Concert Review

Odesza Brought Lost Lake Back Down to Earth

Odesza closed out the first-ever Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix.
Odesza closed out the first-ever Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix. Melissa Fossum
The folks at Superfly know what they're doing.

I couldn't help but second-guess the production team behind Lost Lake after seeing Run The Jewels' set. How could you not make them the headliners for Sunday night? It seemed like sheer folly, scheduling Major Lazer and Odesza to follow up Killer Mike and El-P's riotous tag-team act.

Following Danny Brown's strong late afternoon set, the dynamic duo stepped onstage to the strains of Queen's “We Are The Champions” and assaulted Lost Lake with the loudest, most gloriously deafening sound mix of the weekend.

They were so loud that they made Danny Brown's twisted sci-fi beats sound like they could've been bumping out of a tape deck. They were so bombastic that they briefly blew out their P.A. in the middle of “Legend Has It” and still kept rapping with gusto, despite the dead mics.

The crowd ate it up, chanting RTJ and throwing up the duo's signature “pistol and fist” sign throughout the performance. The gruesome twosome displayed their gift for gab, bantering with the audience about politics, Arizona's “top motherfucking tier” weed (according to Killer Mike), and they even invited an audience member to join them onstage after they saw him rocking an RTJ decoder ring.

The pair oozed personality and charm. It was a welcome departure from an EDM-heavy day where the performers onstage were big on beats and short on audience engagement. Groups like Snakehips and Big Gigantic got huge crowds moving by dropping hit after hit on them, but it was hard to tell them apart. Moving from stage to stage during the afternoon felt like drifting from one stadium-size playlist to another.
Major Lazer brought some extra energy to their set — and threw in some playful theatrical touches (you can't go wrong with backup dancers). They even tore a page from the Flaming Lips playbook and busted out a giant hamster ball to roll into the crowd. But I still couldn't help but feel that Major Lazer were a bit of an anticlimax after the ears-ringing adrenaline rush of RTJ's set.

Here's the thing, though: I was totally wrong.

Superfly knew what the hell they were doing. You couldn't have ended the weekend with any other act but Odesza.

As the clock ticked towards 9 p.m., a huge crowd gathered in front of the Camelback stage. Lights flashed on the giant banners flanking the stage, illuminating the figures painted on them by the Fortoul brothers. The air was cool, almost chilly — a welcome respite from the unusually hot afternoon attendees had just endured.

A video started playing onstage, depicting an outer-space expedition. A woman's voice narrated the story as the image of a circular spaceship window filled up the screen. The production values on Odesza's opening vid were some next-level shit — like they had gotten some deleted scenes from Gravity.

click to enlarge Odesza closed out the first-ever Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix. - MELISSA FOSSUM
Odesza closed out the first-ever Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix.
Melissa Fossum
When the duo of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight finally started playing, they were joined onstage by a pair of horn players and a drum line. The drummers banged on LED-lit kits that glowed blue onstage while psychedelic fractals swirled on the screen behind the band.

A group of people in the crowd lit a ring of sparklers, creating a circle of sparks and flames that glowed over their heads. People started hurling armloads of glowsticks across the field. Hula-hoop dancers busted out glowing hoops. Hundreds of blue squares from cameraphones dotted the field. Lasers fired over our heads. It was a feast for the eyes.

The truth is that most EDM and electronic acts like Odesza can be boring as hell to watch live. It's hard to jazz up button-pushing, even if you add some synth-drums and pads into the mix. It's why adding some laser light show razzmatazz and splashing some world-class visuals onscreen are a must. Strip that stuff away and you may as well be listening to these records at home.

When you don't have the stage banter skills of RTJ (few groups do), you've got to have some trippy A/V shit up your sleeve. And Odesza had that in spades.

In addition to the flurry of confetti and lasers (as well as occasional blasts of fire onstage), the pair enlivened their set with all kinds of hypnotic imagery: a headbanging dog, volcanic eruptions, corridors of light, red Tetris patterns, shifting neon clouds ... Anyone trippin' balls in the crowd would have gotten their money's worth during Odesza's performance.

click to enlarge Odesza closed out the first-ever Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix. - MELISSA FOSSUM
Odesza closed out the first-ever Lost Lake Festival in Phoenix.
Melissa Fossum
The music served as a nice complement to all the visual chaos onstage.

Whereas a lot of the other EDM groups at Lost Lake were big on party-starting vibes and booty-shaking, Odesza's music was more ethereal and trance-inducing. Songs like “Higher Ground” (whose guest vocalist Naomi Wild appeared onstage to reprise her vocals) had a fragile, ghostly beauty to them. It was like space-age make-out music.

It's that spacey, sensual quality to Odesza's work that made them the perfect note for the Lost Lake festival to end on. They were playing the big come-down music we all needed to hear after a weekend full of highs.

Critic's Notebook
Last Night: Odesza's headlining set at the Lost Lake Music Festival

The Crowd: A huge zombie swarm of EDM fans, so large it could stampede a herd of cattle to death. It's genuinely humbling to see how large a crowd EDM acts like Odesza and Snakehips can draw; good thing they use their dance powers for good and not evil. Makes me kind of surprised nobody's thought to make a horror movie yet of EDM acts weaponizing their audiences through hypnotic bass drops and unleashing them on an unsuspecting audience. You can call it Electric Deadly Carnival or Blood Drops.

Overheard: “This is like The Blue Man Group, but they're playing in Tron.” I'd pay big bucks to see that show.

Random Notebook Dump: I wonder how the ducks in the lake are reacting to all this festival hoopla. Does hearing Snakehips spin in the distance make them want to shake their tail feathers? Does the roaring sonics of RTJ have them imagining that a giant falcon is about to swoop down on them? Are they as confused about all the weird-ass festival fashion choices people are making as I am?
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Ashley Naftule