Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival 2018
(Originally Published on South Florida Insider)
Third Annual Edition of the Massive Festival Amazes Fans From Florida and Beyond – Review of the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival at the Sunshine Grove in Okeechobee, FL
Story by: Gleb Barabanov
Once again, in what is quickly becoming a yearly tradition, the small quiet town of Okeechobee transforms into a spring destination signaling the first sign of the waning winter. Drawing a crowd of over 30,000 people, devoted fans from every corner of the states made their voyage to the first big festival of the year, coming from as far as Montana and Arizona to experience the once-in-a-lifetime adventure that is a weekend at the grove. And of course, as Florida’s biggest camping festival, people from all over the peninsula congregated to the center of the state to enjoy a weekend that was both simultaneously the biggest party of the year and a getaway from the rigors of modern society.
Now in its third installment, the festival had its biggest year ever, with more than 100 musicians, artists, and entertainers helping to make the event one of a kind. As you entered the grounds, the camp resembled a small village full of tents of all shapes and sizes. Campgrounds built out of large, multi-faceted zip-together tents, adorned with psychedelic tapestries and colorful lights littered the site, and after a small cursory search of your vehicle upon entry (mostly looking for glass bottles posing a cutting hazard), you were allowed on to the farm, free to set up your own tent and explore the enormous 600 acre grounds.
Most of the campers got there on Thursday and spent the night setting up, so by the time I got there Friday morning most people were already out of their tents and checking out the various attractions the festival had to offer before the music started again for the day. The grounds were divided into two areas: the main stage area, dubbed “the Grove”, which was enclosed by a natural tree-line of palms creating a large opening for everyone to gather to enjoy the music on the three large stages cleverly called “Be”, “Here”, and “Now”. Everything outside the Grove’s tree-line (and strict security check to make sure nobody was sneaking in anything dangerous) was named the Moonlight Oasis. The Oasis featured hundreds of vendors, providing just about every kind of food under the sun that you can imagine. There was also an area called “Vendors Row”, where specialty vendors sold incredible handmade artwork, vintage clothes, and much more.
But the Oasis was more than just rows of campgrounds and vendors. A giant Ferris Wheel ferried excited guests into the sky for a spectacular view of the grounds, showing just how big the sea of tents really was. An area dubbed “Aqua Chobee” offered a place for campers to cool off and take a swim in the lake located on the grounds, with tons of sand placed around the water in order to recreate a beach filled with hundreds of sunbathers. There was also an area called “Yogachobee” where campers could meet up in a large group and join in a guided yoga/meditation session, providing some much needed respite from the hectic adventures of the nighttime. And speaking of the nighttime, an area called “Jungle 51” was located hidden away in a tree pocket (I, like many people, only discovered the area by following the sound of the music) provided some awesome all-night jams, complete with crazy set-pieces featuring a crazy lighting system, and many people flocked here after the main sets were done.
And speaking of the main sets, the music acts this year were out of this world. Bassnectar was the main star of this attraction, playing an amazing two night set in the pale moonlight and later on the main stage featuring confetti cannons and an incredible lighting set-up. The bass-mania was definitely on another level this year, and it seemed like at least 80% of the people attending had some sort of Bassnectar clothing, flag, or totem. And while we’re on the subject of totems, this year had some of the most interesting yet, from Stranger Things to Rick and Morty and even Ren and Stimpy.
The Okeechobee PowWow, a super-jam of sorts featuring all kinds of artists including some that come out just for the PowWow, made its return this year with a wonderful array of artists. Snoop Dogg came out and played with The Roots, and Joey Bada$$ was supposed to join in on the jam but unfortunately could not make it due to the travel delays caused by the large storm up in the Northeast. However there were plenty of other bands to see for fans of all genres. Tycho, Nightmares on Wax, and Thievery Corporation were there for fans of low-tempo chill music, while The Flaming Lips, STS9 and Slightly Stupid satisfied the many fans of jam bands, drawing an enormous crowd to their sets. Fans of hip-hop were also fulfilled by the appearance of Travis Scott, Lil Dicky, and Gramatik, and EDM fans were especially pleased by the appearances of Zed’s Dead, Big Gigantic, and Halsey along with their idol Bassnectar. Arcade Fire closed out the festival on Sunday night, signaling the end of the festivities, but as this year was a massive success I’m sure there’s many more years of Okeechobee to come, and I cant to see what they have in store for next year!