Chance The Rapper Told Me All I Need Is Happy Thoughts And I’ve Been Flying Ever Since
Imagine wandering through a giant playground filled up with 200 friends and 45,000 other friendly people for 3-days set to the most incredible soundtrack possible, that’s what Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix, Arizona was like. Superfly Presents went all out with Lost Lake to ensure that even though it was the festival’s maiden voyage, it still provided all of those one-of-a-kind festival experiences that has turned the season formerly called summer into Festival Season. And I was live on rBeatzRadio all weekend long.
After living in Phoenix for nearly a decade I had some real reservations about Superfly Presents new festival in the desert, and I carried those reservations with me all the way from my home in New York City to my old desert hideaway that I’d left 2-years before. I was worried about water rations, tight security, overpriced festival food, and stuffy overpriced vendors that sold garbage.
What I found was a park full of the some of the absolute best parts of Phoenix I knew when I lived there. Whether it was my dear friend Joanna 23 doing henna in the vendor area (I invited her to my wedding for context), downtown muralist JB Snyder doing a mural on the hill, or local hero’s Playboy Manbaby playing a raucous 4 pm set on Friday afternoon, Lost Lake Festival really delivered on involving and featuring a lot of what makes Phoenix so special. While also delivering a world-class Festival experience.
As I was walking through the photo pit to get a good angle on the first act I heard someone yell from my left “you magnificent bastard” and I looked up and it was Mitchell Hillman, music editor of Java Magazine, a Phoenix-based culture magazine. We had worked together for the Phoenix New Times, we embraced and then caught the show. Encounters with Mitch would become a regular occurrence throughout the weekend.
Playboy Manbaby was the opening act of Lost Lake Festival for me. They were the band I had traveled so far to see and while they may prefer to play small rooms for crazy crowds, they still have all the chops necessary to bring their space-cadet thunder-jazz to even the biggest stages. On a balmy 92 degree day Robbie Pfeffer, Chad Dennis, Chris Hudson, David Cosme, Tj Friga, and Ricky Austin Lavender Heylee Dallas Smash aka The Baddest Man on the Planet turned Lost Lake into their former Tempe garage art space The Parliament.
The quick-witted Pfeffer introduced his merry band of miscreants as The Pixies and quickly jumped into their opening number. They are known as one of the best bands in Phoenix and they have garnered a larger than life reputation in the Brooklyn garage rock scene after bringing their spazz-funk power-punk traveling road show to the BK for CMJ festival in 2015 with brooklynites Stuyeyedeyed and Vamanos, as well as Scotland based Womps.
Pfeffer and I had joked the night before that the set would be empty but it really blossomed into a formidable crowd eating out of the palm of Pfeffer’s hand. He thanked Ludacris for putting the festival together as well as the secretive Illuminati leadership behind Bonnaroo, and the irreverent frontman made light of the 7-minute walk he took from his home to the gates of the Festival.
Playboy brought the thunder with their tunes Last One Standing which they recently dropped a video for , and You Can Be A Fascist Too which made it’s way to Village Voice Magazine. But the one that really got the crowd going was their closer Mermaid Pterodactyl because it wasn’t until the finale that Pfeffer finally got the crowd moshing which is a trademark of Playboy.
Following their set I made my way backstage to have chat with them, which you can listen to here:
Talking with Playboy ate up a lot of my time to catch NONAME at The Echo Stage, but I hustled over and caught the end of the smooth Chicagoans set. NONAME is a protege to the festival’s day-1 headliner, Chance The Rapper, and given some more seasoning, the 21-years young artist will be joining her mentor on the main-stage for the night time sets in no time.
Noname bringing her groovy vibes to Lost Lake Festival
Posted by rBeatz on Friday, October 20, 2017
The Festival was laid out quite well and once I got my bearings inside of Steele Indian School Park it became easy to find everything and, though there were only 3-stages, there was still quite a bit to be found on the grounds of Lost Lake Festival. The level of production value the Walter Project brought to Lost Lake was second to none. Every tree had an LED light pointed at it, the Lake had fire shooting lily pads set to music, his famed art cars littered the grounds, and the BBQ pit had a giant spitfire going all weekend.
After NONAME I made my way over to Broods on The Camelback stage all the while encountering Phoenix-based musicians, writers, and photographers who I had been working with for years. I had been aware of the Kiwi sibling two-piece for quite some time. An old friend made me aware of them right before I moved away from Arizona, and that friend obviously knew me well because Broods are fantastic. Georgia and Caleb Nott along with their fabulous touring band put together a spectacular indie ppop/electronicaset, that also signaled a shift in the decibel level of the festival overall. Once Broods hit the stage everything got just a little bit louder.
Next up was Crystal Castles on The Echo Stage and on a day that had been so far spectacular Crystal Castles was a noticeable dud. The band has been going downhill since Alice Glass’s departure, but amid her allegations against the band’s lead guitarist Ethan Kath revolving around sexual assault, which Kath fervently denies, the group really didn’t bring much with them to the stage at Lost Lake. They sounded and acted like they just hit play on their record while on stage, and frankly, the canned version may have been better.
Crystal Castles was so uninspired that I walked away early to catch Haim back on the main stage and they are very much not my style, but were still quite impressive especially when compared to the lackluster outing that Crystal Castles had. The familial three-piece make a lovely pop-rock sound and they made it for quite a few people considering they had to compete with the fact that half the fest was waiting for Ludacris to start and the other half were waiting patiently for The Pixies.
The Pixies and Ludacris playing at the same time on The Piestewa stage and The Echo Stage respectively made for one of the only two tough decisions I was forced to make all weekend, but the other one was a special sort of tough decision and we will come back to that. Having seen both The Pixies and Ludacris in the past, I felt confident in my decision to survey the Ludacris set. He brought a ton of energy to his 1 pm set at Firefly in 2016, so it stood to reason he would do even better with an 8:15 pm set.
The man with the midget hanging from his necklace played the hits and nothing but along with his regular road dogs Lil Fate and DJ Infamous Roll Out, What’s Your Fantasy, Number One Spot, Splash Waterfalls and all of the rest. Luda went through what seemed like his entire discography on Lost Lakes smallest stage, and the crowd responded. He may have cut the braids off, but the rapper turned actor still has everything else he brought with him to the stage during his early 2000’s heyday. That didn’t stop him from having every ass at lost lake shaking for the duration of his set.
As on point as Ludacris was; however, he really didn’t have anything on 24-year-old Chicago native Chance The Rapper. Ludacris is a legend in the game and arguably the greatest the south has ever produced. Chance is a transcendent musical entity that will be changing all the rules for hip-hop music in the coming years. Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment put on far and away the greatest hip-hop show I have ever witnessed, and I’ve seen Jay Z, OutKast, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop and Dre, Eminem, and many more in my day. The level of production, the pageantry, his opulence; he’s looking like a young Kanye West right now and he’s performing with the same zeal that Yeezus is known for.
Mixtape, Blessings, Angles, Sunday Candy, All We Got, and No Problem all made the set list among many others. And that’s by ear on the first time I have ever heard any of those songs because until Oct. 20 I was not a Chance The Rapper fan at all. I knew him for his work with Kanye and with Action Bronson but had never taken the time to give him listen. That was a mistake. I was pretty taken with his mid-set medley of Kanye songs featuring Waves, Father Stretch Thy Hands, and Ultralight Beam. But when I heard Same Drugs for the first time I almost cried. That is such a gorgeous song that so beautifully applied to the situation I was living in, returning to the place where I got started as a music journalist in 2011. The Peter-Pan allegory seemed appropriate as did the other motifs within the lyrics.
Chance The Rapper is a hip-hop dynamo and he brought it hard to his kast festival of 2017. #lostlakefest
Posted by rBeatz on Friday, October 20, 2017
He closed the set with a shower of white confetti while singing to the crowd “Are you ready for your blessing’s?” I am not a religious man, but Chance The Rapper made me feel something. He has an innate charisma not common among humans and he shared so much of his inner light with the people of Lost Lake Festival day one, on the last show of his tour and his first show as a Grammy award-winning artist.
Day 2, started with an early trip to Strive Dreams Henna to visit Joanna 23, and that trip ended with me getting a fresh henna to sport the rest of the trip, one that I am still wearing as I write this a week later. I sat with a pumpkin spice cold brew provided by Gypsy Cup Coffee and chatted with my friend while she made her art on my hand and the sounds of Phoenix natives Bogan Via wafted over the hill at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The mixture of the tunes I’ve known for years and company of my old-friend made the early afternoon a comforting experience, especially in the friendly confines the festival.
While drinking coffee with Joanna at Strive Dreams, we saw what we thought might be a wedding procession in all white with white flags walking across the grass. It turned out it was a roving troupe of face painters who were walking through the festival planting their flags in the ground and giving people a quick makeover, on the fest!
After letting my “ink” settle for a little while I headed over to the Piestewa stage to catch Carla Morrison shimmying and shaking all over the stage while her booming voice filled in the entire festival ground. She sang in both Spanish and English and her voice was equally spectacular in either language. She may not have been singing on the main-stage at 9 pm but she may have been the best all-around singer performing on the tremendous musical weekend.
I bumped into Joanna enjoying Carla’s set and she informed me that the artwork hanging from the sides of the stage had been produced by the Fortoul Brothers, two men who used to run a shop on Phoenix’s formed art-strip Roosevelt Row, which now only exists as a shadow of it’s former self with most of the art galleries replaced by condos.
Next up was Frenship on the Camelback stage who underwhelmed, so I went to the Piestewa stage to take a look at The Ricky Fits and where I also got a hot tip from Arizona Republic Music Editor Ed Masley that Taylor Bennett over on The Echo Stage would be a good act to catch. I made it over for the beginning of his set and what I found was a talented lyricist putting a run-of-the-mill hip-hop show. Certainly more memorable than the two previous bands. I fluttered away before the end of the set and later found out that Taylor Bennett was Chance The Rapper’s brother. Honestly, I still would have fluttered away if I knew, but I would have been more excited about the beginning.
I stumbled upon Muna because the person who was putting me up was camped by the main-stage for the day, so in meeting up with him, I found a really neat pop band. I’d never heard of Muna before the festival, but I was very happy to spend the time I had before KONGOS chatting with friends and soaking in the catchy pop hooks of Muna.
On my way over to the Piestewa stage, I bumped into Phoenix New Times clubs editor Ben Leatherman who I convinced to jump into the pit and shoot KONGOS with me.
KONGOS are an institution in Phoenix having honed their skills at The Lost Leaf bar only a few miles from where the Festival was taking place. They made sure the crowd knew it when they name dropped the little bar on 5th Street and Roosevelt in downtown Phoenix during their set. The four- brothers have been playing music together their entire lives so they ought to sound pretty good and since all four of them split the lead singer duties, they stage set-up has all four of them standing upright at the front of the stage.
I have seen KONGOS play to 200 people at Tempe’s Sail Inn and I have seen KONGOS play to 10,000 people at Firefly Festival in Delaware with quite a few shows in between. There were two key differences in their set at Lost Lake from every other time I’ve seen them. One, they didn’t do their first single Only Joking, and two, they looked more well-rehearsed and relaxed on stage than ever before. They look like a profoundly confident band ready to drop another mega-hit on the world, like the one they closed with Come With Me Now.
While enjoying KONGOS from the shade line, I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Phoenix-based journalist, Lauren Fach. She wasn’t covering the fest but she had gotten a ticket for the day and saw me in the crowd.
After KONGOS brought one of the moments of the festival that just about everyone was waiting for and that was Huey Lewis and the News. To they are a band with a little more pop-culture relevance than real musical relevance, but that didn’t stop them from having a fairly massive turnout at the The Camelback Stage at 5:30 pm. Huey opened with The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll and the blues and soul hits just kept on coming. But honestly, after about 20-minutes I realized I was seeing Huey Lewis and the News in 2017 so I dispersed to make my way to The Echo stage for Lil Boat.
I am 100 percent with all the bubblegum trap fans out there. If you don’t understand Lil Yachty, it’s because it’s not for you, so don’t worry about it. He is contemporary music’s answer to our parents telling us that the music we love has no substance. He’s a 21-year-old rapper with no flow who raps about cotton candy and pixar movies. If you want no substance we will show you no substance. But at the same time, he is an incredibly engaging and charismatic performer who really gets the crowd going. Plus his DJ has a setting on his mixer for 1 touch access to the “Lil Boat” button which really made my day.
After about 20-minutes of Lil Boat I’d had enough, so I moseyed over to The Dap-Kings Beatles themed super-jam and watched the New York-based collective allow Huey Lewis, Luna Aura, members of The Shelters, members of Young the Giant, and members of Ra Ra Riots step into the lofty shadow of Sharon Jones.
The super-jam wasn’t just a chance for a bunch of great artists to jam with The Dap-Kings, it was also a chance for the audience to participate as they sang along with every song that was played including Oh Darling, Here Comes the Sun, Twist and shout and some many more before the closed it out on Hey Jude. Superjam is a borrowed concept from America’s greatest festival Bonnaroo, but with Lost Lake it felt appropriate and made for one of the Festival’s signature moments.
Toward the end of the Superjam, a tall broad-shouldered long-haired gentleman walked by me who I realized was KONGOS bass player, Dylan Kongos. I greeted him with a hug and he conveyed to me that he was elated that Phoenix had an event like Lost Lake and that he felt as though it was just what the city needed. I congratulated him on the enormity of his success and we enjoyed the jam together for a moment before he went on his way.
Following The Dap-Kings Super Jam came a whole different kind of jam, The Roots crew jam. Many \would say The Roots frontman Black Thought is the greatest M.C. of all time, and while I don’t know if I believe that, I feel confident in saying he is in the conversation. The Roots are a visceral musical assault on the senses, creating as much noise as a 10-car pileup. They have as much street cred with hip-hop crowds as they do with jam band crowds and with all of ?uestlove’s extracurricular activities with the band minus Thought, it’s easy to see how they became such massive crossover celebrities.
They laid waste to the main stage, rocking jam after jam and giving every member of the band a lengthy solo. They slayed with their eclectic mix of hip-hop, jazz, funk, soul, with just a flare of rock ‘n roll and ?uest showed another festival exactly why he is hip-hop’s Jerry Garcia. The set ended on a lengthy drum solo by the man with the famed Afro, and then came what may have just been the worst hour in festival history.
This is that “special” choice I was talking about earlier. The choice between a Lil Jon DJ Set or to see the lead singer of AFI live out his 80’s dreams with the former members of No Doubt. After about 10-minutes of each set I took myself over to the main-stage to prepare for The Killers.
I was sitting up against a tree about 5-minutes before The Killers went on when I realized I had made a grave mistake. As I was bemoaning the fact that I thought both acts playing weren’t very good, I had forgotten how far above and beyond Lost Lake Festival had gone to make sure there was always something to do. I could have been participating in any number of creative activities that the festival had organized, but I was busy being a party pooper.
It took me a little while to come around to The Killers live set, I even took a stroll away from the stage and caught the Lilly Pad fire show in the lake during the set.
Who knows what wonders are still left to behold at Lost Lake Festival #lostlakefest
Posted by rBeatz on Saturday, October 21, 2017
But when I got back to the stage after a taco, a chat with Leatherman, and catching the fire I was fully enthralled with the pop/rock icons. They packed all their biggest hits into the back of their set which made for an over-the-top finale complete with laser show, pyrotechnics, confetti, and intrigue. The set was dramatic and exciting and full of songs you couldn’t help but sing along too because you’ve heard them just so many damn times.
The third day of Lost Lake once again began with a trip to Gypsy Cup for their pumpkin spice cold brew and then a trip to The Piestewa Stage for Phoenix legends Fayuca. They are a five-piece rock ‘n roll outfit that really brought the energy to an early set opening the fest on Sunday morning. They brought a big piece of what Phoenix music is all about with them because they are a big part of why Phoenix sounds the way it does, having been together and rocking for more than 10-years. They turned in a stellar main-stage set before hitting the festival for the day mere days before they hit the road for a 3-week west coast run.
A Tribe Called Red were next up on The Camelback Stage, and their blend of EDM and legitimate first nation music is not only wildly appropriate for a venue like Steele Indian School Park, which is named such for the Indian School which still sits on it’s grounds as a symbol of America’s mistreatment of Indigenous cultures, but also because the show was being played on what some consider to be Occupied O’Odham land. They brought traditional dancers out with them and they had some of the best LED graphics of the fest at their backs. A Tribe Called Red really is a one of a kind act and worth catching when they’re in your town.
From there it was the long haul (quarter mile at most) to The Echo Stage for the wild and woolly Murs. With his beard down to his chest and his dread’s looking full the former Living Legend took the stage with a laptop, a snack tray, two Heineken, and a bottle of Jameson. I was sad to see his running buddy DJ Foundation wasn’t with him, but he put on a great show nonetheless. He kicked it off by greeting all his fans in the front rows with a handshake and sampling drinks of as many people as he could before chugging a beer and getting the show going.
For as drunk as he had to be he still managed to put on an entertaining set. As a member of Atmosphere’s label Rhymesayers, Murs has quite a following and with his ties to Tucson Arizona the Valley has always been a stronghold for his fans.
That was my only trip to The Echo Stage on Sunday. Next, it was back to The Camelback stage for one of the acts I had been looking forward to most leading up to the festival, Futuristic. Futuristic is another Phoenix-based artist and along with his bombastic DJ Kode Break has strong ties to my favorite band Small Leaks Sink Ships formerly of Tempe Arizona. Futuristic and Code Break encountered some technical difficulties mostly stemming from the mid-afternoon Phoenix heat, but they persevered and still made it one of the most hyped sets of the day.
It’s almost unfair for Futuristic and Kode Break to work together because they are two of the most magnetic performers I have ever seen, and together it is impossible to look away. They mix EDM and hip-hop in a quite pleasing way but the real secret to their success is their audience engagement. They’re crowd surfing, they’re bringing fans on stage to rap on the mic, they’re getting the crowd going in the all the right ways to make them a memorable act. Separated both Futuristic and Kode Break would easily be a great success, but together it’s immortality or bust for one of the most fun touring musical acts right now.
After exiting the photo pit, I made my way into the crowd to enjoy the show, and after gettting deep enough into the crowd, I looked to my right and was dancing next to Danny Torgersen who had rocked the trumpet for FAYUCA earlier in the day. We exchanged hugs and then enjoyed the show.
When the set ended, I made my way back stage to give Kody a hug and meet Zach, a rapper I have been writing about for years but until then had still remained elusive to me. We chatted about the success of Small Leaks for a moment on the backside of the massive main stage, and then finalized our interview plans before I snuck off for lunch.
I had heard a rumor that Tom’s BBQ, my favorite BBQ spot in Mesa Arizona (30 minute drive from the grounds) had a booth set up. I had only been back in AZ, once for 3-days since moving to New York City, and I certainly didn’t have time to visit a little BBQ shop in Mesa, so Lost Lake Festival brought it to me.
After a sandwich, I caught back up with Futuristic and Kode Break for an interview about their upcoming plans.
I made it over to Piestewa Stage just long enough to see the massive scene that was English DJ Snakehips set for about 10-minutes. The Arizona sun was still high in the sky, but that didn’t stop thousands of people from packing the green in front of the Piestewa stage and letting the mixologist from across the pond take them to funky town.
If there is one thing, Danny Brown definitely is himself. He’s a big goofball up on stage. The crowd loved every second of it. He and Big Gigantic made for a great late afternoon 1-2 punch to lead into the festival’s headliners. Both Brown and Gigantic had their fans out in force, repping their merch. and singing along. Well, singing in Brown’s case anyway. Danny Brown and Big Gigantic both did their part to get the crowd primed up and into a frenzy for the evening’s headliners Run The Jewels, Major Lazer, and Odesza.
The final three acts of the Festival were each the only act playing in their time-slot, which went right along with one of Lost Lake Festival’s biggest strengths. The options were not overwhelming. The lineup was strong, eclectic, big, but without forcing a major decision between bands or a mad rush across the grounds to catch half of two sets. The 3-stage set up made it easy to catch just about everything you wanted to.
The first at taking the collective ear of Lost Lake was Run The Jewels, and having scene them before I know they’d kill. El-P and Killer Mike were made for each other. Not only are they coming with some of the hardest songs out in mainstream hip-hop, but they are also one of the most adorable couples I have ever seen in my life. El-P literally told Killer Mike to come hold him during the set. Watching what may go down as one of the greatest hip-hop duo’s in the history of the game perform is exciting. But knowing the two of them are best friends and enjoying what they are doing down to their bones makes it so much sweeter.
It was the last show of RTJ’s tour and they were on fire. It is crazy to think that two 40-year-old M.C.’s who were seemingly getting toward the end of their careers could become one of the biggest hip-hop acts in the world by joining forces. But that was the case with Run The Jewels. They played all the hits, they played around on stage like high schoolers, they engaged the crowd, they did everything right, and they brought a radical political message within their ridiculously well put together hip-hop tunes.
After shooting RTJ I made my way back into the crowd because there was no way I was going to miss a second of their set. I danced my way through the crowd looking for the right spot, and when I found it I looked to my right and saw none other than Danny Torgersen dancing next to me. Me, him, and his green haired lady friend spent the rest of the set dancing together to Close Your Eyes, Call Tictron, Blockbuster Night, and all the rest of their hits.
The three of us embraced, realizing it was probably the last time we would see each other at the fest, but it was time to roll on. I headed for the Major Lazer photo pit.
Diplo and Switch were already on and going when I got the pit, and they had all of Lost Lake Festival doing the dutty wine all over The Piestewa Stage. You hear stories about a guy like Diplo, about his personality and about him being a lazy performer. I can’t speak for anyone else’s Dipo experience, but he gave me everything I wanted from one of the world’s mega producers.
They had the biggest LED wall I have ever seen, backup dancers, and bass pounding hits. Phoenix doesn’t often get a crack at Major Laser so they made it count in the Copper State and the entire crowd danced as hard as they could. After shooting I found a cozy spot on stage left where Phoenix painter Matty B. was dancing it away with his vibe tribe buddies, before I moved closer and spent the rest of the set dancing next to a pixie cut blonde who I’m pretty sure I knew but couldn’t quite place.
Whether we knew each other or not was irrelevant, the fact that we kept each other dancing throughout the set is what matters. We never spoke, we hardly made eye contact, but we were there side by side for a while keeping each other’s energy up.
We parted ways before the set ended, and when it did I made my way to meet back up with Josh, my host for the trip. Odesza was another act I had not the time to research going into the festival, but I was properly blown away by their entire set. They provided a most epic end to one of the most incredible festival’s I have ever been too, and what I am sure is one of the best maiden voyages for a fest ever.
Odesza brought the whole crowd into a high and had them stuck there for the duration. Headliners headline and that’s exactly what Colorado’s Odesza did, they occupied the space above the rest of the day’s performers. As far as the musical flow Superfly had provided for the festival, I don’t think there is a single act on earth that could have acted as the festival’s climax better than Odesza.
ODESZA is really bringing Lost Lake Festival to an epic close. What a spectacular first year festival in the Valley of the Sun.
Posted by rBeatz on Sunday, October 22, 2017
During the middle of the set I literally bumped into someone because of my backpack. I looked at the person, and it was my former neighbor Ana from when I was in college at Arizona State University. We made a quick catch up before getting right back into the groove.
The set ended, and on the way out they set, the fire lilypads did their thing set to Purple Rain as the masses poured out of the festival grounds. I stood alone between the road and the agave maze, watching the fire shoot toward the sky like I had as a younger man at Saguaro Man. When the song finished I waited for my friends closer to the road when I caught a pair of eyes getting wider and wider attached to a handsome mexican face and I heard Cori Rios of The Hourglass Cats blurt out “what are you doing here?” He hugged me and lifted me off the ground, before we had a quick catch up and 30-second hug before we went our separate ways.
I got to neverland and Chance the Rapper told me all I need is happy thoughts, I’ve been flying ever since. Big Ups Lost Lake.
A Tribe Called RedBig GiganticBroodsCarla MorrisonChance The RapperCrystal CastlesFayucaFuturisticHaimHuey Lewis and the NewsKONGOSLil YachtyLost LakeLost Lake FestivalLost Lake Festival PressLudacrisMajor LazerMunaMursNONAMEODESZAPlayboy ManbabyRun The JewelsSnakehipsTaylor BennettThe Dap-KingsThe KillersThe Roots