While this year’s Lightning In a Bottle, along with every other festival, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the circumstances didn’t stop LiB producers the Do Lab from throwing a real-deal party for a casual 1.5 million viewers this past weekend (May 22-24).
In the transformational spirit of the longstanding California event, the three-day DGTL LiB livestream featured music, meditation, educational talks and surreal, psychedelic puppet shows, among other special programming. Many of the DJ sets – including those by Kaytranada, Justin Jay, Clozee, Tycho and more — went down in online environments created to simulate various Lightning In a Bottle stages, with the creators of these digital areas, Vita Motus Design Studio, adding fantastical digital flourishes that could only exist online.
“Besides the iconic architecture, we wanted to include smaller recognizable festival elements like the Fun Machine, the kabotas, and the flamingo pool floats to enhance the connection for those who have attended in the past,” Vita Motus CEO Heather Shaw tells Billboard Dance. “It’s a difficult jump to make, but our goal was for virtual viewers to really immerse themselves in the wonder and fun of the LIB festival experience.
Between the livestream and its corresponding Zoom party, during which hundreds of party people watched each other drinking, dancing, fire dancing and generally carousing in their living rooms, the event felt a bit like a real life party, with friends even texting each other the next morning to say that it was so good “running into each other” at the fest. Of the 1.5 millions viewers, the majority tuned in from the U.S., Canada, Turkey, the UK, Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Thailand.
“One challenge online festivals face is the challenge of digital ‘place-making’; people need more than just video to feel connected in space,” says Benlloyd Goldstein, a lead producer on the project. “The music, interludes, workshops, chance interactions in the Zoom dancefloor, live artists and performers, absurd chat and multiple immersive views of the digital landscape all contributed to the overall ‘place’ that was DGTL LiB. The vibe really started to come alive when all these elements and the crowd interacted together to make new memories in realtime.”
The event was a bright spot amidst a difficult few months for the Do Lab, which amended its ticket refund policy after being hit with a pair of class action lawsuits in April. A GoFundMe launched by the Do Lab in an effort to sustain itself during the pandemic has currently raised $55,000 of its $250,000 goal.
“Everyone is aware of the difficult circumstances that Do LaB has been in since the forced cancellation of Lightning in a Bottle,”Do LaB, Inc. President. Jesse Flemming tells Billboard Dance, “and after much reflection on the situation we decided to put our best foot forward to keep the spirit of LIB alive.”
“This entire event came together in less than three weeks,” Flemming continues, “And it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our entire creative community. We wanted to show them that we are still here and we’ll keep fighting the good fight, and they came through for us in a big way last weekend, showing up in the tens of thousands to participate and support. We couldn’t be more pleased with the results.”