With weather conditions that make for clear and sunny skies for nearly all 365 days out of the year, Florida has become a hot bed for a myriad of different music festivals. Not every event makes it however, as for every new festival that emerges, another chooses to discontinue, leaving only the strongest to survive and enjoy furthered success. Festivals like Ultra, EDC Orlando, and Tortuga have dominated most of Florida’s music scene for the last few years, but a new festival just established its presence on the sunshine state’s map. The Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival brought in an entirely new festival experience that Florida had never seen and so desperately craved. Okeechobee’s inaugural debut has now come and gone, so let’s reflect on a few highlights from this year’s edition.
If there was one thing that the Florida music festival scene severely needed, it was a camping festival. Okeechobee finally answered that call, satisfying the yearning demand from many. While raging hard all day in the Miami sun is exhilarating, there is something special about going back to your campsite and just snuggling up with your friends after dancing all day in an open field. Camping makes for a more intimate experience and that helped Okeechobee be more personal as festival goers quickly developed special bonds that made up the ‘Chobee Family.’ The actual setup was even more unique as the small villages of tents seamlessly flowed into the festival’s Moonlight Oasis area, where festival goers could dance on Aquachobee Beach, enjoy the view from the Ferris wheel, or simply play in the field.
Speaking of Moonlight Oasis, Okeechobee wasn’t kidding around when they bragged about their venue. Every acre of the wide open meadows of Sunshine Grove was utilized to the max. There wasn’t a piece of the land that was not taken advantage of. Case in point, Aquachobee Beach, where attendees could actually go for a little swim in the heat of the day. When the lights went off, curious night owls could shuffle along back into the nearby forest to move and grove to hypnotizing techno at Jungle 51. Most people however, spent the bulk of their time at the core of it all, the Grove, enjoying the music at the appropriately named “Be,” “Here,” and “Now” stages.
Of course the heart and soul of Okeechobee came from the music and it did not disappoint. What the lineup lacked in size, it made up for in top tier quality, covering every genre from electronic music, to rap, to indie. Heavyweights like Skrillex, Bassnectar, and RL Grime shook up the Grove with their hard hitting beats, while guys like Classixx catered to a crowd who wanted to get their funk on. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Future graced the crowd with their lyricism, hyping everyone up with each verse. The festival even had massive PoWoWs where rappers like Miguel would jam out with guys like Win Butler, John Oates, and even Skrillex. Mumford & Sons fittingly closed out the festival, bringing in the entire Okeechobee family together for one last massive jam session.
Okeechobee’s debut was undoubtedly a success, as it paved its own path and set a new precedent for the Florida music scene. The production, the performances, the comradery, and everything in between made for a truly extraordinary event. Other festivals in Florida should watch out, Okeechobee is here, and it’s here to stay.