We study the loading of a nonequilibrium, dissipative system of composite bosons-exciton polaritons-into a one-dimensional periodic lattice potential. Utilizing momentum resolved photoluminescence spectroscopy, we observe a transition between an incoherent Bose gas and a polariton condensate, which undergoes further transitions between different energy states in the band-gap spectrum of the periodic potential with increasing pumping power. We demonstrate controlled loading into distinct energy bands by modifying the size and shape of the excitation beam. The observed effects are comprehensively described in the framework of a nonequilibrium model of polariton condensation. In particular, we implement a stochastic treatment of quantum and thermal fluctuations in the system and conclude that polariton-phonon scattering is a plausible energy relaxation mechanism enabling transitions from the highly nonequilibrium polariton condensate in the gap to the ground band condensation for large pump powers.