Every June you see new festivals and new festival line-ups. Recently it really has started to feel like there is a serious regurgitation of acts. This isn’t solely on the EDM side either. There is a lot of repeat offenders on the Jam Band side as well. The fact is capitalism’s sole purpose is to make money and the machine needs to be fed. There’s a formula it seems. People have started to catch on and now everybody is screaming “we want different!” Is it really possible to get different with the same line up over and over? Dubbed the largest camping festival in Florida, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival might have just found that way to do it.
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival resides on 800 acres and 5 stages, 2 of which ran practically 24/7. Clearly they were going to do the EDM thing, the jam band thing, the locals thing, great food from food trucks, and the hippy camp vibe thing. That’s the formula. We as the masses are bored. We think that they, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, caught on by looking around. Enter the collaborations and super jams they had set up throughout the weekend. One night saw we Tom Morello doing an impromptu DJ set. The guitar behind so much 90’s angst DJ’d. Crazier couldn’t happen. Fast forward 4 hours later and you have members of Mumford & Sons, Hall & Oats, Arcade Fire, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Miguel, and even Skrillex, on the same stage doing a crazy rendition of The Clash. This isn’t even the big “Super Jam” that they have been raging on about up until this point. This was just the simple start to what Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival called the “PoWoW!” This is where I think Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival faired so far above and beyond any other festivals up until this point.
Now there are those of you who are just looking for a new festival to check out. It has to be said that this first-year festival seemed as if it was in its 10th year of running. There were the small hiccups with security at times not being on the same page. The camping got to be a little tight and the walk could be a bit ridiculous. The first day there were moments where I seemed to loose myself because the planning probably could have been a little better but that was outweighed by so much, not even including the collaboration of music mentioned above.
Choosing this location in March was perfect. There were moments in the day where it was a bit warm but just walk over to the Aquachobee stage and jump into the water. Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival teamed up with great sponsors in the liquor department to feed a cold buzz. There were also amazing food trucks and local vendors to keep the younger crowd and families cool during the warm hours. Outside the main 3 stages there were so many great vibes to be felt. It was the water, camping, and the soon to be famous Jungle stage deep in the forest that helped these moments continue past the “normal” hours of operation for the festival. Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival chose the perfect time of year in the perfect location to create the perfect vibes.
The acts could really feel this too. X Ambassadors had an amazing crowd jumping early in their set on the first day. I’ve personally shot this act before in a completely different city and I can tell you that the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival crowd felt it way more. Bassnectar was straight up shut off mid mix because he was feeling the vibes. Skrillex led the Preservation Hall Jazz Band through the grove and started an impromptu parade because the people were just vibing this life, this ecosystem that was Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. Odesza knew this was going to be a magical moment so they brought their whole live show. The newly developed collaboration that is Big Boi(half of Outkast fame) and Phantogram, Big Grams, turned a 6 song EP into an hours worth of magic only the festival goers can know at this point.
In the end, this is what I can tell you—a summation of my personal experience if you will—the festival was clean and very dedicated to staying that way. The sound was amazing, it was deep and fulfilling whether it be a rock act or an electronic act. While the production could’ve been “bigger,” the fact is, it worked well for the acts there. There was plenty to take in and never a dull moment from Thursday afternoon when I showed up to Sunday evening when I had to make the 1000 mile trip back home to Houston. Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival really has found a way to make it into one of what I would consider the top billed camping festivals in the US at this point.
For more info on Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, check out http://okeechobeefest.com/.