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Lightning Peeps

Peace, Love, Maracas


What would it take to catch lightning in a bottle? While there’s no recorded recipe, if I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’d be something like equal parts genius, madness, and magic. And if that’s the recipe, the Do LaB-creators of the green-minded Lightning in a Bottle (LIB), the seven-year-old three-day festival of all that is explosively, creatively delicious-are the expert chefs in the kitchen.

Despite the fact that I spent a considerable portion of my formative years at Dead shows (and the parking lots at Dead shows) and raves (the perfect growing conditions for a bonafide burner), until last weekend I was essentially a festival virgin. The granddaddy of all festivals, Burning Man, has long tempted me, but excuses are far too easy to come by: the drive, the heat, the vacation time-the list goes on. But this year, when the buzz about Lightning in a Bottle-which, for the second year, went down in our own backyard, at Live Oak Campground-began to peak, I got on board and turned myself over to the trip.

Because my assistant and I weren’t sure what the camping conditions would be, we opted to travel light. Which meant that while we packed the essentials-fresh cherries, candy-colored wigs, banana rum, glittered antennae, sunscreen, and maracas-in our rookie enthusiasm, minor things like socks and an extra layer or two for the chilly nighttime temps were forgotten. Details.

Regardless, the de-flowering went swimmingly. We arrived and managed to locate my assistant’s pal, a Utah-based festival vet whose welcoming tribe happily adopted us, and got to the business of pitching our tent. My height-or lack thereof-and Suessical appearance quickly earned me the nickname Cindy Lou Who, but there being nary a cold-hearted Grinch to be warmed, I found myself fresh out of to-do’s. And so, I allowed LIB to do its job, sinking its teeth into the part of me that’s constantly in danger of atrophy, overshadowed by clocks, propriety, and shoulds.

Surrounded by boundless displays of self-expression-taking the form of face-painting, stilt-walking, hooping, and jaw-droppingly outrageous costumes, not to mention the performances, and the artistry of the stages upon which they went down-and people getting their freak on, their learn on, their om on, their love on, I was wooed by that voodoo juju that strikes unexpectedly, every so often, when the stars are aligned just so. The kind that leaves me a bigger fan of life. The kind I wish I could bottle, and keep on the shelf for those times when I’m in desperate need of a sip. And, though I may have been a little bit chilly and my feet were definitely filthy, I was more thankful that I’d remembered the maracas.

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