Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival: Third Time’s the Charm [review]
Nestled deep within nature's cradle and vastly far from the harsh realities of the real world, OMF has successfully created a safe haven for music and art lovers from all over the US and beyond to express themselves through various forms, all inhibitions out of sight.
The gates to the Portal at Sunshine Grove may have shut, but you know how the saying goes – “when one door closes, another opens”…the new “door” symbolizing a vessel of beautiful, everlasting connections and memories constructed at the third iteration of Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Okeechobee, FL. Nestled deep within nature’s cradle and vastly far from the harsh realities of the real world, OMF has successfully created a safe haven for music and art lovers from all over the US and beyond to express themselves through various forms, all inhibitions out of sight. From the sandy shores of Aquachobee to the all-night techno treats bestowed upon us by the Jungle 51 stage, saying that OMF18 spoiled us for the third year in a row would be the understatement of the century – and here’s why.
The perfect accompaniment to the vibed-out Aquachobee stage goes by the name of The Main Squeeze, an American funk band hailing from Chicago, Illinois. An early afternoon set from this flavorful five invigorated the mass of Okeechobeings and had attendees shuffling in the sand and swaying with the brassy beats.
The festival grounds were nearing full come nightfall on Thursday, with upwards of 15,000 bodies stampeding towards the Aquachobee stage for a sacred, special Full Moon set featuring major influences from various genres of the EDM world – and executing them all with one central theme – in a mesmerizing downtempo daze. No visuals, lights, or amped-up production were present at this once-in-a-lifetime experience, installing a humbling and entrancing vibe where the focus is all concentrated around sound and vibrations. Taking to the stage first was Bay Area native Thriftworks, who brought his signature west coast weirdness to the heart of Florida. His trippy, tribal tunes paved a perfectly tranquil path for the moonlit shores of Aquachobee. Next up was New Zealand producer turned Aussie by the name of Oscar Davey-Wraight, AKA Opiuo, who brought some bouncy beats to the mix in an energizing performance under the moon. Dropping some of his wobbly bangers such as “Sneakers“, Opiuo totally turned the stage into one giant sandy dancefloor that was lit in a number of ways.
The subsequent set was unlike anything witnessed ever before. A bare naked Bassnectar set with nothing but downtempo dreaminess ensued. The Bay Area native went all over the charts in this set, annihilating the crowd with hand-picked tracks ranging from names like Ivy Lab and Jade Cicada, to ridiculous edits with sultry vocal samples from Erykah Badu and silky DnB tidbits. Needless to say, although every set by the infamous DJ and producer goes above and beyond, this one was surely for the books. Click here to take a closer look at this unique setlist.
The Hotlanta homies known as Bells and Robes made a musical statement at the Pyramid Palace stage later Thursday evening, bringing with them a booming performance composed of original, organic art that satisfied all of our cravings for that futuristic funky goodness. Having just released their Pleasures of Mind EP right before the start of Okee, rest assured these ATL boys wrecked the intimately set stage with fresh new tracks.
Early Friday afternoon the sun was ablaze and daringly dangerous drops were echoing throughout the grounds from the BE stage, where young blood Blunts & Blondes went b2b with Miami-based Nitti Gritti for an all-out dubstep rager. Headbangers flocked to the mainstage area in a frenzy to get their feet moving to hardcore bass bangers, which is precisely what we received. The BE stage was outrageously packed early in the day – a giant feat for the up-and-coming producers, so check out their SoundCloud pages to see what the hype is about.
Souls were soothed at sunset when indie electronica group Tycho performed upon the NOW stage, sending nothing but sexy soundwaves throughout the festival grounds. Following up at the BE stage was Slightly Stoopid – an OG group that will forever and always be a prominent staple within the reggae scene – and the band stole hearts with a lively rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” amongst multiple old but favorite Stoopid originals.
A pivotal moment of the festival came during STS9’s set on Friday evening at the NOW stage after Slightly. The world-renowned jamtronica group opened up with the crowd favorite “Scheme“, only to continue onto energetic tracks like “World Go Round” and “EHM“, fulfilling their fans’ desires from beginning to end.
The party continued on at the NOW stage for legendary producer and professional mind-boggler Dave Tipper, who was in the rare form of actually being the focal point on stage rather than doing his thing side stage as to not distract from the visuals. Speaking of visuals, the team at Datagrama took things to the next level for this set – which included songs like “Bilirubin” from his 2017 EP Flunked, in addition to a variety of cerebral-distorting, daringly unique tracks, signature of the UK native.
Bouncing back to the BE stage after Tipper was quite a doozy, but Bassnectar part two was commencing quickly as bassheads linked hands and stampeded towards the optimal listening and viewing positions. Hair was swangin’ and necks were breakin’ when this highly-regarded headliner introduced the set with the timeless classic “Basshead” layered with Eminem’s “My Name Is“, a song that fans beg for but rarely receive during festival season. Also heard was the infamous “Red Step Premiere” by Bassnectar and Jantsen, in addition to a handful of other heavy-hitters, as expected.
One of the more dynamic and experimental duos of EDM, Thievery Corporation, inflicted some super chill lounge vibes with their dazzling downtempo act early Saturday evening. Subsequently, half of Thievery (Rob Garza) performed a solo set to switch up the tempo and pump up the partiers with some disco-house tunes later that evening.
CloZee at sunset was one of the most picturesque moments of the weekend; her humble presence mixed with the tremendous tribal character of her music and flawless execution techniques was unparalleled on every level. This French Goddess of get down knows how to keep the crowd at her fingertips, and every part of the set had fans transcending to another dimension as they dug their toes into the soft sand to keep grounded.
A most unforgettable experience ensued when rap revolutionary Snoop Dogg took to the BE stage for the Okeechobee PoWow! Superstar Mashup, which included instrumentals by The Roots, guest vocalist Joey Bada$$ and much more. The supergroup installed an air of reminiscence through classics like “Gin and Juice” and “Drop it like it’s Hot“, as well as paying homage to some of hip-hops most influential marauders, such as when the lively orchestra played a rendition of Eazy-E’s “Cruisin’ in my 64”
Big Gigantic has always put on one hell of a groovy, high-energy set, and fans old and new got to enjoy some of the finest of the duo’s discography throughout the years. Patrons were more than pleased when word got out about Big G’s b2b with Illenium at the fiery Incendia stage, a traveling production that hosted an abundance of b2b’s throughout the late-night portions of the festival.
Aquachobee started off early on Sunday in a Riddim induced trance with names like Dirt Monkey b2b Subtronics and Boogie T. b2b Squnto. Things calmed down a tad when Okeechobeings flocked to the NOW stage for multi-instrumentalist and one-man band Big Wild, whose fresh, future-tribal sound had everybody on cloud 9 without a cloud in the sky. Rejuvenated for the rest of the Sunday fun day, Swedish mastermind Liquid Stranger dished out some low-frequency bass complimented by some seriously wonky wobbles, all in flawless execution. Ganja White Night followed at the NOW stage in a completely live fashion, enhancing their truly unique style even more so.
Nightmares on Wax (live band) was a treat for the low-temp lovers. The band dazzled the crowd with smooth grooves and dabbled into some RJD2 and similar artists, making for a calming but energizing set before Gramatik. The owner of Lowtemp Records eased into the set with some an old-school funk inspired intro, then switched it up in seconds with some heavier Gramatik-style trap. Live guitar added another dimension to the performance when GRiZmatik greatness was played, fusing the saxy sounds of GRiZ with the electro-soul character of Gramatik’s distinct style. Heart throb and sax extraordinaire Dominic Lalli of Big G even made a surprise appearance during the GRiZ x Big G masterpiece “Good Times Roll”.
Closing out the NOW stage was the one and only killa killa Canadians by the names of DC and Hooks, better known by their stage name Zeds Dead. These guys have had a relentless grip on the EDM community for years, and although they’ve undergone some minor genre alterations since the early days, you can always distinguish a ZD track when it comes on. They tugged our heartstrings when OG classic “Coffee Break” played with an unexpected twist on the drop. The dub duo went all over the board in terms of BPMs, throwing down tracks like the bass house “Lost You” ft. Twin Shadow, then taking things up a notch with one of their more recent dubstep destroyers “Woman Wine“.
One of the most climatic moments that occurred at this grassroots vibe stage was when Brooklyn-based wave maker Dorfex Bos dazzled Okeechobeings with his eclectic style and sound, entrancing the crowd from beginning to end. The juxtaposition of the bone-chilling breeze with the blazing flames spewing with every drop created the ultimate setting for Producer Angelo Tursi , who has managed to merge the dreamy, downtempo side of bass music with celestial soundscapes, wielding an unmistakably mesmerizing form of dubstep that’s all its own. Although you might not see his name on the headlining row of festival lineups, don’t be mislead – Box was in such high demand from patrons of Okeechobee that he had to be relocated to the Incendia from a smaller stage as to make room for his fans, old and new. The massive crowd seemed to stretch for miles, from the hardcore headbangers gripping the railing to the freaks raging all the way in the back.
The feels during Okee number three were unmatched by festivals far and wide, and a joyful return to Sunshine Grove is an aspiration felt through every patron who attended the infectious event – whether it was your first, second, or third time at OMF. As always, we hope to see every one of your shining souls at the 2019 iteration of Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. Chin up, the portal will reopen before your eyes!