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How Superfly’s inaugural Lost Lake Festival put Phoenix on the map as the next big festival spot in the U.S.

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How Superfly's inaugural Lost Lake Festival put Phoenix on the map as the next big festival spot in the U.S.

This fall, Superfly Presents, the masterminds behind North American festival giants Outside Lands and Bonnaroo set their scopes on a new, emerging entertainment market that they were banking on being the next big festival-hosting city in the United States: Phoenix, Arizona. While most picture Phoenix with a skewed vision of the “wild west,” Superfly was planting its flag in a burgeoning hub of vibrant art, food, local music, and tourism marketability as the home for their newest concept, Lost Lake Festival. The result was not only another overwhelmingly successful event for the organizers, but in turn, positioned Phoenix to strongly attract additional large scale events in coming years to coincide with the city’s exciting, growing social scene. If Phoenix wasn’t on the festival map before, Lost Lake unquestionably changed that notion. The inaugural Lost Lake didn’t just bring in an enticing lineup and top-tier liquor sponsors, the event was a masterfully curated three-day experience, from logistics to programming, that used the host city’s aesthetic as an intrinsic factor in the festival’s appeal.

Image: Jorgensen Photography

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Stellar inaugural lineup

Led by top-notch headliners that included Chance The Rapper, The Killers, and Major Lazer, Lost Lake delivered a well-rounded blend of talent that paired top electronic acts like Odesza and Big Gigantic with satisfying, multi-generational tastes of hip-hop from Lil Yachty to Ludacris. Folk rockettes HAIM performed one of the highlight sets of the weekend, along with a raucous showcase from Run The Jewels and a lesson in R&B excellence from The Roots. The lineup curation was designed to span the spectrum, from Huey Lewis and the News to A Tribe Called Red with so many genre-hopping performances in between. What’s more, local Phoenicians and Phoenix-bred acts like Playboy Manbaby, Kongos, and Bogan Via shared the stage with nationally touring acts including Tritonal, Danny Brown, and Crystal Castles, celebrating the city’s animated music and arts scenes, hopefully encouraging other large-scale festivals across the country to adopt similar programming practices.

Image: Quinsey Sablan

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Big on local programming

Beyond a phenomenal three-day lineup, Lost Lake applied heavy emphasis to balancing the inherent corporate sponsorships that come with a large-scale music event with locally sourced arts, attractions, and businesses tucked into their FOUND Marketplace. Lost Lake also incorporated interactive art installations across the festival grounds at Steele Indian School Park located in central downtown Phoenix. From pyrotechnic lilypads floating across the venue’s serene lake to paintings created by some of Phoenix’s top muralists sprinkled throughout the grounds, Lost Lake was a sight to behold. When fans weren’t busy enjoying life-sized LED playground equipment and backyard games, attendees could peruse local bar and restaurant options that lined the event’s concession areas, pushing Phoenix’s developing culinary culture to the masses.  Lost Lake honed in on the city’s local charm with complementary programming that immediately established Phoenix’s character as a major element to the new festival brand’s identity.

Image: Jeff Kravitz

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Perfect location, aced logisitics

Most large-scale festival events struggle with logistics planning, even beyond their infancy. None are immune to all production issues, however Lost Lake’s inaugural run proved to be incredibly calculated and organized, even as it ran directly anchored in the heart of Phoenix’s downtown district. No training wheels necessary. Public transit access ran without a hitch, and on-the-ground festival operations were aced. Attendees were well-informed and considerately directed by festival staff, and local infrastructure was more than adequately prepared to accommodate Superfly’s Arizona debut. On-site logistics were matched by a pristine venue, and Arizona’s mid-80’s autumn season proved to be a perfectly pleasant festival backdrop. Other events that have tried to stake their claim in Phoenix have suffered from incredibly poor planning, unsavory venue selections, and even worse weather, though Lost Lake managed to navigate Phoenix’s stereotypical “drawbacks” with near perfection. Trash and recycling receptacles dotted every free space at the festival, again encouraging similarly scaled events to take similar measures not only for the attendance experience, but also out of respect for the city and the venue alike. The result made a profound difference.

Image: Jorgensen Photography

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Keep your eyes on Phoenix

Superfly Presents has already established itself as one of the top names in the business, putting on some of the most sought-after events of the year in North America. Expanding their vision to include a largely untapped market in Phoenix proved to be a significantly successful move, and likely put Phoenix on the map in a major way. And while other dance-centric festival events have sprung up in Phoenix in recent years, like Goldrush Festival, Mad Decent Block Parties, and Decadence offshoots, Lost Lake brought an entirely different vibe to Phoenix that included a heavy appreciation for the city’s narrative and identity, and likely lit the beacon for other major cross-genre multi-day events to begin flocking to the Southwest too.

Image: Jorgensen Photography