Okeechobee Makes Great First Impression

Aquachobee, Coronachobee, okeechobeings, yogachobee, are just a few of the new words  learned while attending the sold-out inaugural Okeechobee Music Festival. From March 3-7 thousands of music fans “entered the portal” to spread their Okeechobee love and good vibes in south Florida paradise. The news of the festival hit the town of Okeechobee about three years ago and could not have been more of a success.  The festival is the brain child of Paul Peck, a graduate of Tulane University who had years earlier sowed the seeds for Bonnaroo with Rick Farman.  Years later Peck took his knowledge from the Bonnaroo experience to create a musical and art themed wonderland.  Held on hundreds of acres of wide open spaces, the Okeechobee Festival was massive yet elegant.

Okeechobee was hosted on a former equestrian area that was expected to be turned into a housing development but after the project failed, festival promoters soon discovered it would be the perfectly ideal place for a large outdoor four day festival.  With concrete walking paths through most of the festival ground getting around Okeechobee was a breeze. However, an increase of signs next year would make for a great improvement.  The festival consisted of The Chobeewobee Village, Yogachobee,  Jungle 51, Aquachobee, and the Grove which housed the three main stages “Be”, “Here” and “Now”  Each festival area had its own theme and different stages. The Aquachobee stood out as being a favorite during the day. Many happy festival goers made their way to the manmade beach to sun bathe and swim while taking pics and making custom bags courtesy of Corona. One of the greatest things about Okeechobee was the many special places to take unwind and relax while within listening distance of the music.  There were a few groves of trees which were decorated with vintage furniture and warm mood lighting. There was also nice lounge chairs throughout Aquachobee.

308Most of the festival’s audience was college aged students from nearby cities like Miami, Tampa and Orlando. This was a first time camping festival for many that had learned about the fest on their cities’ local radio stations.  Although there were many first time festival goers presented an overall positive vibe which was upbeat and respectful. Everyone united and thrived in peace over the course of the four days and many new festival families were formed. Each camping area was named after texting acronyms for example NSFW, LOL, ROFL, etc but there were no signs anywhere indicating the different camping areas. Hopefully, signs will be in place next year.  There were showers available for $7 but tickets had to be purchased prior at a general store that was a significantly large distance from the shower facilities. The food vendors truly represented a plethora of culinary diversity with decent prices.

The Festival kicked off Thursday afternoon with an opening ceremony in The Yogachobee Village. Which led to a night of enjoyment featuring the Okeechobee Allstars led by The Lee Boys Rosevelt Collier, Big Gigantic’s Jeremy Salken, Lettuce’s Nigel Hall and many more great musicians  For late that night Jungle 51 was opened and many danced well into the early morning dancing to great Dj’s like Big Wild. On Friday the grove was finally opened. The stages were placed perfectly. Although the stages were evenly distanced from each other and there was no sound bleeding over.  Moon Hooch got the party started on the “Be” stage and made way for an incredible set by the great Grace Potter later in the afternoon. Other bands that played on the stages were Twiddle, X Ambassadors, and Lil Dicky and the legendary Robert Plant. That evening Hall and Oats took the “Be” stage and rocked the place with all their greatest hits. It was obvious most of the fans rushing the stage that night were there for Bassnectar. Thousands packed in tightly to be as close to the DJ as possible and absorb the beats and bass rising up from the ground.

Okeechobee Music Festival B Landsman

Saturday afternoon crowds were treated to sets by Dr. Dog, Lotus, Booker T. Jones, Lotus, and Mac Miller. As the sun went down the temperature dropped to the high fifties and the stars finally came out. Crowds danced to the beats of Kendrick Lamar, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Big Gigantic.  Then came the moment everyone was waiting for: Skrillex. The set was intense and dynamic; the bass and electronic melodies flooded the concert area as thousands moved in a trance-like state.  Toward the end of the Skrillex set many migrated back to the “Now “stage to claim a space to dance during the all star jam known as the Pow-Wow. This super jam included R&B Heartthrob Miguel, Win, Butler, John Oates, Skrillex, Mac Miller, Eric Krasno of Lettuce, three members of Mumford and Sons, the horn section of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band kamasai Washington and the legendary George Porter Jr.

Sunday was another perfect day of music to end this very high energy musical weekend. Starting off with the rap rock band Bangarang who were Destination Okeechobee winners from Tampa started the Grove right on the now stage. Later on the now stage was one of the anticipated acts of Big Grams featuring Big Boi of Outkast and the duo of Phantogram.  The “Be” stage took a modern Americana theme and welcomed award winning songwriter Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit which featured his very talented wife Amanda Shires on the fiddle. Next was the long time running band Ween which earned many new fans.  The evening followed with Odeza, The Heavy, and The Avett Brothers overlapping on each of the three main stages. Which led to the grand finale of Mumford and Sons on the “Be” stage?  Mumford and sons did there amazing set for the first half and then there set morphed into one great super jam joined by The Avett Brothers, Tom Morello and many more musicians  By early Monday morning  the music on the main stages ended but there was plenty of room to party near the art installations and Ferris wheel near Aquachobee.

Okeechobee has been a labor of love from some very creative people. The event not only sold out at 30,000 but still maintained its intimate vibe. Okeechobee will take its place among the festival giants like its big brother Bonaroo.  The hard work and dreams made for a magical weekend of musical discovery and camaraderie.  See you next year in the portal!

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