Phoenix has successfully survived its first full-sized music, arts and culinary festival. Lost Lake Festival took over Steele Indian School Park Friday through Sunday with performances from Chance the Rapper, The Killers, Major Lazer and more. It modeled Superfly’s other events like Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, but there was an obvious emphasis on highlighting Arizona’s unique culture.
When it comes to what stood out to me the most, I'll say it’s how the festival was able to capture the spirit of Phoenix so fully. The festival grounds looked, tasted, sounded and, yeah, smelt like Arizona. The artist booths, elevated literally on top of a small hill in the center of the hill, was a nice nod to the talent of our local art community. Many of the food booths represented local chefs and restaurants. And while the headliners were national acts that were promoted most heavily and drew the largest crowds, Superfly importantly didn’t forget to include some of our local musical talent.
“Our sensibility of how we program our events would fit really well with the emerging cultural scene in the Phoenix area,” Superfly Co-Founder Rick Farman said when I spoke to him last week. “As we started to spend more and more time visiting Phoenix and exploring what the opportunity would be, it kind of became clear to us from all levels.”
Lost Lake, then, wasn’t just about the music... or food or art. It was a blend of everything – a sort of amalgamation of everything Downtown Phoenix is trying really hard to be: funky, arts-oriented and desert chic, epitomized by the marketplace containing about a dozen shops, many recognizable from Roosevelt Row on First Fridays.
“The experience here will be much more immersive with all the different programming areas that we have and unique experiences in each one of them,” Farman said.
Of course, another side to Phoenix reared its less-pretty head, too. The jumbo-sized playground was a fun idea but was sparsely populated every time I passed through, mimicking the ghost town vibes Downtown can emit on days that aren't First Fridays. There was also a lack of decent parking options, and I could see the location changing in the future to alleviate some of the traffic headaches. And, though there wasn't any way to have prepared for the terrible air quality on Saturday with a gross brown haze providing an unwelcome blanket as temps hovered around 90, it cast a certain shadow on the day. I had to take a break and head indoors for a while, and I'm a native Arizonan who's used to the heat. At least the festival provided free water.
The aesthetic at night beat certainly the aesthetic during the day. When the sun set, neon lights would outline a giant VW bus, a firetruck with huge bull horns and all of the playground games. Cacti were covered in white Christmas lights to stop people from tripping over them (a good idea since I had seen a number of people walk straight into bushes that weren’t lit up).
Despite the non-Coachella-sized crowds during the daytime, Arizona proved itself to be worthy of a festival of this size.
“What we hope it becomes, and we have seen happen in other places, is that locals get really excited about the experience and see how rich the experience is that they start to use this as an opportunity to invite their friends who live across the country to come in and experience their city through the festival,” Farman said.
I hope non-Arizonans start checking us out, too.
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