It’s overwhelming first passing through the front gates of the Lost Lake Festival.
Following a crowded light rail ride, swaying shoulder to shoulder with the massive crowd toward the entrance and standing around in the security line while people answer questions about their vape pens, it’s hard to know where to start when you finally have the entire open area of Steele Indian School Park at your disposal.
Knowing the acts get progressively more notable as the night wears on, there’s time to fully explore the grounds when arriving in the afternoon. From food trucks to local artists, vendors, games and plenty of booze, it’s almost too much to take in at once; free spirits wander aimlessly while others systematically organize a plan to see everything.
First stop though: the bathroom. Two strips of green port-a-potty can be found at either end of the park. A certain writer was dealing with an upset stomach upon arrival and it needed to be dealt with promptly.
After navigating outdoor toilets, anyone would be hungry. But what to get? It’s a touch choice between the array of food trucks like Gangsta Burger and what was dubbed “The Lava Pit: A BBQ Experience.” The Gorilla Cheese Truck seemed the most intriguing, emitting an aroma so intoxicating you already know it’s well-worth the future heartburn. Their “gangster grilled cheese” (not affiliated with the aforementioned Gangsta Burger food truck) is slow-smoked brisket, pork, and bacon mac and cheese, smothered in barbecue sauce, layered with colby jack all on toasted sourdough. It was amazing.
Next stop, the Brewpark to wash down the food with one of the craft beers from any of 19 different breweries, most local. The Biltmore Blonde (from the Phoenix Ale Brewery) is highly recommended. If beer wasn’t your thing, scattered booths offered various cocktails, the specialty being vodka with Red Bull. Not a fan.
With beer in hand, it was finally time to explore the festival. Nearby was the “Lost Playground” where anyone was welcome to play a number of humorously oversized games. These included: “big ass billiards,” “colossal croquet,” “jumbo Jenga,” “life-size Connect Four,” “humungous cornhole,” “mega Twister,” “giant foosball” and “extra-large bocce ball.” They also had table tennis, which was regular-size.
FOUND: The Lost Lake Marketplace had a slew of ultra-cool local artists and vendors peddling their various creations. Jar of Buttons was a big draw but tarot cards, henna, vintage clothes, painted skateboards and rad recycled headbands all had their allure.
But what about the music? Yeah, that was there too. Huey Lewis and The News took Camelback Stage and the opening riff to “Power of Love” acted as a magnet gathering humans from all ends of the park. Also notable, the “Soul Bugs Superjam: The Dap Kings Play The Beatles.” Shuffling artists including Wesley Miles of Ra Ra Riot provided the vocals to create a unique cover of a Beatles hit.
About this time it started to get dark, with the light of the sun slowly fading to reveal hundreds of vibrant, multicolored LEDs brightening up the park, and just in time for an onslaught of hip-hop. Sandwiched between the average-sized Lil Jon and Lil Yachty were The Roots, you know from The Tonight Show, though their performance was anything but family-friendly. You could tell lead singer, Black Thought, really enjoyed doing that thing where bands change some of their lyrics to fit the place they’re in, his favorite being a smoothly delivered “Ari-zon-a, Ari-zon-a, Ari-motherf***ing-zona.” Overall it was an outstanding set and an expectedly pleasant departure for The Roots from the network restrictions of NBC.
When asked for his favorite performance of the festival, Steve Hartman, 34, said, “The Roots stole the entire night.”
The Roots closed out their set with a reference to R. Kelly, repeatedly asking, “Who can top that sh*t? Who can top that sh*t?” before answering their own question, “Ain’t nobody gonna top that sh*t” and walking off stage.
If anyone was gonna top that sh*t though, it would be the final act of the night — The Killers. The quartet came out swinging, firing off criss-crossed lasers overhead. Opening with a single from their recently debuted new album, frontman Brandon Flowers knew exactly how to work a crowd, with explosions of confetti going off at the most climactic moments.
Following an incredibly energized performance, Nina Jessop, 19, said, “The Killers are my favorite band … I’ve never gotten to see them live before and it’s everything I hoped it would be.”
An encore performance featuring the band’s two most popular songs was a perfect bow to tie up the night. That’s what everyone thought, at least, until “Bohemian Rhapsody” started playing over the speakers and a rhythmic fire show began at the lake in the heart of the park.
Lost Lake brought out all the stops for a music festival that surely set the standard for all future fests the Valley will have to offer.
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