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Lightning in a Bottle: The closest thing we have to Burning Man 

A highly fragrant essential oil mist is wafting up my shorts now that I’ve just finished traversing up and down a valley that used to be a leg of Lake San Antonio before the drought swallowed it up. Formerly a place where I would cool off with a swim and enjoy water sports with friends, it’s now a dry hot pit of agony to hike up and down. And it doesn’t stop after the first valley; there are more to traverse to get to all the places I want to go.

click to enlarge WOOGIE ON DOWN!:  An LED hooper whizzes past me while dancing to the sounds coming from the Woogie Stage on the closing night of Lightning in a Bottle 2014. Though smaller in size than some of the other stages, it is actually one of the most popular stages at the festival. - PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • WOOGIE ON DOWN!: An LED hooper whizzes past me while dancing to the sounds coming from the Woogie Stage on the closing night of Lightning in a Bottle 2014. Though smaller in size than some of the other stages, it is actually one of the most popular stages at the festival.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2014 and I’ve just finished setting up my camp at the Lightning in a Bottle transformational festival, during its first year in Bradley. This is my first and only experience with Lightning in a Bottle, a festival revolving around art, music, sustainability, spirituality, yoga, workshops, food, and fun. 

But back to that mist on its way up my leg: A bubbly young lady accompanied by her boyfriend approached me and offered me a body-mist of delicious smelling essential oil infused spray. I accepted the offer and thanked her as the refreshing mist hydrated my sweaty skin and the natural aroma freshened me up. 

She then offers me a “ball spray.” I give her a surprised but curious look and then she tells me to lift one side of my shorts. I listen to her instructions and she curves the spray bottle under the lifted side of my shorts and up the mist goes. While still adjusting to the heat that I will have to endure the rest of the weekend, this unforgettable interaction is a fun way to be welcomed into living among thousands of unique and open-minded strangers for my first Lightning in a Bottle weekend. 

click to enlarge FESTIVAL FASHION:  Festival fan Samy Boogaard (left) meets and embraces a man dressed as an angel, along with another happy-go-lucky young lady on the dance floor in 2014. - PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • FESTIVAL FASHION: Festival fan Samy Boogaard (left) meets and embraces a man dressed as an angel, along with another happy-go-lucky young lady on the dance floor in 2014.

At a festival like this, you never know what kind of experiences are around the corner. From an essential oil ball spray to a secret whiskey bar behind a bookshelf, a massive human-sized spider web suspended in a tree with people climbing all over it, a panel with adults asking kids questions about life, the incredible performance by Beats Antique, and people’s tents getting swept up by the wind and flying 50 or more feet in the air, this is Lighting in a Bottle.

Not quite Burning Man in size or principle, it’s similar in that there are thousands of people coexisting in an art and music driven community, in harsh, dusty conditions. It is definitely the closest thing you will find to Burning Man near San Luis Obispo County. 

The festival space is vast, and it was exhausting to cover the grounds of the festival multiple times over the duration of the weekend. 

Fortunately, one of the improvements to the festival this year is that they now install bridges across the valleys that you previously had to walk up and down. I still recommend bringing a bike, just like you would want to have one if you were going to Burning Man. 

click to enlarge MAIN STAGE:  The main stage at Lightning in a Bottle features incredible productions that are sure to stimulate your senses. - PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMANN
  • MAIN STAGE: The main stage at Lightning in a Bottle features incredible productions that are sure to stimulate your senses.

While riding my bike around Lightning in a Bottle, I overhear a woman saying that it is one thing to handle a weekend’s worth of heat and festival at Lightning in a Bottle but she doesn’t understand how people can do a full week at Burning Man. How would you have time to sleep or eat? The answer is simple. Whether it’s Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, or any other event that you’re going to, the key is to listen to your body. Rest when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, and always make sure to stay hydrated. 

And remember this: There is simply too much to see, smell, taste, touch, and hear to do it all. 

If you think you’re ready to experience Lightning in a Bottle but aren’t sure if you can endure the full weekend, day passes are available. However, the festival is currently 97 percent sold out, so you’d better jump on the opportunity quick if you want to become one of 20,000 other people who will be sharing the experience that is Lighting in a Bottle 2016.  

New Times photographer Dylan Honea-Baumann is smelling fresh of essential oils. Send comments to dbaumann@newtimesslo.com

- STRUCK BY LIGHTNING:  Lightning in a Bottle runs May 25 through 30 in Bradley. Festival passes start at $75. Visit lightninginabottle.org for more information. -
  • STRUCK BY LIGHTNING: Lightning in a Bottle runs May 25 through 30 in Bradley. Festival passes start at $75. Visit lightninginabottle.org for more information.

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