Lightning in a Bottle Festival Goes Virtual

Kaytranada, Four Tet, TOKiMONSTA and more will stream sets at the Unreal Engine-powered DGTL LIB this Memorial Day Weekend.

Promotional clips for the festival feature silhouetted figures dancing around 3D geometric structures, as the sun sets over a backdrop of rolling hills. Pools of water ripple and reflect light and one shot even captures a bit of the behind-the-scenes action: several golf carts parked just off a dirt path between stages.

All of these scenes will be familiar to the seasoned festival goer. But there’s a catch. No one is going anywhere this summer — at least not to massive outdoor music festivals like Lightning in a Bottle. However, electronic music fans can still dance along from home as they tune into the digital world created for this year’s LIB.

Although it was initially called off in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, this week, Do LaB — the production company behind the Lightning in a Bottle Art and Music Festival — would return Memorial Day Weekend after all. Only now it is a streaming event, dubbed DGTL LIB.

Along with SXSW, Coachella, and many other high-profile music and arts festivals, the perennial Southern California event was cancelled at the start of the year after COVID-19 decimated all prospects of a festival season for Summer 2020 — and beyond. The popular four-day bacchanal initially sparked a backlash after announcing that it would not be able to refund 2020 ticket holders.

It’s still uncertain if LIB will be able to return in 2021, but for now they’re delivering beats through the weekend streaming performances from national festival headliners and rising stars.

As producers of some of the most recognizable stage environments on the planet, fans had to know Do LaB wouldn’t settle for any run of the mill backdrop. For a fully immersive stage environment, the upcoming virtual event draws on the digital wizardry of Vita Motus Design Studio — a top shelf Los Angeles firm that has collaborated with Do LaB on a multitude of stage designs in the past, including backdrops for the Electric Daisy Carnival, American Idol, and Coachella. They’ve also created custom stage designs on tour for the likes of Shakira, Kendrick Lamar, Amon Tobin, and Mariah Carey.

“Here at Do LaB, we’ve always been forward thinking and our longtime partnership with Vita Motus has helped us bring our insane visions to life,” said Jesse Flemming, President of Do LaB, Inc. “We are excited to be pushing the envelope with them again, but this time in the digital world.”

The virtual stage environment for DGTL LIB employs the fabled Unreal Engine technology, from video games like Mirror’s Edge, Gears of War, Batman: Arkham VR, Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite, and Unreal Tournament 1 & 2. With such an outside-the-box application of the technology at DGTL LIB, performances over the weekend may even be remembered for setting a historical precedent in the field of virtual entertainment.

A screenshot from one of the virtual backgrounds created using the Unreal gaming engine.

“For the first time ever, a branded festival environment has been recreated in a gaming engine to be used for live broadcast,” says Heather Shaw, CEO of Vita Motus. “We [at Vita Motus] think that Lightning in a Bottle is an ideal environment to showcase our real-time rendering capabilities because of its completely unique architecture, iconic design, and immersive content.” 

Topline talent includes dynamite house music sensations like Justin Jay, Shiba San, Monolink, Rinzen and Afro-house icon Kaytranada. Los Angeles-based heavy-hitters with a hip-hop flair include The Glitch Mob, TOKiMONSTA, and Mr. Carmack. Beats Antique, Funk Hunters, Dirtwire and Elephant Heart are poised to deliver dreamy instrumentals with a peppering of soul. Plus, for anyone craving walloping sounds with a psychedelic lean, virtuosos like CloZee and Opiuo are expected to take the event to another level. LIB also plans to host some thought-provoking speakers, yogis, and more, adding an array of daytime activities to enhance an already colorful experience. 

“I’ve been going to Lightning in a Bottle for years as a fan. This would have been my first year performing there,” says Michael Sundias, better known to his fans as Rinzen. “While I’m quite sad it won’t happen in-person, this concept of a digital festival is definitely the next best thing.”

Naturally, several of the festival’s hallmark characters and environments will play a role in the 2020 event. Fans who know the event will certainly look forward to the late night improvisational music and comedy show from The Jive Joint, with national looping champion Super Tall Paul. Now a popular staple at events like Coachella and EDC, The Jive Joint started at LIB more than a decade ago and evolved to become one of the most talked-about evening attractions at the festival. 

Next, a kaleidoscopic kid show for adults from the Fungineers has been a fan favorite in past years. In addition to being insanely catchy, the Fungineers have a knack for tapping into the weirder side of festival culture in the most playful way. Also on the docket, the majestic hums of William Close and the Earth Harp will digitally expand the reach of the largest stringed instrument ever devised by humans. If that wasn’t enough to stoke LIB fans and snare the attention of a gaggle of new ones, one of the most immersive LIB stages, the old timey western environment Frontierville by The Grand Artique will also add a lovably rustic dimension to the entertainment. 

“I’m really curious about the digital world that The Do LaB is building for this,” Rinzen says. “I know they’re using Unreal Engine to do some real-time rendering stuff. Some of my favorite video games run on the engine, and this is the first time I’ve seen it used in the music performance space.”Tune into the stream on Twitch during Memorial Day Weekend, from 5pm on Friday to Midnight on Sunday, May 22-24. More information is available at the festival website: dgtllib.com

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