Cover Photo by Eric Allen Photo
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival was everything I expected this weekend to be and then some! Everything this weekend from the weather to the music, festival grounds, and festival goers was amazing. The community that forms here for the four day fest was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – the festival grounds were beautiful, the musical acts blew everyone away, and the weather was sunny and warm all weekend! This festival operated extremely smooth and efficiently for its third installment. I cannot think of a better way to kick off my 2018 festival year.
(Eric Allen Photo)
The over all experience that Okeechobee Music & Arts festival provided is amazing. One of the things that stood out to me was the loving and welcoming community that forms here over the weekend. People travel to this paradise from all over the country and are welcomed with open arms. Everyone had a smile on their face and danced harder than I’ve ever seen. The campgrounds were overflowing with life! Without a doubt, lasting friendships were created this weekend. In the end, we became one big family, and dreaded the weekends unavoidable culmination. On top of the loving community, the festival grounds were unique and beautiful with various attractions and stages. While searching around, one would find several trees, which lit up at night, hammocks to lay in, and delicious food and drink vendors! The main BE HERE NOW stage area was extremely spacious. Chobeewobee Village had all the vendors you could want, breathtaking art installations, and a ferris wheel to gaze over the grounds. Aquachobee was a sandy beach with shaded gazebos and a killer stage that held some of the most memorable sets of the weekend. Jungle 51 was an out of this world escape housing a stage shaded by dozens of palm trees and a phenomenal laser light show. To top everything off, the Florida weather was pristine. It stayed sunny and warm throughout the day without a drop of rain and temperatures dropped down at night to cool everyone off.
(Photo By Max Blakesburg)
Throughout this past weekend at Okeechobee, I began to realize the sacrifice and dedication that the different performers and artists go through to put on an unforgettable and mesmerizing weekend. First and foremost, I want to give a huge thank you to all of the artists that helped design and create these festival grounds! No detail was forgotten. The unspoken heroes of the event were the volunteers that ultimately kept things clean and running smoothly! Of course, the group that made the most sacrifices for their fans would have to be the various musical performers! These musicians endure non-stop traveling to make all of these different shows. Multiple bands, including The Main Squeeze and STS9, arrived at the festival just hours before their set began! Rushed to set up – they performed without flaw and immediately hit the road again! Traveling can be very challenging for these bands; sleep deprivation, homesickness, and inclement weather rear their ugly heads at some point. Twiddle had to cancel their performance this weekend because they got stuck in a snow storm in the northeast, making travel impossible.
The musicians do everything in their power to make sure the audience enjoys every minute of their set and can get involved. Two sets that stood out to me were The Flaming Lips and Sofi Tukker. The Flaming Lips put on one of my favorite sets that I have ever seen! They talked to the audience, launched an endless stream of confetti and balloons into the crowd, and brought a giant inflatable rainbow and robot on stage! But wait – the lead singer actually rode a glowing unicorn on stage and surfed the audience in a giant hamster ball! The magical performance left us all speechless! Sofi Tukker also did a fantastic job at getting the crowd involved; they got everyone to sing and dance, and even brought three people from the crowd up on stage to teach them a dance. One of the audience members even puked on stage during the dance! Sofi Tukker laughed it off saying it was “a real party now!” Artists don’t only plan to create unforgettable experiences, sometimes they change everything on the fly to make sure it happens! When STS9 heard about the bubble party set to take place during their set, they changed their selected songs immediately to add to the experience! Finally, Travis Scott had oral surgery the day before his performance and still managed to get up on stage with a mouth full of stitches! These musicians sacrifice a great deal in order to help put on a unique weekend for all their fans. On behalf of everyone at Okeechobee this weekend, thank you!
(The Flaming Lips: Phirece Photo by Keith G)
This year’s Okeechobee lineup did not disappoint. Each day brought a new experience and unique shows. Thursday started the festival with an awe inspiring performance on the Aquachobee Beach Stage. The Main Squeeze started with another spectacular set, followed by a once in a lifetime Full Moon Beach Party with Thriftworks, OPIUO, and Bassnectar. OPIUO definitely stole the show with a mind blowing set that night. On Friday, I was able to see some of my all time favorites – STS9 and Lettuce. I was also able to watch a few DJs that I had never seen live before, including full sets from Tipper and Bassnectar. Saturday was hands down my favorite day of the festival! Magic! started the day with a reggae filled performance and a few good covers of Bob Marley and Drake. Thievery Corporation changed the atmosphere with a jam filled set. The Flaming Lips were to follow and put on arguably the best performance of the weekend! After The Flaming Lips performance, G Jones pumped up the crowd, followed by the once in a lifetime Okeechobee POWOW led by the one and only, Snoop Dogg! He played all of his hits and featured other artists like Chaka Khan, The Roots, Khalid and more. Despite a full mouth of stitches, Travis Scott took the stage with his rowdy set. Big Gigantic closed the night with an unforgettable performance and even stayed for a surprise pop up set with Incendia.
Sunday, the final day of the fest, offered just as many talented DJs. Our day started with a sunny beach dance party and a b2b set with Boogie T and Squnto. Sofi Tukker was one of a kind with their endless crowd engagement, followed by the Okeechobee Gospel Soul Experience. Big Wild and Lil Dicky helped bring the sun down and get the night going. Ganja White Night, Gramatik, and Zeds Dead took over the main stages and had people grooving all night long under the Florida stars. This weekends performances were amazing to say the least! I thoroughly enjoyed every set, including a few of my personal favorites, along with a few new bands that I encountered for the first time and fell in love with. Well done, Okeechobee!
(Phierce Photo by Keith G)
There are a few things you should know about this festival before making your first trip. The most important thing to know is that you will be doing a lot of walking during your stay! The festival grounds are massive and the camping areas are even bigger. It took us about twenty minutes to get from our campsite to the festival grounds, so make sure you bring some comfortable walking shoes. Another thing to anticipate is the weather. The warm Florida sun feels amazing, but bring sunscreen because shade can be limited! Most importantly, stay hydrated – it is paramount to an enjoyable and successful festival experience! A pop up canopy is not essential, but it is very helpful. Lastly, when the sun sets, it is really chilly. Make sure to bring some warm clothes and a sleeping bag, because it isn’t always hotter when the sun goes down!
(Drew Cutting Photography)
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival was hands down one of my best experiences at a festival. I learned a great deal about the festival world and what ultimately goes on behind the scenes. The festival goers were wild and friendly, making sure everyone felt welcomed and at home. Perfect weather topped off the weekend and has me excited to return to this unique paradise next year! We’ll see you all in 2019!