By: Amanda Martinek

“Leave it beautiful, leave it better.” Not only a clever slogan for reminding people to pick up their trash, but Lightning in a Bottle, the three day event that falls somewhere on the festival scale between Coachella and Burning Man, aims to change people’s minds, bodies and souls. But at the very least, it’s a place where people can hear music, see trippy things and (most likely) take a lot of drugs.

Moved this year from Irvine Lake, my first LIB experience was in Temecula at Lake Skinner, which unfortunately is a drinking water lake and not a swimming lake (spoiler alert: no naked hippies dipped in the water and ruined the festival- win).

Circumstances of life lead my sister, best friend & I to arrive late Saturday afternoon, which actually is the way to go, considering we skipped five hour wristband lines, long car lines to get in the camp, and had no other spot to camp but a lovely shaded patch of grass in the “family camping area” (babies everywhere, I was stoked).

From the moment we arrived, human beings were amazing. Either every great person from San Diego up to San Francisco congregated in one place for the weekend or people were just in happy, high, and fantastic moods (probz the later). As three girls struggling to carry gear to a campsite, we were automatically offered assistance. We set up camp and our neighbors were quick to offer fresh cherries and pieces of pineapple. Everyone was smiling and sweating and seemed very happy to be alive.

From camp, we finally wandered into the festival, which is one place by day and an entirely different place by night. Daytime LIB consists of meditation circles, yoga classes, speakers and art on display. It is lying in the grass under a tree, watching people slackline, and trying to stay hydrated. There are children and beer and bongs and the mood is pretty mellow. But as the sun starts to set late in the evening, the festival comes to life. And things get weird.

In the desert engulfed in complete darkness,  you are surrounded by the most vivid lights, colors and sounds. With or without the drugs, you are certainly on a trip. Beats thump in all directions, pulsating through your veins, while every color imaginable, neons and rainbows and lazers, dance in patterns through the pitch black. Bodies are everywhere, in the motion, walking, dancing, swaying, jumping, but within giant crowds they all become silhouettes. They all become one.

A reasonable sized festival during the day becomes an epic journey through time and space to get from one side to another by night. There is a schedule of events, but who knows what it is. You go where the lights guide you. You go where the sounds draw you. You go where the people call you. You just go.

Finding people you actually know is difficult, but finding people you want to know is easy. The conversations I overheard and participated in were absurd and abstract but free-flowing, engaging, and absolutely interesting.

Some stayed up through night, with chemically induced energy and wonder, while some slept it off. Everyone woke up with the sunrise. On Sunday, I participated in a meditation class, did some yoga, and took a nap under a tree. One of my best friends got me backstage access to get on stage and get wild during Giraffage’s set, where we sprayed the crowd with water guns and threw out fake cash money. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole festival.

One of the nicest things about Lightning in a Bottle was the absence of a schedule, and almost an absence of time. Choose your own adventure is their theme and that’s 100% what you do. Go with the flow, do what feels right, open up your heart and mind and let you spirit guide you. With incredible displays that appeal to all five senses, Lightning in a Bottle is truly an incredible experience for anybody willing.

That is, until time starts ticking again and suddenly its 1:30 AM Monday morning, you have work in a few hours, your sister is passed out somewhere, and everybody’s phone is dead. Reality comes at you with a bitch slap, but you’re still thankful she let you stay in the daze for those two days. Until next year.