OKEECHOBEE MUSIC FEST

Published on February 17th, 2017

OKEECHOBEE MUSIC FEST

Solange

Solange

The Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival is better than it has any right to be. Fests this ambitious, this large, and this new, typically run aground fairly quickly after launch. This recent entrant into the heated battle over where we spend our music festival dollars is coming up on only its second year and yet for anyone who attended in 2016, OMF already feels like a mandatory vacation.

There was so much to like about Okeechobee’s debut, but we must begin with the PoWoW! that brought together the unlikeliest of collaborators onto one stage: Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, Miguel, Hall & Oates’ John Oates, Mumford & Sons, Skrillex, Mac Miller, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more. It sounds like a bizarre, random collection of musicians that realistically should never work. But it did. Magnificently. It’s a concept OMF borrowed from Bonnaroo’s Superjam and indeed, it’s one of several qualities it shares with its summer counterpart. Truth be told, OMF is Florida’s Bonnaroo, but before Bonnaroo became a massive cultural phenomenon.

Merchandise

Merchandise

This iteration of Okeechobee, March 2nd through the 5th, will once again feature the PoWoW! (with artists yet to be named) and expands upon that idea with the Okeechobee Gospel Soul Experience featuring Blind Boys of Alabama, Allen Stone, and more. It’s yet another wrinkle that bucks the standard formula of most music festivals. If festival goers learned anything about OMF last year, is that it’s a fest fraught with opportunity; it almost seems purposely designed to encourage the unexpected. The headliners – Kings of Leon, The Lumineers, Bassnectar, Wiz Khalifa – are all fine and dandy and certain to be great. What we really should look forward to and be excited about are the unknown quantities. The serendipity of it all!

The Japanese House

The Japanese House

Straightaway, Usher pairing up with The Roots is an attention grabber. Long before they were Jimmy Fallon’s house band, The Roots established themselves as one of music’s most innovative outfits fusing hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and rock into a truly unique sound. Meanwhile, Usher is only one of the top-selling solo artists of all time. This team-up first appeared last summer with further performances sprinkled sporadically throughout 2016, but Okeechobee will be their first major music festival and it’s guaranteed they are bound to create something special.

Other top picks we dare not skip this March include sleek British vocalist Bipolar Sunshine; Grammy-award nominated singer / songwriter Sturgill Simpson; Solange, who may arguably have released the best album of 2016; and the incredibly gifted Anderson.Paak, who as a producer / rapper/ vocalist, wears more hats than a middle-aged man hiding his bald spot.

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells

Some of the best live bands will also be on hand. Young the Giant, Bleachers, Sleigh Bells, Galactic, The Revivalists, Cold War Kids, The Growlers, SOJA, Moon Taxi and many others are all so brilliant in concert, they may actually outdo their own recordings.

Beyond the music, the atmosphere at Okeechobee is one of harmony. Morning meditation and yoga is available to anyone willing to work through the hangovers. If personal, spiritual cleanliness isn’t enough to soothe the soul, OMF is also dedicated to having as small an impact on the surrounding environment as possible. In a press release for this year’s event, they write, “Each year the festival will make progress towards the eventual goal of being a carbon neutral event while utilizing as many biodegradable, repurposed, recycled & sustainable materials as possible.”

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

In addition to being picturesque in its own Florida sort of way, both swampy and seductive, the vibe at OMF last year was one of community and exploration. Outside of the three main stages, there was the ChobeeWobee Village that encompassed several smaller areas, each with its own special function. For its part, the heart of ChobeeWobee had several vendors selling festival paraphernalia, a giant metal, fire-breathing snowman, and an igloo hideaway with smaller igloos and drum circles.

Aquachobee was a man-made lake with sandy shores next to several bars and a stage for local artists and DJs. Each day, dozens of people laid out to tan or jumped into the water with either floaties to chill or with soap to bathe. Jungle 51 was an alien-themed rave hidden in a secluded forest area that kept the party going until sunrise and beyond. Like many of its larger counterparts, OMF also had a Ferris wheel that afforded the riders a comprehensive view of the entire fest or at the very least, a few minutes of peace and a break from all the non-stop fun. All of that returns and then some.

For most of us that live in the surrounding areas, Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival is about a two-hour drive. After taxes and cost of delivery, the tickets hover around $300. However, that distance is short and the cost of entry is more than fair considering that these are the means to a worthwhile end. Sunshine Grove, the 600-acre plot of land the festival rests upon, is a combination of natural and man-made beauty. Once the stages are set up, the lakeside village is constructed, the dazzling lights are flicked on, and the music begins, what used to be a horse ranch transforms into a pocket dimension that exists solely as an escape from all stress and all worry. For full lineup, tickets and more visit http://okeechobeefest.com
~ Angel Melendez

Clip to Evernote