Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival By Cortney
When I first started attending music festivals about six years ago, I planned everything meticulously. I had lists on lists on lists to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I planned every outfit to be sure I wasn’t dragging extra items that weren’t needed. For the second pilgrimage to Okeechobee Music and Art Festival last weekend, my planning wasn’t so thought out. I threw caution to the wind and assumed my festival supply bag was packed with everything I needed, threw every shirt I liked from my closet in a bag and said a prayer to the festival gods the morning we planned to leave. After a mild scare that I’d lost the only key to my van and a scramble to find a sheet to lend Sean, we were off. I had not yet eaten breakfast, but we were off.
Our ETA according to Waze had us at less than two hours. Traffic was light on the trip upstate with minimal law enforcement. I’ve read online that we were lucky as many attendees were stopped in route in a “highway interdiction operation.” We didn’t have anything to worry about, but getting your car tossed can sure put a bummer on a trip. Ninety-nine people never made it to The Portal. We arrived at the Faith Farm will call to meet up with Camp Reddit. Sean and I like meeting up with a group to camp for fests when we can. It’s nice to know your neighbors in advance. This group was about 22 cars strong! Our biggest to date. AN accident on the turnpike delayed some group members, leaving us waiting for a couple of hours. Eventually, we joined the line and waited about an hour in traffic to get through the tollbooths and into Sunshine Grove.
Camp Reddit found its home in the middle of LMK, or Let Me Know. (I had to ask what that stood for. My text speak is getting rusty.) The spot was free of bugs and our friend Danny was right next to us. We combined our gear into one huge spot and we set up in no time. We were further from the bathrooms than I’d like, but that’s the risk you take with GA. After an opening toast by our organizer and fearless leader Eddie, we were off to Aquachobee to catch some music.
Thursdays at a festival are always about newer, more up and coming acts. I like to use it as a time to get my bearings and enjoy a few cocktails. There’s no need to go hard on Thursday, we’ll be here all weekend. After checking out Roosevelt Collier and getting some sand in my sandals on the beach, I was stoked to see that Black Light Visuals were back. This is a company that tie-dyes your arm with black light sensitive paint. I was prepared to spend the $5 but they were letting everyone dip for free on Thursday only. They were so chill and generous. My arm looked dope!
Friday morning was a craft beer exchange at camp. I am more of cider girl myself, but since Sean participated, I grabbed a can of a yummy vanilla caramel porter from Due South. So many IPAs were available, all the IPAs. It was a fun time to meet everyone at camp and chat about life. Our group came from all over the country and had many different backgrounds. It is really special to connect with people from all over and enjoy a magical time.
Our first show was 12th Planet. To prepare for the festival, I listened to every act of the main stages line up. That is great because it preps me for the weekend, bad because I never remember them all. Remember those lists I usually make? A schedule is usually one of them. I was just winging it this time around. I knew I needed Griz, Nectar, Bleachers, and The Lumineers. Everything else was just icing. I found the crowd at 12th Planet to be hyped. The stage was packed and people were dancing their asses off. It was only two in the afternoon, but it felt like the middle of the night. I wasn’t in love with his music, but the energy of the crowd got me in to it.
At Perpetual Groove we had more chances to dance and check out the crowd. We floated to Funky Dawgs Brass Band, BADBADNOTGOOD, Mac DeMarco, VHS Collection, Galactic, and Cold War Kids. The shows were fun and the crowds were energetic, albeit somewhat small. Especially for the more rock based acts. We should not have been able to just walk up to Cold War Kids!
We ended the night with my new favorite band, Vulfpek. If you are reading this and you don’t know them, go open Spotify and listen. I’ll wait. Ok good, now you are in the tribe, too. I knew we were in for something special once I heard the rad sports-like starting lineup announcement of each band member and realized the couple standing in front of me were cosplaying band member Jack Stratton. Funk and cosplay? I’m in. Oh, and did I mention they threw chocolate at the audience? A super nice guy near me caught some and shared. It was good chocolate.
Saturday started rather late for me. I brought an apple to the pancake breakfast at camp (I don’t like pancakes) and relaxed. I ended up taking a nap and missing The Revivalists…again. I also missed Rainbow Kitten Surprise, but they are also at Roo so I’m not too worried. We found a spot for Griz a few minutes before it started and got ready to hold our ground for the next four hours waiting for Bassnectar. Griz was amazing, as usual. The crowd was super in to it and we danced our butts off. I love this funky style of dance music. It is so upbeat and connects with my spirit. I could listen to it exclusively. Griz for President!
Once Griz ended and the crowd thinned slightly we moved up just a little. Next was Rae Sremmurd. I am the first to admit that hip hop isn’t my number one genre. I can appreciate it, but I also know it just isn’t all for me. Sremmurd falls in to the not for me category. Why do we need to call someone just because she is dancing like a stripper? Just let her dance, man. She is probably having a really good time. One thing I can say is that there was a kid right behind me that was super in to it and his enthusiasm was a little infectious. I was bobbing my head by the end of the set.
Finally, after all the waiting, after all the standing in one place, we were treated to the joy of bass that is a Bassnectar show. As an old school, South Florida rave kid from the 90s, I love me some bass. I was raised on the stuff. As usual, Lorin did not disappoint. His shows are such a unique experience. They are a combination of lights, sound, energy, and emotion. It is something really special.
The rest of the night was spent wandering through the Incendia Stage and Jungle 51. Late night is where Sunshine Grove really comes alive. There are many art instillations and different areas to get lost in once the sun goes down. We found a monk spitting rhymes in the Tea Garden and a DJ dropping bass on a stage that literally burst into flames to the rhythm. (Not sure why that is ok but my citronella candle is prohibited, but okay.) As we danced until the sun rose behind us and I finally called it a night. My feet wanted me to catch one of the many supped up rickshaws back to camp but my heart wanted the walk. My ears were ringing, even with the earplugs all night, but I was happy.
Sunday Funday at a festival is always a slow start for me. At Roo I spend a lot of time on the VIP hill. With only a GA wristband, we were braving the crowds this time. We laid our blanket in the shade for Futurebirds and got some good people watching in. I really enjoy making up backstories about interesting characters in the crowd. Okeechobee introduced us to Old British Grandpa during Galactic and Fishing Trip Grandpa at Vulfpek. Why were they so many legit grandpas at Okee? I then spent half of Moon Taxi’s set in line for a gyro, but it was worth it. I realized that was one of the first substantial things I’d eaten in days. I splintered off from Sean and Malek to catch Bleachers with Danielle. This was the second time I’ve seen them. Jack Antonoff is a skilled guitar player and a song writer and they always put on a good show.
By the time The Lumineers were starting I had to pee and used that as a chance to get lost once again. Finding your friends in the crowd once the sun goes down is nearly impossible, even with totems. Fuck totems. Despite being lost and wandering in a crowd for most of the show, I still managed to shed a tear at their beautiful music. The final show for the night was Pretty Lights. Still lost and wandering alone I sat in a weird smelling puddle then got stepped on more times than I’d like before throwing in the towel on the weekend. I headed back to the van to turn on the heat and listen to the radio and wait for Sean before driving home.
Overall, this was a really good weekend. Although I wasn’t super stoked for the lineup in advance, I found some new acts and did a ton of dancing. We added a ton of inside jokes to our festival arsenal, I made a Shark Tank pitch for a great business to the crowd waiting for Vulfpek, and laughed so much. Most importantly, we made some new friends in Camp Reddit. I can’t wait for June for Bonnaroo to catch up with our Sparklefart fam and spend time with Camp Reddit again.