Rhythmic euphoric drizzles from a gracious soon to be sunny sky introduced and convened fifteen thousand people together this past weekend at Oak Canyon Ranch for Lightning in a Bottle 2012. Stages, temples, sculpture, color, mandalas, lights, tents and teepees were spread across the landscape, creating a parallel planet of swirling music nature spirits senses and play. Between sitting in a wooden hut electric gong jingling recycled can instrument, melting in the oasis airstream portable sauna, getting a herbal root shamanic reading, Bashar, Barbara Hubbard, sun struck waves of bliss, yogic dancing, and foraging for edible plant life on a dirt path along a tree covered mountain (sage, elderberry, indian tobacco, to label a few), I witnessed musical performances that ranged from provocatively unique to heavy and loud, encountering everything from harp inspired kirtan worship that went on for hours, to a twenty six minute sound check for a twelve minute performance with a personality disorder.
There were four main stages, labeled “Woogie,” “Bamboo,” “Lightning” and “Lucent Temple,” each containing their own sound no matter how loud so that no blending of music existed when you were at a stage, and small gorilla stages constructed and dispersed in nooks all over the site, (Buddha Lounge with a relaxing night fantasy aura, and Frontierville, with a crazy turn of the century saloon and early settler folky feel , are two that come to mind.) Lacking any urge to compare and contrast LIB to mainstream music festivals, because I don’t have a working definition of “mainstream” or “aliens” in my repertoire at this juncture, I was present for a lot and present the following acts from that a lot, a complexly woven blanket of love and music that this year’s Lightning in a Bottle line up had to offer.
Friday. Lightning Bamboo LIghtning. Lynx, Gaudi and Wilderbe
LYNX: In the San Francisco world, Lynx’ quickly expanding reputation proceeds her, and queerly she has a committed following for a reason. With a two-spirited, hat and dark rimmed glasses wearing, stout and punky glow, she played one drum with drum sticks while creating electronic multi-instrumental loops, pumped up dance meditations accompanied, cut and persuaded by her lovely purring voice. We danced and sang a long, smiled on, and after three songs of the highest energy things got quiet and she stood in the middle of the stage with simply the mike to beatbox. Her beatboxing was an absolute star constellation of an experience, she became a deep and multi-faceted instrument, turning noises and words into a collage of rhythm for at least 8 minutes. Following the beatbox display, the energy cooled down, against my personal will, for the second part of her performance, when she brought out a male guitarist/singer and they shifted to rocking rolly somewhat folky ballads. It felt disconnected in that sense, but Lynx as Lynx is exciting, with light and brightness expanding beyond her medium sized wildcatness into a realm where sounds and actions we think we know are mixed up in a way creating a new and nameless genre. As a side, collaboration detail, up on stage almost as part of the act, photographing Lynx during the performance, was “Jack” from The Real L Word, Whitney’s old San Francisco fling.
WILDERBE: A branch off of Lucent Dossier Experience, the dub step dance team WIlderbe, who refer to themselves as “intelligent dance,” put together an interactive video dance performance where the live dancers body movements create riffs in the video projections behind them. A female doll like creature in tights and suede stood out in the set, with huge white nylon yarnish hair and a white paper machet mask, dancing in precise unison with a projected shadow. The costumes were complex and beautifully crafted, not unlike some of the people costumed in the crowd, who experienced a mystical transportation of the ideas of reality in movement, as videos of cityscapes and neon forests opened up to and vibrated in reaction to the bodies moving around on stage. What I believe would make this an incredibly unique and powerful experience beyond dance would be if the music was also live, an orchestra of sorts, with instruments and electronica merging together.
Saturday: Bamboo Lightning Lucent Temple. Sugarpill, Lucent Dossier Experience and The LuvAMP Project.
SUGARPILL: Polyrhythmic samply melodies, vibratory body shaking tempos, bass bass bass and a smiling excited stage presence lifted the crowd, some of whom were dressed as birds, computers, and unicorns, during the Sugarpill performance. A bit of a mosh pit of dance, sweat, and people peeling off layers, raising arms up to the night sky was a djing dubbish fantastical rave, simply put, loud and fun.
LUCENT: The Lucent Dossier Experience is directly and intimately connected to the event at its major artery, with lead singer “Dream” as one of the founders of The Do Lab and LIB. Prior to their performance there were two huge screens with their name in bright lights spinning in and out of view slash clarity. Prior to the music, spiritual guru Mirabel Devi took the stage as part of the performance, to send out light to everyone in the crowd. We were to remain with our arms up and our eyes closed, soaking in the “light,” exemplifying the pulse of this festival to merge the music performance with a spiritual experience and the message of love and connectivity among everyone. In that sense, there was a mega church vibe, (a mega church I’d attend but mega all the same) which later merged with a circus space ship ancient rave vibe. A tension ends up existing when the ascension of light from mother earth and from within everybody’s own heart gets put next to and with the dark insanity costumes and expression of the dancers. The acrobatics were enticing, as bodies wrapped in white sheet pushed out of their pods and dangled by rope to the music, though if you’ve seen circa de sole they exemplify a mere portion what is possible with such moon shaped hanging metal toys and rope. I ended up watching every minute of it and questioning whether there was a story line I was supposed to be following, a narrative with a message, or whether each song was a self contained performance. The lead singer Dream’s guttural yelling singing to the band’s music (violin, drums, guitars) and calling to the crowd, “I want you,” was both intoxicating and piercing, and with the dance and dub step beats to which the dancers jerked and slid along the stage.
THE LUVAMP PROJECT: This merging of many distinct type of music instruments voices and costume was a positive late night experience, in general, if you forget about the awkwardly long sound check, and how that awkward situation continued through the course of the performance. Only by one of the singers, the one dressed in a turquoise gown and head cover who had a lovely supportive voice that created melodic sounds and who also, when lead singing, had a bit of a jack johnson feel, who had angry eyes over the levels of his guitar and microphone, which was a bit perplexing especially since everyone in the diversity of the crowd and on stage with him was dancing and holding each other in people clumps they called “Cuddle puddles.” I only know this because I got engulfed by one, or trapped, depending how you look at it, and as much as I, too, love love, I really wanted to watch the show from the carpeted floor and sway to the beautiful beats. The LuvAMP Project is a collective with the initiative to promote interconnectivity, the human heart and love, that is what they explained during the show and that is what was most clearly presented in the performance of Miranda Rondeau, dressed in all white fur, playing a hand held frame drum and covering the crowd with a powerful invocational of what felt like multi-language vocals.
Sunday: Woogie Lightning. Jeremy Sole, Pumpkin and Bassnectar
JEREMY SOLE and PUMPKIN: In the light of day and in the heat of the sun I experienced what felt like a high energy spiritually enhancing version of the “Spring Break 2012″ paradigm. Jeremy Sole, called an afro-funk deejay by many, seemed to explore the entire globe in what felt like one long and beautiful upbeat song. At the end of his hour he said, “Thank you for taking this trip with me around the world,” and the leather feathers and the old sun burned folks alike cheered wildly as if the music gave us something we didn’t have before. The dimpled deejay PUMPKIN followed, wearing white heart shaped sunglasses and a stripy fedora, surrounded by an excited entourage on stage and an excited crowd. He played playful tunes, continued the party, while light hearted jumping and innocent grinding took over the mulch covered dance floor, and a mother danced with her headphone covered baby.
BASSNECTAR: Bassnectar was the headliner, written at the top of the lineup poster in all caps, and performing on the final night of the festival. Of all the performances I attended this one was the most packed, and people had carried all the jungle gyms and play structures from around the festival into the area so that they could climb up, hang on, and see above the masses. I liked Bassnectar because I was in the mood to dance, and I did, and it’s like hardcore dustup, but then I got thirsty during it and walked to a juice bar to wait in a long line for six dollar watermelon rose mint juice, and when I was there one of his songs inspired a few of us in line to start singing, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they’r like, it’s better than yours, damn right, it’s better than yours, I could teach you but I’d have to charge.” The crowd, from a small distance, moved between extremely vibratory to swaying and melo. Bassnectar himself had electric light glowing behind his small frame and his very long straight messianic hair, and thousands of people moved in and out of each other and themselves in the final night of LIB. As I walked back to my tent, a man laid on the ground with his head inside a massive didgeridoo, a krishna chant pulsed from the meditation tent, and a local policeman who walked through the chill with a cup of coffee looked like he had landed on the wrong planet. Everything was as it should be in the middle of a canyon in the middle of the night.
Beth S. McNamara