The 1st annual Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival was diverse in every sense of the word from the lush outdoors setting, to the headlining acts, to the food; all spectrums of music, art, culture, and people were represented.
The music never stopped and seamlessly crossed genres, with classic rock, funk, hip-hop, country, and a heavy dubstep contingent lighting up the Florida wilderness. It was incredibly awesome and flowed continuously from one stimulation to the next.
As I found myself walking up to the venues from the Media Pit it occurred to me that it had been a while since I had been to an honest to goodness festival. The campgrounds were colorful and full of rising smoke with the concert-goers providing an aura of comfort and acceptance.
Apparently there were 30+ arrests on the first day, but Security seemed at ease to let all have a good time without killing the buzz as long as no one got hurt. Overhearing many conversations felt like listening to a William Burroughs novel and provided an interesting narrative to this first festival of its kind.
You can see many more photos on our Okeechobee Facebook Page here.
The main concert area, dubbed “The Grove”, was otherworldly. As you “entered the portal” through a line of palm trees, it was almost as if entering a musical Eden. Three stages the “BE”, “HERE”, and “NOW” stages were situated in a row among a huge open field with food vendors lining the entire perimeter. Most everyone congregated there with varying levels of extracurricular activities. Glowing Hula Hoops have become a go-to for mass stimulation and “trip” toy excitement.
Did I mention the music never stopped? Hall & Oates, Robert Plant, Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, Ween, The Soul Rebels, and Walter “Wolfman” Washington, among others, all produced killer sets. But I must admit that I was most impressed with a hip-hop outfit and an electronica duo. I realize that this is a rock blog, and this may be sacrilegious, but a shout out to Shabazz Palaces and Big Gigantic for making my Saturday. I got caught up in the mob that rushed the stage for Big Gigantic, the duo who combines electronica with elements of jazz and funk with a killer sax player, brought the night to another level, and the crowd let them know it.
Outside of the Grove, a short walk away, was an area for those wanting to get away from the large crowds with a Ferris wheel serving as a signpost for those who dabbled a bit too much in those extracurricular activities. Outside the Ferris wheel, there was an alligator-free beach “Aquachobee” and an area for yoga “Yogachobee” along with more food vendors and merchants hocking their wares. There was even a place to register to vote in keeping with the campaign season.
This was also the area where the Beach Stage was situated. An oasis smack dab in between the Ferris wheel and the beach. Surprise guest, Tom Morello, showed up to DJ on Saturday evening, while Kendrick Lamar performed. The 25 or so of us not watching Mr. Lamar were treated to the former Rage Against the Machine guitarist and Nightwatchman spinning Rage Against the Machine classics and singing along with the crowd, It was very surreal and my personal highlight for the entire weekend.
An appropriate shout out to the Gouda Boys who made one of the best sandwiches I have ever had at a festival. All the food was very diverse ranging from pizza and burritos, to Vietnamese, comfort food, vegan, and Florida southern. There was something for everyone and made it hard to choose. But goddamn that Gouda Boys sandwich….. So good.
The one downside, and opportunity to make next year’s festival even better, is to schedule the acts more logically. As I was enjoying another of my favorite sets, the Avett Brothers on the “BE” stage, I could clearly hear and feel the deep bass from the Gramatik set on the “HERE” stage. While I love Gramatik, the breadth and intimacy of the Avett Brothers set was diminished due to the overlapping time slots.
After Mumford & Sons were done on Sunday evening, I opted to take one of the Pedicab bicycles services instead of walk the mile back to my car. I hopped on the two seater bicycle and the cyclist made his way through the throngs of people heading back to camp to tear down for mass exodus Monday morning. He was mid-20’s, clearly making good money, and loving the atmosphere biking back and forth for the past 48 hours. I asked him what he thought of the festival: “good vibes and good people, need more reggae music next time”, and while I’m not a huge fan, I completely agree…… Until next year…
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