The 7 Best Undercard Acts We Saw at Lightning in a Bottle 2022

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They say lightning never strikes twice, but this past weekend, Southern California’s lakeside Lightning in a Bottle made repeated hits with a perfect storm of electrifying dance music artists. While not shocking considering the Do LaB’s tradition of introducing dance music that many attendees may have never heard before, this year was supercharged with pent-up energy after a two-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic. Taking place on the outskirts of Bakersfield, Calif., the five day festival (May 25-29), drew roughly 25,000 attendees to its post-pandemic return.

From their stage at Coachella to Lightning in a Bottle (often abbreviated as LiB), festival producer the Do Lab’s commitment to booking emerging talent is a distinction few fail to see. For those who stumbled upon the diverse music selections across LiB’s six stages, 14 interactive areas, and “more art cars than ever before” (according to the festival guide), not getting drawn in several directions by the ears was like resisting a force of nature.

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For the up and comers of dance music’s underground, the weekend presented an opportunity to reach newer and bigger audiences. While headliners included Kaytranada, Four Tet, Glass Animals, Ivy Lab, Adam Freeland, Seth Troxler, CloZee, SG Lewis and GRIZ, there were always another option if someone in the crew wanted an alternative to such legendary talent. These are the seven best up-and-coming acts we saw at the festival this year. 

Joe Pea

As a child prodigy on the drums Joe Pea knew from day one that music was going to be his life’s work. When he caught a bug for vinyl collecting in 1999, he traded in his drumsticks for a set of turntables and kicked off his love affair with electronic music. Today, he works in production at festivals — building, tearing down, and managing more festival stages in a year than some audiophiles see in their whole lives.

His massive breadth of experience around stages has sharpened his capabilities playing on them — and, on Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 pm, when he effortlessly dropped ace tracks like Steve Cole’s “Groove Monster,” Denny’s extended “Radgie” mix, and Bontan’s “Stutterman” on the underground house and techno thumping Junkyard Stage, it was arguably a milestone in the festival’s history of supporting behind-the-scenes badasses. The funny thing is, for this Pacific Northwest-based house workhorse, this set was just his lunch break. Afterward, he relished a few high-fives and went right back to work.

J. Gill 

Most music producers’ careers came to a grinding lull during the pandemic, but for Josh Gill, the moment was more like lift off on a trampoline. Prior to the pandemic- he was valeting high dollar whips for tycoons of industry in Los Angeles, while co-producing an annual New Year’s desert rave called Coalesce and running the L.A.-based house music collective re|flections.

But, a few months into 2020, his mastery of streaming tech landed him back of house gigs managing Twitch feeds for DGTL LIB, Burning Man, and several other entities. Those opportunities got him face time and a chance to share his music with festival producers around the country — and this year at LIB, that led to his debut performance on the renowned Woogie Stage, where the festival gathers its house and techno acts. He started his set 30 minutes earlier than his scheduled start time of Thursday at 3:00 p.m., but when that moment rolled around, the dancefloor was already packed and vibing.

Through an onslaught of nostalgic throwback hooks from Sublime’s ‘92 reggae classic  “Waiting For My Ruca,” Moby’s “Porcelain” and Foo Fighters’ “Everlong,” J.Gill’s set was a reminder to us all that sometimes the best moments at music festivals come from clever spins on familiar tunes we never expected to hear. 

O’SNAP

When Shawn O’Looney — known onstage as O’SNAP — got into music festival production and promotion more than a decade ago, few could have imagined he’d be the soft-spoken operations wizard behind the curtain he’s evolved into. When he co-founded the new, albeit meteorically successful, bass purveying crew Sound Experiment in Los Angeles, his presence hit the scene like a wrecking ball. And partly as a result of his modesty, even most of his friends didn’t see it coming.

Nevertheless, after almost eight years of sweating on the streets promoting events for Do LaB, he was invited to open LiB’s Thunder Stage on Friday, where all the fest’s most incendiary bass acts showcase their squishy, glitchy bravado. Around 2,000 people turned out to see him play. Later, he performed on the festival’s home to underground bass acts, The Stacks, with tracks like “Want It” from Wreckno, “Void If Detached” by LEET, and Atyya’s “Just Say.” While he drew crowds at both sets, the fact that he was able to crack open a can of mayhem on the dancefloor for Friday’s first set of the day — especially in the beating sun — speaks to his tenure and magnetism.

Lubelski

When Los Angeles-based audio engineer and multi-instrumentalist Jake Lubelski opened his late afternoon Friday set on The Woogie with Paul Woolford’s “Erotic Discourse,” strolls turned to sprints as the masses streamed onto the dancefloor. His mastery of sound augmentation and his knack for selecting choice tunes is enough to make a tech house connoisseur’s radar read “tilt.”

And that’s just another day at the office for Lubelski. During his electric performance, he dipped deep into his vault of unreleased material and complemented his own beats with timeless anthems like Metro Area’s “Miura” and Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.” Seeing all the flailing limbs he unleashed during his set, it isn’t any wonder why stage smashing crews like Desert Hearts, Dirtybird, and Crosstown Rebels all have laid claim to him as one of their own.

Khiva

On both the Stacks and Thunder stages, Nova Scotia-born Jessie Le Couteur — who performs under the moniker Khiva — brought a vicious cadence to two sets on Saturday. On the Stacks, her self-made productions and craftsmanship of dark atmospheric beats like “Blood Bank,” “Swampmonster,” and “Path of Night” punctuated her performances with smooth, live lyrical flows that seemed to bridge the sensuality of making out in the dark with the tension of a horror movie.

Her panache for haunting melodies and Persephonian flair was more suited to the night, but that didn’t stop her from drawing a daytime crowd during her late afternoon Thunder Stage set on Saturday. In fact, when she wrapped that performance, the stage was already over capacity and people were trying to find views from outside the enclosing structure. There were also more than a few near the front who literally bowed to show reverence for the mean queen.

The Librarian

Aptly known onstage as The Librarian for her encyclopedic knowledge of breaks and drum & bass, the emotional release of her set at LiB was two years in the making. Known off-stage as Andrea Graham, the British Columbia-based maven’s Thunder Stage set on Saturday evening was so haunting ,and exquisite as the sunset over the panoramic waterfront, that missing it was one of those mistakes that many bass music lovers simply may never forgive.

Tracks like her own “Howe Sound” and “Impulse” teed off alongside bangers like “Black Shield” by Monty & Visages, and Bby’s “Overmono” took those who made it to the dancefloor on an unprecedented journey. It was also a long-awaited moment for many to get a highly anticipated first listen to the new EP she wrote during the pandemic, Love Letter to Nightlife.

CHASE MANHATTAN

If throwing your a– around the dancefloor is your religion, the Portland-born artist CHASE MANHATTAN’s Friday set at The Stacks stage was a long, strange trip to church. Known widely for his remixes and a signature sound he describes as “Drippy Low End Gangster Beats,” his hip-hop influences and penchant for high-octane builds is enough to satisfy even the most discriminating bass music lover. During his set he played several self-made anthems of twerk including “BUSSIT,” “THICCBOI,” and “ID” (with KOWTA) illustrating a sultriness from the streets combined with kundalini blasting presence that even on the big stages was seldom seen over the weekend.

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