By Derek Lavezzo and Hannah Hughes
The first annual Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida has officially ended and the consensus is pretty clear from the two of us at Studio 240 that attended:
It was amazing, and surpassed our expectations.
Everyone seemed to have very high expectations going into the event; how can you not when you hear it’s the lovechild of the geniuses that brought us Bonnaroo? Okeechobee was far beyond what any individual could have imagined, and so here we all are weeks after the festival, still struggling to put into perspective just how magical of a weekend it truly was.
To say the location was picture-perfect might possibly be selling it short. The land purchased by SoundSlinger (the event organizer) was 800+ acres of picturesque euphoria and left you feeling like you were in a novel of sorts with its outstretched plains, rich thicketed forests, and golden outstretched beaches. It was the ideal combination of every environment that you could envision, all rolled into one festival – bursting with creativity and magic everywhere you turned.
Aquachobee: The Beach and Stage
Campgrounds were vast and outstretched well beyond what the eye could fathom as it seemed like tents and campers were laid out across the entire county. The beach set-up featured sand volleyball, island themed bars, and of course the Aquachobee stage that held artists like Hermitude and Twiddle. Past the Aquachobee stage, and tucked in between the woods was an all-night rave in a secluded forest. Beams of light and lasers shot through towering trees almost like a shoot-out scene from Star Wars meets Jurassic Park. The venue hosted a cluster of unique spectacles such as a mini tea-forest, bonfires, inflatable igloos for relaxation and light shows, and daily yoga/vision quests under a separate tent.
Oh, did we mention that wasn’t even the actual festival? The festival entrance opened up into one of the most organized and easily accessible main stage designs. The three stages were adequately named the “Be”, “Here”, and “Now” stages. Which were flawlessly set up in that order, far enough apart to not have clashing sounds but not too far of a walk from stage to stage. Each stage was simplistic in nature but featured its own identity, which helped add individuality to each performance it held. The stages all hosted a wide variety of music, but by far the most impressive was the “Be” stage – hosting the big names like Bassnectar night one, Skrillex night two, and Mumford & Sons to close out the final night.
There was not a single disappointing performance in the bunch as the organizers carefully crafted one of the most diverse and artful lineups of any festival you’ll attend.
Day 1 started with a bang as Robert Plant, better known as the former lead singer of Led Zeppelin (yes, that Led Zeppelin) dazzled old and young minds alike with his intensified vocals and massive band with one of the best sets of the entire weekend. Then came the set that I have been hearing about most since the weekend ended and one I considered tough to beat. RL Grime did EDM proud with a pulsating and bass-pounding set that left brains melted onto the grass and turned the entire festival into a complete grime-fest for the entire hour that he performed. Bassnectar had a tough act to follow surely, but he did not disappoint as he turned up the bass even harder with a crazy late-night set to cap our night.
Our Day 2 began with Bonobo bringing the energy and Kendrick Lamar spitting his passionate lyrics to an entranced crowd, but that was just the warm up to two massive sets once again from the EDM team. Big Gigantic unleashed a fury of big time funk that had the whole crowd moving and jumping (that saxophone really does things to people), and then Skrillex doing what he does best: slaying crowds. He was powerful, high-energy, and simply put he was just himself. He only performed a handful of Jack U snippets while sticking to his original tracks and remixes that without a doubt left the crowd reminiscing on their early EDM days.
The final day consisted of Kill The Noise, who had to cancel the night before, take over Fetty Wap’s cancelled day-time set and bring high energy from the get go. It was when the sun began to set that things truly started to fall into place; Hermitude got the ball rolling with their beautiful beach-side sunset set, which transitioned into more energy from Gramatik. Followed by Odesza, who left the crowd speechless, easily delivering the best set of the weekend. They were brilliant to say the least and brought out the most beautiful vibes of the weekend. With jaws hanging open and tears streaming down faces, Odesza gave the entire festival the closure needed to part ways with the beautiful land of Okeechobee.
Regardless of whether it was the art, production, or music that filled Okeechobee with such a surge of happy energy – it was unmistakably the greatest festival we have had the pleasure of experiencing. Not to mention, setting an incredibly high standard for every festival that follows in the coming season. It’s been three weeks since our magical weekend in Okeechobee, Florida, and we are not alone when we say that it is still shocking how incredible it was. Although it’s a bold statement to make, we feel comfortable in saying that it really was the Woodstock of our generation and that people will be talking about the kick-off year for generations to come.
SoundSlinger did an incredible job with this festival, and both of us here at Studio 240 will proudly say we will be back next year, and suggest that you do the same.
Until next time Okeechobee.
From my first festival experience at Buku 2013 I have been a nonstop part of the EDM community and love every aspect of it. I have been writing for as long as I can remember and it's what I love to do, so music + writing is the perfect combination for me.