Story + Photos: Laura Haggard
Earlier this year, Jeff Abel (Excision) teased the Headbanger community with the possibility of putting on the biggest bass festival that the U.S. has ever seen. In June, Abel announced the location and full lineup of his three day camping festival – now known as Lost Lands – along with some of the biggest names in bass music, and from that moment on it became one of the most talked about events in EDM. With reassurance that he would oversee every aspect of the festival himself, including the creation of dinosaurs and stages unlike anything we have ever seen before, it seemed like the hype was becoming too much to be true.
As time drew closer however, we learned that what seemed like a dream festival was quickly becoming a reality. With just three weeks to go, the festival was already 90% sold out and even the people who couldn’t make it were anticipating making time in their schedule to watch the live stream. Days before the festival there were announcements that detailed every aspect of how it would be run. Attendees could find detailed maps of both the festival and camping grounds, water availability, packing checklists and other official information easily on the Lost Lands Music Festival Facebook page, website and app. Those who had already purchased admission learned that their wristbands also came with a free pair of quality earplugs. There was also an email and hotline available for any questions or concerns that weren’t covered publicly before the event.
Why the earplugs? Lost Lands promised 750,000 watts of PK Sound, making it one of the loudest events in the world, and Jeff wanted to do everything in his ability to assure the safety of his fans.
As I arrived at the Legend Valley Concert Venue in Thornville, OH early Friday morning, I was greeted by smiles and handshakes from everyone around. The staff were all extremely happy to be working and seemed to have a firm grasp on their responsibilities. Everything from obtaining passes to setting up camp was an absolute breeze. With a couple hours of free time, I decided to walk in and get a sneak peek before our media walkthrough. Every barrier in the festival was lined with ivy leaves to entice a feeling of being in the jungle. As I walked through the gates I was instantly blown away by the size and intricacy of the dinosaurs. As I approached one of the raptors it started flailing, biting and howling at me. Even during the day they were impressively terrifying, and all over the place.
As I made my first approach towards the Prehistoric Paradox stage I was completely awestruck by the level of production, the amount of speakers, and the two enormous tyrannosauruses that were perched on each side. The size of the volcanos was astonishing and I could not wait to see what they looked like shooting fire. My mind began to race with ideas of shots, and then it hit me – he had already pulled it off. I’ve covered festivals all summer long and with just a few steps into this enchanted land I was already blown away by the amount of imagination and work that had gone into it. When I turned around I noticed a large brachiosaurus head hovering above the trees. As I approached it, I couldn’t believe how massive it was. It was easily the size of a 10 story building and by far the largest structure I have ever seen constructed solely for a music festival.
All of the merchant locations were carefully thought out and all sales on water were capped at $2. After making it through general admission, the crowd would walk through a large merch tent that was arranged impressively with reasonably priced merch. Refreshments would be available all around the Paradox stage, with food services being centralized along one side. Clothing, sponsors and miscellaneous were available on the walk over to the Cave of Souls, and a few random refreshment vendors could be found scattered near the Cave.
As I approached the Cave of Souls it was clear that everyone was still rushing to finish the build, but that didn’t stop it from making another immediate (and great) impression. It was huge, easily able to hold thousands of people comfortably. There were lights hung seemingly everywhere and with so much sound in front of the stage, the only thing I could think is, “Yeah, I guess this is how you would build a bass cannon.” Shortly after I decided to leave and let them work.
As I met up with the rest of the media team for the walkthrough, I was still finding massive dinosaurs hidden all over the place. Throughout the walk we learned a ton of information, some that didn’t even seem to make sense. We learned that they purchased every available piece of ivy in the United States to line every fence of the venue, and that every tree was lit with LED lights. The building of the volcanos and the hanging of the lights around the venue took about two weeks. The volcanos had to be lifted by crane and placed into position. Each volcano weighs ~10,000 lbs. and shoot flames 70 feet into the air.
The dinosaurs were all created new for the Lost Lands Music Festival. They were made in China and sent over with three Chinese Nationalists that knew so little English that they couldn’t recognize greetings when they first arrived 4 days before the festival. Most of the dinosaurs required a few days to build, but the larger ones such as the brachiosaurus, were estimated to take 11 days. When the festival from the weekend before came to an end, they had to politely ask everyone to pack up and go as soon as possible so they could start building immediately. We were told the brachiosaurus was created to be life size and weighs over 18,000 lbs.
As we made our way to the Cave of Souls, we learned that it too was being put up in 4 days and the team building it was being led by Andrew Gumper himself. For those unfamiliar with AG Light and Sound, Andy is notorious for the other incredible dome style stages that you would find at EDC, Ultra and Coachella. Even as we were doing our walkthrough, the workers continued to run relentlessly all over the place trying to get the production ready for gates to open in a couple hours. On our way back through our guide pointed out that 2018 Paradox Tour dates were available on signs all over the festival and that they would not be posting them anywhere else, an added bonus for the dedicated headbangers.
After speaking to a representative for PK Sound, our team confirmed that this was the loudest bass festival in the world. PK Sound pulled all of their resources from all over the coast to obtain over 80 PK CX800 subwoofers in addition to the towers of PK Trinity speakers that were spread throughout the festival. One resident that lives 7 miles away claimed they could feel their house shaking during sound check. So much so, that they couldn’t event hear the music over their TV and surround sound.
The gates opened and the crowd started to come in. It was sublime to watch all of the fans be stricken by the same awe and fascination that I was on my first walk through. I think there was a part of all of us that just wanted to walk into Jurassic Park and when the reality hit us that we kind of did, it was better than being at Disney World. And when the bass really started to hit during AFK’s set early in the afternoon, everyone’s expectations were already exceeded. As we watched the sun set over incredible performances at the Paradox, I was as excited as everyone else to see what the Cave of Souls looked like lit up.
As I approached the Cave of Souls at early sundown, the first thing I noticed was the whole outer wall of the structure doubling as a video wall with graphics changing from cave paintings to dinosaurs and more. Vibrant light and lasers poured out of the front of the tent. As I rounded the corner and entered the Cave for the first time, I was hit with a wave of sound unlike anything I have ever felt before. It was so immersive that It was hard to focus on anything other than the vibrations shooting through my body, and even before the sun had completely set, the way the light bounced around the inside of the tent was mesmerizing.
With such an incredible lineup, it’s hard to pick highlights from the evening, but nobody will forget when Excision finally took the stage. The headbangers had secured their spots on the rail that ran all the way from the stage, through the crowd, and to the sound booth. Smoke was rolling from the volcanos. We finally hear his voice, “Loooosssst Lannnnndss,” and the crowd goes completely berserk. The lights go down and the intro music for Jurassic Park begins to play. Minutes later his set begins with fire shooting from every part of the stage and the volcanos erupting into the sky with green, pink and orange flames. The Paradox lights up with the visuals that most of us have only seen in cell phone videos and it’s completely breathtaking. Everyone in the crowd is either losing their minds or frozen in a state of ecstasy. I have never experienced so much energy in all of my years of covering festivals, and the best part was there was still hours of talented artists left ahead of us. Even as the night approached 40 degrees, the crowd remained impressively active.
Waking up on the second day was a stark reminder of the terrain that I had all but forgotten about due to the amazement of experiencing everything the day before. The Legend Valley Concert Venue offers perfect viewing for any kind of fan. There is plenty of room for a massive crowd down by the stage, hills all around the stage for people that prefer the hill or need a little extra elevation, and trees behind that for people that prefer a more relaxed route. Regardless of your style, plan on walking over some sharp rocks and renegade walnuts that will catch you off guard when going up and down hills. By the time gates opened on the second day, I was already hearing people wishing that they would have worn shoes with a little more support.
Everyone seemed to have a favorite day, mine was the second. I spent the majority of the day capturing as many artists as I could, from Sullivan King to Cookie Monsta, Snails, Black Tiger Sex Machine and many more. It was costume day, so no matter which way you turned there was always something interesting to see. During the early afternoon I ran across a brawl with over 30 inflatable dinosaurs that was hilarious to watch. But the real highlight for me came when Destroid (Excision/Downlink/KJ Sawka) took the stage in their fully illuminated suits. Everyone on the production team seemed to really be going the extra mile for this set, which is why I wasn’t entirely surprised when I first heard the sound cut out. Initially I figured something had just blown, but then I saw a some flickering flames and heard a voice come across the speakers saying, “I think we just destroyed the stage.” Running back to grab my camera, I managed to snag a quick shot of the flames before they went out. The crowd politely moved back out of harm’s way, and the Paradox stage was shut down for about 20 minutes before being allowed to resume without pyro for the rest of the night. As of Saturday night the festival was 100% sold out.
The third day seemed to start for most at 4:20pm with Excision’s “detox set,” which began with some chill melodic beats that ramped up into some of his heavy dubstep favorites that the crowd was already too excited to hear. He took a moment to thank everyone for helping his dreams become a reality, which I could appreciate because on some level he did the same for all of us. With all of these fruitless festivals popping up all over, and major festivals sacrificing quality for profits, it felt like a dream come true to be able to walk into his vision and really get to experience it for ourselves.
From there we still had an unreal lineup ahead of us for the rest of the night. Dion Timmer and Phiso came in full force right behind Excision. Space Jesus took us on a journey through self-enlightenment and then Rezz sent us to another world. Ganja White Night appeared as the special guest in the Cave of Souls right before all hell broke loose at Excision b2b Datsik. We were all confident that pyro was done for the weekend after what we experienced the night before and the lack of it being used throughout the day, but shortly after Excision and Datsik took the stage together, everybody’s heads turned at the sound of the fire shooting from the Paradox once again.
Lost Lands was no joke. A lot of people didn’t take it seriously because there was, “too much to do and too little time.” They were right, there was, but there was also an incredible amount of passion that went into this festival. From Jeff orchestrating everything up at the top, down to the volunteer workers who just wanted to help in the execution of his vision. Everyone showed unwavering dedication and discipline in making sure that this was one of the best festivals in the country and it was executed with absolute perfection. Jeff reported after the festival that the feedback he has received from the locals has been overwhelmingly good, adding that the people they met were very nice and respectful, and that there were 0 drug related medical transports during the whole festival. The more you look into it, the more impressive this festival becomes.
Headbangers can rejoice, it sounds like Lost Lands is here to stay. After speaking with someone involved with the production, I was informed that there has been a 5 year contract signed with the Legend Valley Concert Venue.
Day 1 photos:
Day 2 photos:
Day 3 photos: