Lightning in a Bottle: Magic, Vibrancy and Music

Photos and article by Amy Segreti

This summer, we at Twine attended a handful of selected conscious festivals to highlight in our Place section. The 10th annual Lightning in a Bottle Music Festival at the gorgeous San Antonio Recreation Area was one of them.

Presented by the Do LaB, Lightning in a Bottle is more than just a music festival—the offerings extend from talks, panels, yoga, workshops, interactive art installations and hidden treasures.

As a refresher, here were our requirements for coverage:

  • The gatherings we covered all fell in the category of “transformational festivals,” defined as “counterculture festivals that espouse a community-building ethic and a value system that celebrates life, personal growth, social responsibility, healthy living and creative expression.”
  • Music was not the only thing offered at the festivals: events like art workshops, yoga classes, sanctuaries, sacred spaces, and other educational elements of intentional community were present.
  • The festivals were inclusive and women-friendly, to the extent of honoring the feminine.
  • The festivals all had a strong intention to be (and history of being) in alignment with their natural environments. Beyond just recycling, these festivals fostered a positive environmental impact on the land around them.

Lightning in a Bottle was all this and more.

LIB puts a special emphasis on respecting the sacred space and land that makes up its festival home, with the leave-no-trace policy fully in effect.

I arrived on the first afternoon of the festival, on Thursday, May 21, 2015. While figuring out press credentials was a bit of a chaotic experience (as check-in tends to be at most festivals), I got settled pretty easily at my campsite in the Artists & Media grounds.

This was the biggest festival I had ever been to… and to be honest, I’m a bit of a festival virgin. My first festival was only a few days before, at Shakti Fest in Joshua Tree.

LIB is a universe in and of itself, with surprises around every corner, new terrain and textures to explore, all revolving around each other to form an interconnected galaxy of vibrancy.

Four main stages—Thunder, Lightning, Woogie and Grand Artique—offered plenty of very-loud entertainment (I overheard one girl say she had blown out her eardrum the night before and had to be very careful the next day…).

Smaller stages like the Pagoda Bar and Favela Bar also offered plenty of excitement. With so many things to stimulate all of my senses, I felt small and yet extremely interconnected to everything around me—much like a human in the middle of a galaxy.

I was only able to stay through Saturday afternoon, and so as soon as I got settled early afternoon on Thursday I went exploring.

One of the first things I stumbled upon was this Lost Tea Party art installation. Before I took this photo, I overheard a boy talking to his friend about Lightning in a Bottle: “I mean, it’s expensive, but for four days, I don’t have to judge myself.”

LIB tea party

This boy seemed to echo the sentiments of what I intuitively felt around me—everyone was here to try to truly be themselves.

While there were a few groups of people there seemingly to just “party” and not make much more of the festival, there were many others who were there for a truly transcendent experience.

I wandered past the Pagoda Bar, one of the many stages for slammin’ beats. It was a blessing to be able to capture the beauty of these stages before they were filled with dust and remnants of memories—pristine and ready to be filled with energy.

LIB pagoda

On the first night, the main stages were empty and peace could be found in the campgrounds. I walked around feeling the buzzing energy of people arriving, settling in and populating this new universe.

I encountered an intriguing structure—a circle of doors, and inside a decorative, dark space. Each door was assigned beautiful art and a word—”lovers,” “death,” “transformation.” You could then step out a different one, choosing a new identity or a shift in archetype.

LIB door installation

As night fell on the first evening of the festival, people gathered with their groups, their friends, their lovers, and prepared for the weekend in a new world.

LIB couple connect

At the Temple of Consciousness, smaller learning and interacting areas like the Mystery School, Pineal Playground, Meditation Lookout and the Learning Kitchen were among my favorites.

At the Mystery School, workshops unveiled the great mysteries of the planet through hidden practices. The Pineal Playground held a container for explorations into circle practices, rituals and breathwork. And the Learning Kitchen hosted workshops on how to live a vibrant and delicious life (my favorite was definitely Sensual Raw Chocolate Aphrodisiacs and Elixir Making with Jacqui Lalita!).

On Friday, the most moving workshop I attended was Joanne Ameya Cohen’s Shamanic Journies & Flower Essences class at the Pineal Playground. We all huddled around the gigantic tree at the center of our group, and called in the life and essence of her… two women independently of another said that the tree told them her name was Sofia.

Here’s Joanne hugging a friend while teaching us how to shamanic journey:

LIB joanne amaya

I stuck to myself this time around, though next year I hope to attend with a group or friend—I was in the middle of a two-week divine feminine journey in California, and for me, what I held most sacred was the experience of being by myself in new worlds, and learning how my divine feminine likes to play.

One of the ways it definitely likes to play is yoga. The Yoga Om stage was a gorgeous arena for my exploration.

LIB yoga

Festive, playful, wild humans filled the gathering. This year’s Lightning in a Bottle hosted more than 20,000 people—certainly enough to create an entirely new city.

LIB festivities

As the dust swept over everything throughout the weekend (shoes, clothes, lungs), I had the privilege of spotting some of the best dusty car art I’ve ever seen.

LIB car art

And when I left on Saturday afternoon to head home to my beloved Colorado, I felt like my spirit had been ravaged in the best way—through drum beats that pumped through my heart at night and through dust-lit sunrises in the morning.