A controversy within the festival community has stirred a bigger debate about the history of an unconventional cultural phenomenon. With the Do LaB’s 2017 Lightning in a Bottle festival in northern California wrapped up, questions remain surrounding a lawsuit about ownership of the popular festival and its mother company.
It’s hard to distinguish the manipulators from the victims, if there are any. The lawsuit was filed last June by Marcia Webb, known as Dream Rockwell, and publicized by a viral blog post in which she accuses its current owners, the three Flemming brothers, of scheming to push her out of ownership of the successful Do LaB brand.
Rockwell claims that the brothers are trying to strip her not only of financial compensation, but of foundership. She is devastated at the thought of being erased from the official history—and ledger—of the Do LaB legacy.
The Do LaB, Inc. was originally founded in 2005 by twins Josh and Jesse Flemming and Rockwell. Based on California incorporation documents, that much is indisputable. Since then it has carved a name for itself as a flourishing event production brand beyond its original Burning Man-inspired community, branching into the mainstream music world with the beloved Woogie Stage at Coachella, a feeder for newcomers to the more transformational aspects of the festival scene. Shedding its fringe beginnings as a gathering with New Age activities and vegetarian-only options, LIB is today one of the West Coast’s premier left-of-mainstream festivals offering top electronic music acts next to group yoga, tea temples, and hamburgers.
As the producer of the now-gone Temple of Consciousness at LIB, which hosted the festival’s most counterculture events like last year’s Flat Earth panel, Rockwell embodies its original ethos for good and bad. Descriptions of her motives and character by longtime Do LaB insiders paint a particular picture, one person calling her fame-driven, “acting above many with entitlement and ego beyond what one would expect from a conscious feminist.” Conversely, a part-time contractor says that she’s “actually one of the few people who was encouraging and empowering.” In legal documents filed by the Flemmings’ lawyer, they claim working with her “made it difficult for the Do Lab [and their employees] to do their respective jobs in producing LIB.”
The two parties’ journey down this long, bitter road actually started as a love story, when Rockwell and Josh Flemming began a romantic relationship around 2003-2004 and eventually formed The Do Lab, Inc. along with Jesse. The three of them lived together in the Do LaB warehouse, even after the couple broke up. The younger brother Jason “Dede” Flemming didn’t officially enter the picture until 2010. He and the Do LaB declined to comment for this article, pointing to a formal statement on their website.
It states, among other things, that Rockwell was “a founding member of The Do Lab, Inc.,” an important public concession we will get to later, but that she was aware of the dissolution of that company back in 2010 when the brothers found out she created a separate entity for Lucent Dossier on her own. The brothers claim they agreed to part ways with her keeping the performance troupe and the three brothers forming a new entity, The Do LaB, LLC, without her. “During this time, [Dream was] paid by the very LLC she claims she was unaware of for 6 years.”
Basically, Rockwell claims she only discovered the change when she emailed Jesse for documents she needed to put together a living trust for her son, in early 2016. The Flemmings’ claim that the split was mutually agreed upon years earlier and that she likely sued in June after they ended their working relationship with her and the Temple over difficulties collaborating.
A quick search of public documents showed that The Do LaB, Inc. was dissolved by the twins in January 2011 with a two-thirds board vote. The same month, articles of organization for The Do LaB, LLC were submitted and in October 2012 a statement of information for the LLC filed listing Jesse, Josh, and Dede. Then, in December 2014, the LLC was converted into Do LaB, Inc. (with no preceding “The”) with the three brothers as directors. The document creating the new corporation was signed by Dede.
The rift between Dede and Rockwell is no secret, as she has claimed that her role in the company began diminishing when he officially came onboard in 2010. Technically speaking, he’s taken her place as the new Do LaB cofounder; her ⅓ ownership stake is now his. Unlike Rockwell, Dede brings a progressive, business-minded approach to a creative industry that runs on lots of cash and low accountability. Katrina Zevalney, a sustainability consultant, remembers his at-times aggressive and dismissive behavior when she contracted for LIB in 2014, saying that when she went to him regarding a team member who fell to heat stroke, his response was “‘She can suck it,’ with a little hand gesture.”
In Rockwell’s post, she lists multiple other female Do LaB employees she feels have been under-appreciated. She was unequivocal about the role of sexism allegedly running rampant throughout the company.
“You keep digging and you’ll see a long history–I’m not the only forgotten or ousted woman from that company,” she told me.
A longtime employee, who spoke off the record, said that LIB has and will be mostly run by women who are loved and respected. A quick look at its operations team confirms the sentiment, with much of the production run by women like Monica Fernandez and Marsi Frey, to whom reportedly even the Flemmings acquiesce to at times. It is true that with the absence of Rockwell the company no longer has a female voice on its official executive leadership.
Up until this point, the Do LaB’s public positioning has been that they are not trying to deprive Rockwell of her status as a founder and instead setting the record straight on the ownership. But a new legal document indicates that the Flemmings may be trying to revise history. A November 2016 cease and desist letter emailed by Stephen M. Doniger, the Flemmings’ lawyer, to the producer of an XLive conference where Rockwell was due to make a speech with her Do LaB credentials, reads as follows:
“It has been brought to our attention that XLive is promoting a December 6, 2016 speaking event featuring Marcia Webb, aka “Dream Rockwell,” in which she is identified as “Co-Founder & Executive Producer, Lightning in a Bottle/Do Lab” (see http://xlivecon.com/lasvegas/speakers/dream-rockwell/). This correspondence is sent to demand that you immediately change that advertising as it inaccurately associates Ms. Webb with my clients and their event. Specifically, Lightning In A Bottle was started in 2000 by the Flemming brothers, 4 years before they even met Ms. Webb (thus she is not a co-founder of LIB), Ms. Webb has no ownership interest in the Do Lab, and she has had no involvement in producing LIB for years other than her limited role in producing the Temple of Consciousness.”
This suggests a behind-the-scenes push to formalize exactly the opposite of their public statement on the Do LaB website. It seems they want to excise Rockwell altogether from its lineage, denying her even speaking engagements based on her experiences at its inception.
Another document suggests the same thing. In Dede’s declaration in opposition to a temporary restraining order Rockwell unsuccessfully tried to invoke against her Temple removal last year, he states that “while Ms. Webb did help brainstorm some concepts for the 2004 LIB, her declaration vastly overstates her involvement in the event, which was produced almost entirely by my brothers and I.”
I don’t doubt that Rockwell may have been difficult to work with. Once, she failed to return, respond to, or reschedule a scheduled call. I can only imagine how things may have been over 14 years in the field. It’s also highly possible that LIB started as a family project that later involved Rockwell when she began a relationship with one of them.
But work ethic and the degree of involvement matter little when it comes to determining foundership. Rockwell’s primary contribution was the Temple. She brought some of the most fringe aspects to LIB’s culture, aspects that in the beginning set it apart as “transformational”—which remains a core trait in the form of spiritual rituals, meditation workshops, and others—but which today can understandably be seen as a potential embarrassment for an LIB that focuses more on social activism and cultural rites over pseudoscience and alternative theories.
Beyond the changing music acts, workshops, and interactive areas, LIB is a renegade movement at heart, celebrating each individual and their humanity without judgment. Having its past rewritten or individuals from its inception manipulated in order to fit its current direction is a dark sentiment in this community that touts transparency and inclusivity. The lawsuit is ongoing, with court dates currently scheduled up to December with no clear end in sight. In the meantime, the Do LaB’s festivals will go on, with its Dirtybird Campout set to take place in October on the opposite shore of the same Lake Antonio as LIB.