Just recovering from an epic weekend in Southern California. The DoLab once again proved that they are King of All Festivals, with an excellent, extremely well organized event – the word on the grass was, a real contrast from the chaos of the previous weekend’s Burning Man rival, Symbiosis Gathering at Pyramid Lake. Everyone was blown away by the attention to detail. Don’t just take my word for it – here’s the Huffington Post concurring and telling Burning Man to wake up and take a lesson from the Do Lab.
The crowd was much larger than last year, and the event was totally sold out by Sunday. The Lucent Temple of Consciousness was outstanding, with some very interesting speakers. Hang out there and you get your mind expanded. They also had a market, and a large number of yoga and mediation enthusiasts. And once again, Lucent Dossier Experience killed it with an enthusiastically received set on the Lightning Stage.
The markets were at least double the size of last year, I would estimate more than 100+ vendors. Some of the vendors must have done well last year, because they were back with larger stalls, domes, sound systems and light shows. The range and quality of merchandise on offer was fantastic, and a lot of people got their shopping in for Burning Man outfits.
There were still plenty of hippies, even though money was allowed. I couldn’t tell how the food and art vendors lowered the vibe of the party in any way. There was even the Hug Deli from Burning Man, which looked like it was piloted by Pink-Haired Playa Preacher Halcyon. In general, most of the people I spoke to knew of Burning Man or had been to it, but weren’t going this year, and weren’t very enthusiastic about it. Maybe a difference between an LA/Orange County crowd and the San Francisco crowd. At times LIB felt very much like Burning Man, with RVs and tents and domes everywhere, bikes and EL wire, half-naked body painted people, great music and atmosphere. It’s not the same without the art cars and flame throwers, and there’s something to be said for the “controlled chaos” of the Black Rock City experience. Having said that, there’s not that many other elements that were lacking. We certainly didn’t miss any of the 10 Principles. There were kids running around, there were even darktards – people camping on the dance floor in camo onesies.
Another great element of the festival was art. There were 24 art installations specifically set up by LIB, plus all the art that was created during the event, as well as many galleries with works on display. Some paintings were offered for more than $20,000, although to my own eyes there was better value and art skills available if you looked around a little.
The music, while often excellent, in general left a lot to be desired. Last year I thought the base sound of the event was dubstep, this year it was progressive house. Now don’t get me wrong – Nick Warren is great – but there is a time and a place for this kind of sound. Like, driving your car up to Lake Tahoe. Or, 2pm on Saturday afternoon, when you want to wake trippers up from their slumber in their tent or under a tree, and slowly coax them out in the direction of the dance floor. By the time the party is cranking and the dance areas are packed, we want to hear bass, vocals, and progression. Not chilled out deep tones, where you build up to a breakdown then fizzle into yet another techy riff.
If you MUST play progressive, then maybe have one stage dedicated to it. Same with dubstep. Progressive on every stage, late at night, does not make a rocking party. Likewise all dubstep, all the time, is too much, even for the most ardent fans – there are just not that many songs! A party where every stage is a chillout zone, is not a rocking party either. You need beats, man, hard thumping beats. As well as all the other noises. Start slow, maybe 120 bpm, build it up, then bang it out relentlessly at 150+ once everyone gets cranking. Round off some hard beats with morning trance at sunrise. That has always seemed the winning formula to me, in 15 years or so of going to these parties around the world. It worked for the best gigs I’ve seen at Burning Man, Carl Cox – Christopher Lawrence – Dutch at Opulent Temple, or Paul Oakenfold’s 8 hour set to 50 people at the Stonehenge. All the best DJ’s in the world can’t be wrong!
There were a lot of acts at LIB with live instruments or performances (which is good), but in between setting the acts up they would stick the prog on. Perhaps they just cut to the Woogie stage each time, it did have its own FM station. Great that it left something to dance to, so the large crowds didn’t have to disperse from the main stage areas, but the end of the result was a lot of music everywhere that sounded the same without many highlights. We were always walking around looking for where the good music was – and in general, we did find it. They’d be better to pre-make a LIB Soundtrack album for each stage and have that playing in the breaks.
At LIB, the best music we caught was DJ Laura (one half of Lowriderz, with An-ten-nae) and DJ Minnesota on the Bamboo stage. Both played a great mix of hip-hop, electro, glitch, and dubstep. Every track had vocals. From what we hear DJ Laura’s sunrise set at the Temple on Monday morning was the piece de resistance of Lightning In A Bottle 2012.
Minnesota killed it with this dubstep remix of my favorite Biggie track, Juicy.
Bass Nectar rocked it as usual on the Lightning Stage, the amount of bass coming up through the dirt was quite phenomenal. Shpongle was good, but without the Shpongletron stage set up they had at last year’s Coachella, some of the impact of the show was lost.
We may have been spoiled a bit for music after sneaking out of LIB on Saturday to go to the Gooch Apparel launch party in Newport Beach, followed by a tsunami of a VIP after party at Avalon nightclub in Hollywood: Wippenberg opening for a 4-hour live set from Cosmic Gate, featuring Emma Hewitt, Jes, and Cary Brothers . Cosmic Gate are on a world tour right now, and only did 3 gigs in the US with rising singing sensation Emma Hewitt from Melbourne, Australia. Cosmic Gate never disappoint, they are probably the best trance act in the world (sorry Tiesto and Armin!) There were no giant “Cosmic Gate” signs flying around everywhere behind them…the crowd knew exactly who they were there to see. Seeing them with 3 different live vocal acts, and a dance floor packed wall to wall with foam glowsticks was amazing. Wippenberg is certainly of a high enough standard to open for them, and they have done a number of awesome remixes together. One of the best concerts of my life. If there’s any chance you can get to Ayia Napa, Cyprus on July 7 you can see this show again, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can also catch Cosmic Gate at EDC Vegas. Thanks to Butch and Jesse at Gooch Apparel and RJ and McKenzie from Anderson Mobile Estates for sponsoring another Burners.Me LA adventure!