Okeechobee Music Festival – A Utopian Wonderland for the Senses
By Parker Mills
Now that the dust has literally settled, it’s time to reflect on the spectacular spectacle that was Okeechobee Music Festival. Brought to us by the same instigators behind Bonnaroo, the four-day camping festival aimed to combine a palatable selection of musical talents from all over the genre spectrum with uniquely curated art installations in the lush and gorgeous landscape that is Okeechobee Florida.
The Okeechobee Music Festival featured four primary musical destinations, each of which was equally as engaging. Aquachobee was a beautiful stage located just beyond an oasis-like beach in the middle of the festival grounds, complete with a unique bar providing tropical cocktails.
Adding to the majesty of this stage was a very special two hour block on Saturday featuring DJ sets by Win Butler of Arcade Fire’s Windows 98 alias followed by a blistering set that fused modern bass music with nu metal and rock ‘n roll by Tom Morello and Carl Restivo. The energy was unreal as they dropped anti establishment tracks such as “Fight the Power”, and Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerilla Radio” and “Killing in the Name of”, the latter of which incited a full on mosh pit.
Located just past Aquachobee was the fabulous Chobeewobee Village, coined as the festival within the festival. Chobewobee played host to many modest stages that welcomed an array of artists, from London’s Ashworth, who performed an incredible live acid house and techno set, to Miami legend Otto Van Sirach with his signature blend of spacey vocals and throbbing bass.
There was even a magnificent light up tower known as the Palace which was taken over by artists from Miami’s own Music, Arts, and Technology festival III points (including a set by III Points founder David Sinopoli). While the music was also choice, what really made Chobeewobee special were the multiple workshops and activities hosted within.
From Poetry sessions, morning Yoga breakouts and Chakra activations, Chobeewobee sought to not only stimulate the senses but also to enrich the mind and body, a rare practice at music festivals where there seems to be an inclination towards debauchery and bodily destruction during one’s brief respite from reality.
If you ventured even further back into the dark, mystical woodlands yonder the village, you would find yourself in the broodingly delightful Jungle 51, a stage solely dedicated to house and techno. With a steady of mist and an awe inspiring array of lazers, this late night stage kept the after party going until 9 am with a cocktail of seething synths and rolling bass lines.
By booking up and coming acts such as Brian Cid from Hot Since 82’s Knee Deep in Sound, Taimur b2b Ostrich, and Chris Nitti alongside heavyweights such as Damian Lazarus, Marcel Fengler, and DJ Three the stage served to showcase a variety of sounds from the surging underground scene while paying an homage to its origins.
This was most evident during Saturday’s four hour homage to the birthplace of techno, as Derrick May and Delano Smith teamed up to deliver a clinic in the subject as Detroit Legacy.
A brisk walk past Chobeewobee Village and Jungle 51 led us to the main festival stages, hidden behind an oval shaped barrier of trees and forestry. Inside there were three main stages, Be, Here, Now, all of which had an eclectic blend that kept festival goers delighted with legends such as Robert Plant and Hall & Oates sharing the same stage as Dubstep maverick Bassnectar.
It was amazing how diverse a crowd could be found inside this area, as rap acts such as Future, Lil Dicky, and Kendrick Lamar shared stages with the likes of trap Innovator RL Grime, electronic duo Odesza, bass heavy Skrillex, and Indie rock band Portugal the Man. Keeping with the theme of diversity, there were a few camping festival staples, such as jam bands Lotus and Lettuce, while Shpongle played his special blend of psychedelic sounds and Big Gigantic and Gramatik brought the funk.
This incredible blend of artists and scenes blended together perfectly at nights end with Saturday’s truly special PoWoW performance, a collaborative effort from over ten artists on the lineup from Win Butler, and Miguel, Skrillex, John Oates, and more joining forces for a performance full of surprises and feels.
By the end of the weekend and on my horrid three hour drive home, I couldn’t help but feel like I had just experienced much more than a music festival.
The community developed among other campers and the bonds strengthened within the circles we knew going in was a testament to the energy and positive ethos echoed by the Okeechobee Music Festival creators. Their commitment to art, both man made in nature, was clear in the planning of each day’s activities and within the music selections themselves.
This rare combination showcasing human creativity against the backdrop of nature served to create an almost Utopian wonderland for but a brief weekend, bringing over 30,000 people together for a shared appreciation of man-made and natural beauty.