“Make art. Have fun.” This is The Do LaB’s ethos. The Do LaB is an event production family with a legendary origin story. Sixteen years ago, three brothers and some interesting characters threw a private birthday bash for the history books. It was L-I-T. Now it’s LiB—Lightning in a Bottle festival. After that birthday, the three Flemming brothers forged The Do LaB and began building upon that festive bedrock to spread a message of sustainability, expression, and community to the public.
To date, Lightning in a Bottle may have seen as many aesthetic iterations as locations changed but the motto has never faltered. Make art, have fun. LiB and The Do LaB grew as the Flemming’s also found themselves sharing their message through an art installation at Coachella. Now, The Do LaB Tent is a full-feature habitat at Coachella. It hosts live visual artists, aerial acrobatics, tree house hangs, and a stage graced by a stacked lineup year after year. For the duration of Coachella, The Do LaB Tent envelops and nurtures its blissed-out occupants with vibrant canopy wings and the nectar of its hypnotic heartbeat. The tent thumps through the dance spectrum from disco, drum & bass, glitch to future house, and closes each night with a secret guest.
“Having an epic stage that’s different from the norm really gives people a place to run to—just to explore the art and then get sucked up in the music.” - Dede Flemming, co-founder of The Do LaB
A shimmering, colorful oasis in the desert, The DoLaB Tent has been reported accurately as a tractor beam from Indio to Lightning in a Bottle. Dancing in its glory, feeling that pull. We had to know more about The Do LaB magic before packing up and heading to LiB. So we ventured deeper into The Do LaB’s warm embrace at Coachella to ask some questions.
Onward past The DoLaB Tent, past a loose congregation of stylish, like-minded youth taking a break from sun and dance, a man presents himself with the sort of smile that is ready to meet new people, connect and create unique experiences. That man is Dede Flemming, one of the founding brothers of The Do LaB. A quick search for quiet space for conversation lands us in the grass at the heels of the stage. Dede bounds at the opp to lay on a fresh patch of less trampled Earth. Chairs are of no use here. “Man, I’m tired of working around tables.” We dive in.
What goes into making the magic of The Do LaB Tent, the behind-the-scenes that people might not typically see or think about?
One of the big things is the inclusion. People come here and they’re getting sprayed and then the audience gets up on stage and sprays people. The team and the crew that built this thing are up there partying and having a good time. So, it’s not like this project gets built by a bunch of people who then leave and hand it over to a stage management team. We design it, we build it, we operate it. Our crew is out here having a blast running the show. It’s the sense of family that really ties it all together. People are passionate about every aspect of it and making sure that it’s great music–it’s a great vibe, it’s wet, it’s wild, it’s crazy. It’s the inclusion aspect that makes this special.
I totally appreciate that family feel. When I come here I get nothing but hugs and love from your team. And I see that vibe pulse through the audience and entire space. Your team is pretty strong, now–how many people did you start with? And how many people are on the team now?
In the beginning, it was 10 to 15, maybe 20 of us out here playing around. It was a big 60-foot dome with some weird sculptures in it and water misters. We built a waterfall! A couple of friends on the crew happened to be DJs and we snuck some speakers in. We weren’t a stage, we were an art piece. So that’s how we got our start as a stage.
Now, this is our 12th year at Coachella. All the people it takes—from start to finish—to make a project like this happen? Hundreds for sure.
What was the founding philosophy? Do you think you stayed true to it?
Make art. Have fun. It wasn’t a business. It wasn’t a promotional tool. It was some creative people coming together to create art, have fun, and give people a good experience. I do feel we’ve stayed true to that. It’s bigger now and you have to make different decisions, because it is a business, but that’s a good thing, because we have more resources to play with to create and offer better things.
There’s always challenges when you have growth. You have to make some decisions that are uncomfortable. You have to make some decisions that people look at you and they roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders and say, “why’d they do that?”
And everyone second guesses people’s decisions and I understand that. We still do everything with the intention of keeping the audience first.
So, in all the craziness, what is your favorite moment from this first weekend of Coachella?
We had the Glitch Mob last night (Saturday.) They’ve played here many times. The Sahara Tent. The Mojave Tent. But before that, they played the DoLab stage. And they’re old friends, homies from LA. They came back last night! They played a surprise set and played all the classics from ’06-7-8. So it was cool, it was nostalgic. I got to hang out with all my old buddies.
Do you have favorite festival food here?
There isn’t a Coachella where I don’t have handfuls of Spicy Pie. Nic Adler is the curator of all the food and all the new stuff you see out here. He’s done an awesome job.
How has your relationship with Goldenvoice progressed at Coachella? Have you learned from them?
We get to work with Coachella closely, now, with such a strong relationship. They really trust us to put on a good show and provide an epic spot for people to have that refuge here.
They do a really good job of thinking of everything. It’s fun watching it grow and evolve because we produce a festival. We love it, it’s our passion. We come here and see that it’s their passion too. I know they do a million festivals but Coachella is their heart and soul. You can tell. It’s fun to be here 12 years in a row and watch the evolution of Coachella and their team and how much they put into their show. It’s pretty inspiring.
Are there ways for someone who’s just stumbling upon The Do LaB to get involved?
It’s difficult for people to get involved and integrate with us out here, because it’s intense. It’s an intense environment. But people reach out to us after Coachella, after LiB, after these big projects, and they ask us, “how do we get involved?”
We have opportunities for people to volunteer and we have a strong internship program. To be honest, I think six people on our staff out here were interns a year ago. They had seen us at Coachella and said “wow. I want to be a part of that.” They applied for an internship and now they’re full-time staff. I get to see first-hand the next generation of people who stumble upon us and are now working for us. It’s pretty cool to see.
What would you say first-timers have to look forward to at Lightning In A Bottle?
If people stumbled upon us here [at Coachella] and get a little excited about possibilities, when they come to LiB, their heads are gonna explode. You know this is just a small sample. It’s an aesthetic sample and musical sample. Whereas, when you get into LiB, there’s a full energetic takeover.
The vibe, the journey that you’re on from the moment you arrive at LiB–from the educational component to the music to the people that you meet and the openness of everyone that’s there–I think that’s the hidden gem. LiB somehow makes people so open. They let their guard down so people can make true connections and meet some amazing people. That’s what really hits people over the head.
And you just added an extra day to LiB for that purpose, right?
Yeah, we have the early arrival on Wednesday. We’re not programming music that day, or Thursday for that matter. It’s a chance for people to get in early and start building a community. Go make friends and take a little extra time to explore!
+++ Lightning in a Bottle takes place May 25-30 in Bradley, CA. As of today, both Early Arrival and 4-Day Weekend Passes are still available. Secure your passes and get ready for The Do LaB to blow your mind!
Related Article: Just Announced: Lightning in a Bottle 2016 Lineup