With a sold out crowd and perfect weather, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival had a killer first year.
Florida has been ripe for some time for a new multi-genre music festival and many have tried and failed along the way, but that has all changed as South Floridians were recently blessed with its first live-in music utopia as – The Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival – roared into town. Its inaugural 4-day debut kicked off Thursday March 3rd to an eager sold-out crowd, that came together for music, camping, dance parties and more on an anticipated new festival site that was nothing less spectacular.
Local act, “The Miami Beach High School’s Jazz band”, kicked off the festivities as fans were ushered in and from there the music and energy never stopped. Throughout the 4 days music fans were entertained by some of the biggest artists and DJ’s in the World. Main stages , cleverly named Be, Here and Now, amassed the crowds by staying true to their festival predecessors hosting an open genre lineup, boasting superstar acts such as the legendary Led Zeppelin singer, Robert Plant and Bassnectar, as well as Grammy nominated artists Kendrick Lamar, Mumford and Sons, Skrillex, and Miguel to name a few. Once the mainstream attractions were put to rest, the Jungle 51 forest stage kept the music alive with late night dance parties. Throughout the night, sounds continued pouring out of the crashed UFO stage deep in the woodland area surrounding the 800-acre beautiful festival site. The intergalactic themed stage brought out the sounds from the underground with artist duo Detroit Legacy collaborating to spin cult classics until sunrise. Although Jungle 51 wasn’t commercially recognized by all, it did bring many acts that Florida had never seen amidst a genre that is lesser known and helped expose the music and dance scene to new fans.
The highlight of Okeechobee came not only from the blend of music and its unique location but from the coordination of group events. The mornings played host to yoga and group meditations held by the Followers of Light, a spiritual group focused on enlightenment through consumption of chakra releasing teas. They truly offered festival goers a sense of community with everything from tea to free Thai massages throughout the festival. Once fans were properly relaxed, newly formed groups of fans would find themselves sunbathing and swimming, while enjoying the aqua festivities on Okeechobee’s very own custom beach, which was built on a fragment of the local lake that gave name to the actual festival. It was a tropical haven from sunrise to sunset with great grooves pulsating from the beach stage and leaving fans with a feeling of an Island paradise.
One of the biggest surprises was the lack of technological use, granted by the festivals secluded location, as no-one had cell service and for many that turned out to be a rewarding experience. You would see people actually living within the moment rather than digitally and more in tune with nature, the music and the community spirit with lots of human interaction and quality time spent socializing.
All in all, the festival’s 1st year was a success. Safety was well managed, the acts came together seamlessly and the location was prime – the verdict, Okeechobee Festival is here to stay and South Florida couldn’t be happier!
Photos by Elias Zouak & Dimitri Mavrakis