Lost and Found

By Alex Suskind

Beloved Syracuse venue Lost Horizon reopens its doors

Lost Horizon

It is 8:40 p.m. on a Saturday and the place is practically empty. A blond woman in a black-and-red-striped shirt sits at the bar waiting to be served by a 20-something bartender with tattoos on her arms and chest. Stacks of empty beer boxes sit on the floor behind the bar. On the other side of the venue, a band begins setting up for tonight’s show. The club is unusually quiet.

By the time the first band gets on stage at 10:15 p.m., no more than 25 people have arrived. Most of them have their eyes on the band, but on the whole, they seem disinterested.

Nevertheless, there’s potential in Lost Horizon, a Syracuse concert venue that is mostly known for its metal shows.

Burgundy stucco walls and low-paneled ceilings give the club an intimate feel. The stage is small — really small. My elementary school stage was at least twice its size, and it never hosted raging death metal concerts. In front of the stage is a small pit for fans to watch the shows. Anyone leaning on the railings that overlook the pit can practically smell the sweat dripping from the performers’ faces. Overall, the place seems less like a professional concert venue, and more like a really large basement on Euclid Avenue.

Lost Horizon

But when Lost Horizon reaches its full potential, it overflows with hundreds of music-hungry customers craving the best local and national talent. Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Jerry Garcia are just a few of the acts that have graced its stage.

This pseudo-basement club has a lot of history behind it. The story of Lost Horizon dates back to 1969, when owner Greg Italiano bought the property located just off Erie Boulevard.

“It was a college hangout, [with] the drinking age being 18…It was called Wanda’s [and] all Le Moyne College used to go down there, so it was a good investment,” Italiano said.

After the building was remodeled in 1970, Wanda’s became the Yellow Balloon. The club transformed into a discotheque during the 1970s. In 1975, the building was again remodeled and dubbed Lost Horizon, a name the facility’s designer said.

The club started holding concerts when the disco craze of the 1970s went on the decline. One of its first shows, which featured Bryan Adams in 1980, was broadcasted live on WAOX 95 Rock. For the next two decades, Lost Horizon was the premier Syracuse venue. It hosted hundreds of bands, including up-and-coming acts like Guns N’ Roses.

“You get them started and of course it’s slow and nobody has ever heard of them,” Italiano said. “But they give you a return date when they are popular, which they have all done.”

One of Italiano’s favorite shows was a Thanksgiving concert with Kid Rock in 1997.

“He put a terrific show on,” Italiano said. “He was going up and down the bar dancing…they were just tight.”

Lost Horizon

After hosting bands throughout the ’90s and into the new century, Italiano decided to take the venue in a different direction and leased the building to new management in 2002. Lost Horizon became 32 Degrees, and later, Club Tundra. However, Club Tundra was a flop, and closed in 2005.

“When [Tundra] closed down, instead of leasing it [again], we just said ‘let’s take another shot at it,’ and we did,” Italiano said. “So far it’s been good…we got a great response. People were glad to see us back. They missed us.”

Before reopening this last April, Italiano had to repaint — the managers of Club Tundra painted the club baby blue; not quite the look of a heavy metal venue — and installed new plumbing.

Syracuse native Jay Jones became a regular at the original Lost Horizon after he saw the popular heavy metal band Anthrax perform there in the mid-’80s. He could barely contain his excitement about the club’s reopening.

“I fucking grew up here…this is home,” Jones said. He also pointed out that the new club seemed to have a much more professional operation going on than the old one.

“[The crowds] have been good,” said Shanna Scipione, a bartender at Lost Horizon. Scipione began working at the club when it reopened. “I was never allowed in [as a teenager],” she said. “I heard about all these amazing bands [playing]…all the cool kids came here.”

Fast forward to Oct. 4, 2008. Lost Horizon’s atmosphere is completely different. The small space is jam-packed and tense with anticipation. Hundreds of fans have come out to see Testament, one of the best-known thrash-metal bands in the country.

The club is humid and stuffed to the brim. Shirts emblazoned with Black Sabbath and AC/DC are scattered throughout the audience. As the lights go out, silhouettes step onto the smoke-filled stage. Crowd members pump their fists and begin to scream.

Testament puts on a powerful show filled with death, destruction, and guitar-thrashing.

This is heavy metal at its finest. At the end of the show, lead singer Chuck Billy shows his gratitude. “We knew it was gonna be a party as soon as we got here,” he shouts with enthusiasm. “It feels good to be back.”

The crowd erupts with a monstrous battle cry. Tonight, Lost Horizon is anything but silent.