Burning Man Spawns New Age Festivals

The New York Times has a story by Julia Allison on The Progeny of Burning Man. There are other ways to get a transformational experience than going to Black Rock City, and not every EDM festival is like Coachella.


Re-blogged from the New York Times:

It was 3 a.m. in Bradley, Calif., in the middle of a dusty dry lake bed, and Carl Weiseth, 33, was shoeless, shirtless and regaling a gathering crowd about last night’s escapade. “I didn’t make it back from the dance floor until the sun was starting to rise,” he told his audience, adding that he “passed out to the gentle vibrations of thumping electronic music for three to four hours.”

A 1960s Volkswagen van was painted with the words “Give Peace a Chance,” surrounded by fresh-faced bohemians sporting flower crowns, acid-washed jean shorts, seapunk teal-dyed hair and psychedelic leggings. “It’s the feather-and-leather crew,” one festivalgoer said.

To the casual observer, this post-New Age convergence of monumental art, all-night dancing and “Kumbaya” spirituality could be mistaken for Burning Man, the weeklong arts festival in the Nevada desert. But unlike Burning Man, which marked its 28th year last month, this festival called Lightning in a Bottle offers paid lecturers, headlining music acts like Moby, and V.I.P. packages with deluxe tents and fresh linens for $2,500.

“L.I.B. is one of the pinnacle festivals of West Coast conscious culture,” said Mr. Weiseth, using shorthand for Lightning in a Bottle, among a new type of gathering called “transformational festivals.” They could be described as the slightly smaller, psychedelic-art-and-electronic-dance-music-centered, commercialized progeny of Burning Man.

“It is the ultimate convergence of visionary art, electronic music, yoga, spirituality, nutrition, fashion and dance-culture, where people gather who appreciate both nature and spiritual consciousness, and who want to co-create an unpretentious dance party in celebration of sacred art and community,”…Held over four days in May and billed as a “heart and mind expanding oasis,” Lightning in a Bottle, in its ninth year, drew 15,000 participants, one of the largest and more influential of these festivals.

Such festivals have spread beyond their West Coast stronghold and now take place year-round throughout the United States, as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. They are an amalgamation of several cultural forces: the rise of electronic dance music, the maturing of the rave culture, the popularity of TED-like talks, the mainstreaming of yoga, and the YOLO spirit of festivalgoers who spread the word on social media.

Unlike more mainstream music gatherings like Coachella and Lollapalooza(with their focus on pop music, celebrities, alcohol and fashion brands), transformational festivals embrace feel-good values like ecological sustainability, organic food, community building and wisdom sharing. With names like Beloved and Wanderlust, Envision and Lucidity, these festivals seem like bastions of the nouveau hippie, grandchildren-of-the-Woodstock generation. And, to a certain extent, they are.

…“This is a safe space — a space free of judgment, criticism, punishment,” said the effervescent Dream Rockwell, a festival founder, who was standing backstage while a man played a didgeridoo, an ancient Australian instrument. “Creativity is accepted in all forms. ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ obviously does not apply here.”

…Maura Malini Hoffman, 49, a former Procter & Gamble executive who now gives spiritual talks at festivals, put it this way: “Transformation is about realizing there’s more to life than making money, having a good job, fame and fortune. People go to these and they’re never the same. 

…This year, organizers offered a luxury EZ Camping option. The $2,500 packages, which included a prefab tent, plush bed, cooler, private restrooms, power outlets and a “skinny mirror,” were sold out.

One of the luxury tents went to Misty Meeler, 29, an interior design assistant from Houston, who came with her 37-year-old sister. Ms. Meeler wore a gold headdress, rainbow bikini, a leather utility belt and purple leg warmers. Speaking through a heart-shaped dust mask, she explained that Coachella was too “Hollywood see-and-be-seen” for her taste. This festival, she said, “has a hippie scene that makes the whole experience better, whether you’re looking to eat healthy, live clean, meditate, yoga or want to party the whole four days with no sleep.”

…The crowd included James Oroc, a writer from New Orleans, who was waxing philosophical. Best known for his psychedelic tome, “Tryptamine Palace,” he is an outspoken and sometimes cantankerous critic of festival culture…His verdict? The crowd was “very hip, very beautiful,” he said, though he was concerned that the festival had become too “fashion” and “very L.A.”

“You get a lot of Burners who haven’t actually been to Burning Man,” he said. “They just have the clothes.”

Read the full story here.

photo: Flickr

Random Rab at Envision Festival, Costa Rica 2014. photo: Flickr

The Hottest and the Weirdest: LIB 2014

Jemayel Khawaja brings us, via VICE,a great review of LIB 2014. He thinks the hottest people from Burning Man were there – wow. This year it was moved halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, after problems with the cops at last year’s Temecula venue.

Photos by Juliana Bernstein, courtesy of The Confluence
 
Everyone at Lightning in a Bottle is a weirdo in some sort of way. It’s like the hottest people from Burning Man and the strangest people from Coachella all converged on the moon with the intention of starting a temporary musical space tribe. Getting weird is encouraged and there’s an implied social contract to offer positive vibes. 
 
This past weekend, May 23-25, The Do LaB hosted their event for the first time at the San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, CA. Prompted by friction with local law enforcement in Temecula, CA last year, promoters moved for the fourth consecutive edition, this time halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles in California’s Central Valley. It’s a sprawling chaparral tract, with deep valleys separating all of the main areas. The sight of sunburned and tired hippies trudging up steep and dusty slopes was ubiquitous by the third day, but the scope of the land added to the feeling that Lightning was a whole different world. 
 
 
… I’m pretty sure I smelled DMT in the crowd during his set. Baauer would not be my first choice as a soundtrack to a dimension crossing mind journey, but hey, you only LiB once, especially if you crossover into the other-sphere and never return. 
 
 
 
After hours, the party descends into two of the valleys, The Drift and The Ditch, where DJ setups nestled into tree trunks went until the sunrise. In the mornings, people were raving about sunrise sets by Desert Dwellers and Random Rab. I spent the daytime checking out some of the extra-curricular activities. A major aspect of The Do LaB’s mission is using music and the festival setting as a portal for information about alternative modes of thinking. There are lectures and workshops taking place all day long in grandly designed amphitheaters. They range from meditation seminars to talks on the dangers of mercury poisoning in the dental industry. 
 
I watched a man named Bashar give a lecture. He claimed to be a medium for an alien species and advised the crowd on better living techniques. Afterwards, he took a Q+A and gave advice about vegetarianism and job hunting before snapping back into his embodied self in a dazed state. It was during this speech that a friend of mine met a young dreadlocked man for the first time with whom, at the time of writing, she is currently driving up to Santa Cruz to marry. No kidding. 
 
All the cups and cutlery aren’t just recyclable, they’re compostable. This is the greenest festival in America and all the kids chomping down on veggie burgers and potato knishes while holding on to cigarette butts in their pockets and packing trash into their cars stands testament to the ethos. It’s really nice to see people able to retain rowdy levels of rage while also maintaining some semblance of responsibility. 
 
 
 
While at Coachella it can feel kind of weird to see young kids, at Lightning in a Bottle, even though the environs are significantly wonkier, the presence of children somehow feels natural...Just walking around the little worlds people create out there is a journey within itself. 
 
 
 
The Woogie is one of the most unique stage designs I’ve ever seen. It’s a colorful, pineapple-shaped treehouse built in to a massive oak tree…One rad aspect of LiB is that DJs enjoy lengthy sets; it’s a great chance to go deep into a selector’s collection. 
 
 
 
While a lot of electronic music festivals tussle to outdo each other while playing the same game, Lightning in a Bottle has quietly developed into a supremely unique festival with some deep character. It’s not about being the coolest. It’s not even really about raging the hardest. It’s just about being your weird ass self, smelling of campground and fumbling your way through a dutty wine while staring at some trippy lights. People talk about Mysteryland returning to the spiritual home of Woodstock, but the community that populated LiB seems more attuned to what those flower children laid those many decades ago. Props to you all, strange and beautiful people of LiB. You’re a special breed. That said, I’d really like a steak
 
LIB – so good, even aliens go to it. One of my favorite festivals, sounds like it was as great as ever this year. Any readers go? How was it? Please share your experiences in the comments.