking to ourselves “that’s sad” or “that sucks”, and move on with our day’s, most likely never to ponder on it again. As the saying goes,”out of sight, out of mind.”

We continue moving through our daily lives as if the rest of the world is doing just as fine as we are. Flipping off and yelling at the car that cut you off on the way to work because he’s a dick for doing that to you. Avoiding eye contact with every face you pass on the street because who even does that anymore. Getting upset with the barista who must be incompetent for messing up your coffee order that requires more than ten words to pronounce.

But what if the driver who cut you off was speeding to get his epileptic son to the hospital? Or, what if one of those strangers you avoided eye contact with is suffering from severe depression and a simple smile could’ve changed their entire day? What if you knew the barista messed up your order because she had just spent the entire night awake watching over her dying father? While these are all hypothetical ‘what if’s’, they happen everyday in life without us realizing even in the slightest.

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In light of the recent tragedies in Orlando where fifty people were killed at a gay nightclub, a place where gay men felt safe to fully express themselves, it is more important than ever that we take these what if’s into account in daily life. What if the man that committed this crime who was full of fear and hate, was instead shown genuine kindness, compassion, and love throughout his life? Would he have still done it? There’s no way to know, but I can’t help but to think most likely not.

This is where Lightning In A Bottle, a “transformational” festival, becomes of utter importance in today’s world. Besides everything that makes up the four day festival aesthetically, the headlining artists, grandeur stages, psychedelic art and beautiful people, at the core of this festival is compassion, creativity, community and love. Without these components, the festival wouldn’t be a true LIB experience.

As I walked across multiple bridges on the vast festival grounds over Memorial Day Weekend last month, I stayed silent as I listened to the conversations of people passing by walking in the opposite direction, while hearing some of the most endearing words you would only expect to hear in some sort of Utopian land. Just a few of the discussions I heard included passerbyers saying “self care,” “so much fun” and my favorite words “love it all,” as two friends embrace each other with a hug and laughter, each with a twinkle in their eye and a permanent smile across their face.

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The humanly interactions were not only limited to words as it was completely normal for the person passing to look you in the eye and smile, in fact it would be quite odd if someone didn’t. It wasn’t any surprise for every single person passing to attempt to give you a high five, regardless of your skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender, or even if that hand of yours was the filthiest thing in the festival. It didn’t matter who you were before entering the festival or where you came from, you’re at LIB now. You are here. You are community. You are loved. You are family.

These inspirational moments carried on for me throughout the weekend, every day catching me by surprise right when I couldn’t imagine it possibly getting any better. I recall the first night when I found one of my best friends in a crowd of people exactly when I needed her most. I was enveloped in the most loving hug that left me in tears of happiness, which turned into three hugs because we both couldn’t get enough. Or when I took a powerful yoga class with my boyfriend Casey and it connected us in a way I otherwise would have never thought possible.

I’ll admit that I entered the festival that first day emotionally and mentally drained from life occurrences the weeks beforehand, but quickly found myself feeling much lighter and free by Sunday. The collective energy had peaked by the last day, and everything flowed naturally. I found my friends effortlessly and made new ones. Watched the last sunset filled with pink and purple hues atop the peak of a hill at the meditation outlook with Casey. We made it just in time to see Lee Burridge close out the Woogie Stage as we happily stuffed our faces with my favorite raw pad thai from l.o.v.e’s kitchen.

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We Drank delicious licorice tea in the ‘Om Shan Tea’ yurt as Chet Faker performed my favorite songs including ‘No Diggity’ on The Lightning Stage. Viewed Saturn through a telescope at the onsite Black Rock Observatory and burst into laughter after hearing the technician enthusiastically yell out “last call for Saturn,” as we laid out in a geometric dome art installation while looking at a plethora of stars sparkle in the dark night sky at 3 am. You get the idea, it was absolutely magical.

Many have their own perception of what a transformational festival is or isn’t. Some tend to think it’s a hippie type festival where hippies gather and do ‘hippie stuff’, others may think it’s just another music and arts festival amongst the influx of festivals offered today. I can’t tell you what LIB is or isn’t, as it’s a festival so complex that must be attended to truly understand. What I can tell you is that the experiences such that occur at LIB are what the world needs NOW.

You’re free to let go of your worries, fears, anxiety and stress, in fact it will be difficult not to. Your ego will want to judge the people you’re not familiar with, until you end up camped right next to them and realize they’re a few of the kindest people you’ve ever met. They’ll feed you food you would never otherwise dare try. Even when you resist they insist, so you succumb and are pleasantly surprised by how delicious it is. When you awake with a massive hangover the next morning, they’ll be right there with everything you need to recover and you’ll come to find how grateful you are for people you would’ve previously avoided eye contact with at all cost.

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You’ll be surrounded by a bunch of weirdos, and realize how much you now enjoy being the weirdo you’ve always been because you can’t remember the last time you laughed and smiled this much. You’ll be having a ridiculously fun time and suddenly be confronted with things in your life that you may have been ignoring and it’s probably going to hurt, but soon after you’ll be showered with love by a total stranger and realize everything that’s happened in your life has been leading up to this moment.

Now you’re fully present in the moment, the most present you’ve ever been in your entire life. Your heart will be so full that you think it’s going to explode, so you don’t know what else to do but frolic around giving love to anyone who will receive it. You’ll spend the rest of the weekend enjoying life for what it is basking in the company of strangers, astonished at how capable you are of feeling raw happiness and love.

You’ll return home to your parents wondering what’s happened to you and your friends not recognizing you. You’ll return to reality, but not without pondering what life would be if you could take your experience into daily life, constantly thinking “what if?” Quickly you come to find the world would be a different place if everyone was given the opportunity to have these experiences, and you make it a point to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice in the ‘real world.’ Suddenly your entire LIB experience makes complete sense and you can finally comprehend why they call it a “transformational” festival, because really…what else would you call this?

“You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one,
I hope someday you’ll join us,
and the world will be as one.”
-John Lennon

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