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Photos: The Bizarre And Magical 'Lightning In A Bottle' Festival

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The dust has settled at Lightning in a Bottle (LiB)—a five-day, Coachella-meets-Burning-Man festival on a Chumash reservation in Bradley, Calif. It's more than just a music festival, it's like a Disneyland for hippies.

While the music lineup was stellar this year—with electronic music artists like Odesza, SBTRKT, Flume, AlunaGeorge and Tycho gracing the main stage—it's the immersive experience of music, art, yoga and educational workshops that has kept me coming back.

Everybody donned outfits you might find at Burning Man or raves, with folks wearing furry hats, desert gear and galaxy-themed outfits. Clothing seemed optional, too, cold weather be damned, as we spotted three naked people dancing at the event's Silent Disco one night.

Even if like me you're not a hippie, the good vibes were pretty contagious, and pretty soon I was drinking the Kool-Aid myself. You just have to dive into the whole experience knowing that it's fun and ridiculous all at the same time to fully enjoy it.

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Whenever I talked to fest-goers and asked how they were doing, they'd reply like they were ordering food from a Cafe Gratitude menu, saying "I am blessed" or "I am grateful." There was an upbeat energy that constantly flowed through the crowds. It would be a tiring trek to get to the different stages in the sprawling space, but every time people would cross the crowded bridges that were built over ravines, they would high-five each other and shout "good game!" or "lay one on me!" People sure were happy at this festival.

It has a much friendlier vibe than Coachella. If a person got separated from their friends at this festival (which was easy since the festival was in a cell phone dead zone), other groups would happily take them under their wing.

Besides LiB's scheduled entertainment, fest-goers set up their own art installations and performance pieces. Close by to my campsite, I met two guys dressed as nuns smoking by their van. An hour later, they put up a sign that read, "Free Leg Shaving. Women Only." I saw one of them slather shaving cream on a woman's legs as he sat there carefully shaving them. They later told me they ran a company that made skateboards and handed me a business card. I had no idea what the two had to do with each other, but hey, this is what you can expect at LiB.

I noticed there were a lot more children and teens wandering around the festival this year. At sunset, I saw what looked like a family dressed in sparkly and vibrantly-colored leotards, one with a unicorn horn, playing their own upbeat Yo Gabba Gabba-like music and performing a choreographed dance in the middle of the dusty grounds. One child gleefully armed with a hose sprayed passers-by with water to cool them down while they walked by during one especially hot afternoon. People high-fived him like he was superstar. Though it seemed like a safe space, it does seem a little strange that these children were around adults who were on all sorts of drugs.

The festival was perfect for people-watching and eavesdropping. There was a man covered in dust who walked up to a woman, and said, "What's your name? I can smell you." You could smell everyone. As the days wore on, everyone had rubbed themselves with essential oils, and their big, furry raver coats reeked of body odor. Another woman walked with a friend by the clothing and jewelry vendors and showed her friend a trinket she bought. She said, "I bought this crystal when I was really high." There was a tinge of regret in her voice. In the crowd at a DJ performance, two women were hugging each other, and one of them said to the other, "It's okay. You can make out with my boyfriend." And then there were the really bizarre conversations, like one where someone said, "Did you hear about my parallel and how you're my backpack?"

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LiB commissioned some great performance pieces like the Lucent Dossier Experience, a Cirque Du Soleil-like performance:

There were three large-scale, steampunk-themed tea cups. Nearby were performers dressed as gnomes holding up a giant caterpillar on sticks and marching around, like they were holding up a dragon in a Chinese New Year parade. Around them were people dressed as crows, giraffes and zebras, dancing around on stilts:

A group of performers donned shredded white strips of cloth and painted their faces white. They mimed their way through the festival grounds, walked around like zombies, dragging their feet behind them and wrapped string around people standing close by—as part of their performance piece. I caught one of them by themselves later on that day, and when I tried to talk to her, she just did some more zombie poses without saying a word to me. At least they stay in character.

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Over in the yoga tent, there was a lineup of yoga classes all day long, some taught by some world-famous yoga instructors. During an energized "Fuck Yeah Yoga" class, one instructor shouted at everyone and called them "cunts," and then told them to treat their men right and not be "bitches" all the time. So much for nonjudgment...

But overall, LiB really felt like a place where you could lose yourself on the vast reservation and do whatever you wanted and act however you wanted. Co-founder, Dede Flemming, who started LiB with his brothers, told LAist that what he wanted to do was to "tap into everyone’s inner youth," and was inspired by Coachella and Burning Man.

"We’re trying to create a space here that’s more than a music festival and party," Flemming said. "We’re trying to create an environment where people can feel safe and let their guard down. [It's so they can] discover this new reality that’s a little more free-spirited than what they might experience in every day line. It’s creating a container to showcase new and creative ways to live and dance and experience life. A lot of new friendship and bonds are created here."

Over the years, the festival has moved from different locales in SoCal, but it is now in its second year at the Chumash reservation in Bradley, a town about a 3.5-hour drive north of Los Angeles. There's a chance that this could be a longtime home for LiB. Flemming said they're in talks in securing a longtime agreement to hold their festival at this space, and "they're excited about that."

Next year can't come soon enough.