Phillip Pearson - Second p0st

tech notes and web hackery from someone who was vaguely useful on the web back in 2002 (see: bzero, python community server, the blogging ecosystem, the new zealand coffee review, the internet topic exchange)

2012-9-25

Music festival logistics - camping at Lightning in a Bottle

This year I've started feeling like writing in public again, and it turns out my blogging code hasn't rotted *too* badly, so here goes (continuing a post I started in May...).

Since moving to the USA, one thing I've done a lot of is go to [music] festivals. Most notable, I've done Burning Man three times, but I've also been to Coachella twice, the Treasure Island Music Festival, Outside Lands, my Burning Man camp's private campout, False Profit's Priceless campout, undoubtably some more I've forgotten, and Lightning in a Bottle. The latter is what spurred me to write this post, because it seems to have a much smaller web presence than the others. It seems that it's a fairly young event, vaguely connected to Burning Man (it's been described as "Burning Man with training wheels"), and pretty strongly connected to Coachella (the group that puts it on -- the Do LaB -- is responsible for much of the large scale art each year at Coachella).

My take on it: LIB is beautiful. It's probably the best looking festival I've ever been to. The location and decorations are amazing. It's tranquil but colourful, with a fun neo-hippie vibe -- I was really impressed. The seminars and such weren't really up my alley, but I can't deny that the crowds of enthusiastic listeners and serene meditators set the atmosphere well. The overall feel of the festival was such that I had a great time even when hanging out at camp, and wandering around the campground -- I certainly didn't feel the need to spend the whole weekend down at the dance stages.

On to why I wrote this post: to get some info out onto the web about the details and logistics of camping at LIB.

LIB has two areas: the 'lower festival' and 'upper festival'. The lower festival is where you'll arrive. The big parking lots are down there, along with the main stages, art, and vending areas, plus some camping. The stages, art, and vending are mostly on grassy areas, and most of the camping is on dirt. If you're not one of the first to arrive, you'll be sent up Lumi Hill, to the upper festival, which has similar ground cover -- grass for the vending and yoga/meditation areas, and dirt for camping.

Setting up your tent is a little reminiscent of pitching camp on playa (although without the crazy winds!) -- the dirt is just about as hard and dry. I highly recommend bringing alternate tent pegs -- go to Home Depot and pick up some 10 inch nails, one of the big orange 45 oz deadblow hammers, and a pair of vise grips. They'll go in easy, and come out easy. You can probably scale down a bit from there, but anything will be better than the fragile little pegs that come with most tents.

It's HOT. Baking hot during the day, but not awfully warm at night, so bring your airy summer outfits, but also some way to wrap up well at night. The style is more hippie than raver or postapocalyptic -- beads, tie-dyes, muted colours, scraps of cloth, faux-Japanese (with plenty of mystical symbols: sacred geometry and the like), and just-out-of-the-circus outfits dominate over gold bikinis, day-glo, cowboy hats, and utilikilts.

The heat makes sleeping just about as difficult as at Burning Man, so Springbar/Kodiak Canvas tents, and any form of shade possible, will be just as useful. The camping area gets pretty crowded, so you might not have enough room for a hexayurt, but a shade structure will make your life a lot easier. We took a tent that was barely big enough for a twin air mattress, plus one of Costco's little $40 easy-up shade structures, and it was okay, but the heat was still pretty ridiculous even in the shade. If I keep going to festivals like this, I'll probably blow $500 on a Kodiak Canvas 6010 (deluxe flex-bow 10x10) and some Aluminet, which should make worrying about shade a thing of the past. Bring some lighting for the outside of your tent, as the "blocks" are large, and unless you're lucky enough to camp near someone else with distinctive lighting, you may have a hard time getting back home. Cheap battery powered Christmas lights are probably the way to go here.

Along those lines, if you buy early enough, you'll be able to get a car camping pass that will let you bring your car all the way into the campground, which will save you many hours hauling gear back and forth between the parking lot and camping area. There are shuttles, but they're patchy late at night and miserably full when you're trying to get back to your car to leave. I'm guessing a car camping pass would have saved us about three hours of busywork and waiting around when it was time to leave -- I'm definitely getting one next year.

There are showers, but they are not free, and the line is long. Water is free, but the dusty ground makes it difficult to just string up a sunshower somewhere, because the runoff will flow downhill and soak someone's tent. If you have a proper shower enclosure (and some way to catch the runoff so you can dispose of it somewhere it won't be a nuisance), bring it!

There are security checkpoints within the festival, but they only care about checking your wristband; you can bring food and alcohol from your campsite to the main stages, as long as it's not in a bulky cooler. That said, there's plenty of great food and drink for sale everywhere, although it's pricey, and vegetarian (vegan, even?). Next time I'm bringing a supply of red meat, and a little tabletop BBQ unit. I was very jealous of the neighbours and their bacon breakfasts.

Not much point bringing a bike; there are a few there, but the whole space is small enough that walking isn't a problem, and the hills are quite steep.

If you're into yoga, bring your mat! I tried doing it on a beach towel, and failed miserably.

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