Lost Lake Festival Promises Big Name Lineup, Phoenix Flair

By  Will Stone
Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 9:43am
Updated: Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 2:52pm

Lost Lake Festival producer Rick Farman (left), co-founder of Superfly, and Kirk Strawn of Phoenix-based Walter Productions (right) stand in the soon-to-be-transformed festival grounds at Steele Indian School Park.
(Photo by Will Stone - KJZZ)

Chicago has Lollapalooza. New York, the Governors Ball. Austin, South by Southwest.

“That’s what we are doing here,” said Rick Farman. “We’re bringing something of that quality, but a localized version to this market.”

It’s called Lost Lake.

Starting on Friday, tens of thousands of people will flock to Phoenix’s Steele Indian School Park for three days of music, food and art.

Farman’s company Superfly is producing the new festival. He believes the Valley is hungry for the kind of big musical blowout that has become a staple for many a millennial.

The promotional video for Lost Lake glides slowly over the festival grounds — overlaid with graphics of three stages, a “lava pit” and playground, a brew park and more.

“It’s not somewhere you come and sit at one stage for hours and hours. It’s really an immersive experience,” he said. “Where you experience lots of different things throughout the day and the weekend.”

Farman’s company knows how to pull this off. It produces Bonnaroo, outside of Nashville, and Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

For Lost Lake, they’re pulling in more than 40 acts, headliners like The Killers, Chance The Rapper and The Pixies.

But talk to Farman and you hear less about the lineup and more about what’s local.

“Our goal here is to be a showcase for the artists, be a showcase for the restaurants, be a showcase for everyone that is creating stuff, taking all the amazing elements of the Phoenix and the Valley area and using a festival to express all those things.”

That expression will take many forms — local artists painting giant panels, dozens of nearby restaurants offering food curated by chef Chris Bianco and a play area hosted by the Phoenix Children’s Museum.

“We will have some of our art cars here. So Walter and Heathen, Big Red and Pug Bug,” said Kirk Strawn, who runs Walter Productions — a Burning Man-inspired entertainment company with a fleet of art cars, based in Phoenix.

“One of those, actually, will be shooting fire on it and then the lake is another surprise,” said Strawn, whose company has done similar performances at Bonnaroo.

He called Lost Lake “a turn of the page” for Phoenix.

“It really brings in this level of event. And we just don’t have anything that’s like that,” Strawn said.

Lost Lake is getting a lot of hype, in part because it has linked up with local promoters and venues.

Even Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is making the pitch.

The Killers.
(Photo courtesy of Allison + Partners)

“I want to see you there in big numbers because we have never done a big three-day festival like this. I’m proud of it and it’s going to be great in our city,” Stanton said in a video on Facebook recently.

But Ed Masley, who covers music for the Arizona Republic, notes that the Valley already has a history of hosting successful music festivals.

“This is a different type of festival. It’s outside promoters. It’s the Bonnaroo people. I think it’s great they’re coming and it means great things for Phoenix,” Masley said.

“But I think there is a tendency to diminish what we already have,” he said.

There’s Pot of Gold in Chandler, as well as Viva Phoenix and the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, to name a few.

Still, Lost Lake does represent a vote of confidence in Phoenix and probably not just for one year.

“It is a very rare festival that is profitable in the first even one, two or three years. It is really something you have to build year over year,” said Biasha Mitchell, who heads up music festival strategy at Eventbrite.

New festivals are cropping up all the time, but Mitchell said their research from 2016 shows that most festival goers planned to go to the same amount if not more festivals this year.

“That, to us, indicates there is at least the same amount of demand, if not more, year over year,” Mitchell said.

The number one decider for the prospective festival goer?

The headliners.

“Getting someone to buy that ticket is a challenge. You have to actually book those national acts,” she said. “Then once they come through your doors, it’s really about the food, the art installations, the rest of these things. That will actually make someone feel like, ‘oh, wow, this festival gets me.'"

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