by Molly Freedenberg
With three stages, an idyllic forest location at the Live Oak Campground, nearly 1,000 enthusiastic and creatively clad revelers from up and down the West Coast, and all the accelerated bonding that happens between people who sleep, eat, and consume massive amounts of alcohol together, July 14-16’s Lightning in a Bottle was every bit the “magical forest adventure” its organizers claimed it would be. Here are six reasons you should be sorry you missed it.
1. The Yard Dogs Road Show: This freakshow puts every other burlesque and vaudeville act to shame. Their performance — complete with sword-swallowing, a jailhouse striptease, bellydancing, topnotch lounge-singing, and a David Bowie look-alike, proved the San Francisco troupe is only getting better, funnier, and more professional.
2. DJ Naise: This Australian beatboxer, who moonlights as the guitarist for a band that plays the Warped Tour, managed to work the word “mayonnaise” into his freestyle rap when most of us couldn’t say anything other than “I’m hot” or “I’m drunk.”
3. The Tree House Dome: In this forest-themed dance space that debuted at Coachella, DJs with good sense resisted the temptation to play loud, monotonous oom-pah-oom-pah music all day, instead bowing to the superior god of variety. Michelle Bass, Ooah, Cheb I Sabbah, and others delivered downbeat electronica in the morning, danceable hip-hop in the afternoon, ethereal worldbeat at dusk, and a smattering of butt-rock metal throughout the day that had even the hippiest of the hippies headbanging in their campsites.
4. The Vendors: One of the nice things about a Burning Man-style festival that isn’t Burning Man is you can actually buy stuff you forgot. The down side? The multiple tents selling insta-burner playawear speed the process of even “alternative” dressers looking alike. The plus side? Delicious all-raw sandwiches that completely destroyed the suspicion that “raw food” means subsisting solely on salad.
5. The Artist Formerly Known as Christian the Blacksmith: This L.A.-based artist, now working with clay instead of metal, was responsible for a number of the weekend’s delights. Not only did he provide a space for making clay beer cozies and sculpture inspired by the children’s book Everybody Poops, but he ran around all weekend in his striped man-shorts and a child-sized Budweiser bib.
6. Billie, the Camp Quality Inspector: This mulletted performance artist in jean shorts and an American flag-themed halter top informed us that our camp wasn’t decorated enough. Furthermore, our tents and chairs had too much of an “autumn color” theme. She promised to return with paper and pastel markers so we could add some elements from the “spring palette.” She never did return, but she did leave a red, white, and blue air freshener that did wonders for warding off the scent of patchouli.