Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival By Pacci
We packed the van on Wednesday night trying to make our morning go as smoothly as possible, but as every festivalgoer knows that is just wishful thinking. I left my house a little after 9:00AM to go to Cortney’s apartment so we could finish loading the van and get on the road. Our trip is less than 2 hours but we had met a group online and our meet up was at 12:00. I realized I forgot my pillow and a sheet on the way, and when I arrived Cortney had somehow lost the keys to her van. We were batting 1000 but this is all systems normal from our past years of experience in going to festivals. We got everything squared away and hit the road with plenty of time to spare for the drive. It isn’t too often for us down here in South Florida that we get a festival so close you can leave on the same day the festival starts. We made the meet time with Camp Reddit while others didn’t. Eddie, one of the main organizers, was having car troubles so we all agreed to wait for him. It gave us some more time to get to know each other a little better and try to organize some kind of order going through the gates and checks. We got on the way around 2:30 to head for the main gate. There were signs posted about dogs to search cars and all kinds of other scare tactics, even had an amnesty box that became one of the biggest jokes of the weekend. The search was one of the most lackluster I had ever seen, was kind of funny after all the build up with the signs and what not.
In no time at all camp was set and we headed to the beach area to see Roosevelt Collier perform with his band. We missed Tauk, which was very disappointing to me, but I know I will catch them in the future. I’ve seen Roosevelt Collier play with Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, and String Cheese Incident, but I had yet to see him play with his own band. It was everything I expected, and I could feel the chemistry of the band through the music. We spent the rest of the first night exploring the venders and looking at different art installments. My festival moto is a festival is a marathon and not a sprint so I’ve found on my journey its best to keep it low key on Thursday so you aren’t worn out by Sunday.
On Friday, we started our day off watching 12th Planet. I had never listened to his music before and just knew he was a DJ. I’m pretty selective with the electronic music I like, and I have to say that this one isn’t going to make any play lists. We moved over to Perpetual Groove and felt welcomed by the good vibes but the crowd was smaller than I thought it was going to be. It was around this time I started to see a trend that would play out for the remainder of the weekend in what I thought to be an under appreciation for bands. The DJ and Rap acts drew large crowds while I could almost walk up to the rail for everything else. We also watched Funky Dawgz Brass Band, VHS Collection, BADBADNOTGOOD, Cold War Kids, Galactic, and Vulfpeck. All amazing shows that most festivalgoers missed.
We called it somewhat of an early night on Friday knowing I wanted to stay up until sunrise Saturday night but ending the night with Vulfpeck was nothing less than amazing. From the second they hit the stage I knew I had found something great. I’m usually pretty on top of funky soul bands and I am so confused how Vulfpeck got past my radar. They came on to the stage with a baseball-ish kind of SNL announcer style introduction of each member. They ran out as the crowd cheered them on, I can’t imagine there was a single face without a smile on it at this show. Through all the goofy antics and ridiculous dancing, they are truly great musicians. Its shows like these that keep me in check and help to remind me why I fell in love with music festivals and reassures me I’m walking the right path to live my best life.
Saturday started for my friend Danny and me in search of his hammock. He had left it up in some trees in The Grove on Friday. We thought that maybe they take them down if you leave them and checked the lost and found with no luck. It is pretty shitty when people take things that aren’t theirs. I heard many more horror stories before the festival was over—people being pick pocketed, their backpacks being sliced open with a knife so someone could steal their stuff, even people wandering into campsites to steal. This saddens me and I hope it doesn’t become a trend as a festival is usually filled with love and generosity. If you’re having a hard time finding the love in this world just remember the more you try to give love away the more it comes back to you, so please be kind to each other.
Danny and I went to see George Clinton and P Funk once we felt the hammock was lost. We hung to the back and just enjoyed the music as kind of background. We had a nice long conversation about life and it was something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Danny has been going through a lot in his life lately and he wasn’t even going to come to Okeechobee till last minute, but I’m glad he made it. Look for an interview with him in the coming weeks for sure. We walked over to The Revivalists after, we tried to get close but it was proving difficult. Around this time, I wasn’t happy with so many flag totems, we could barely see the stage. I come to festivals to see live music, not to celebrate Flag Day. I hope next year they enforce no totems in front of the soundboard like I’ve seen at other festivals. It’s common courtesy for me to have respect and love for everyone around me. As I write more and more about this festival I’m starting to see a lack of love there.
We went back to camp and regrouped with my sister and another friend, Malek. I ran into Josh at camp and they were having a meet up at 5:30 for Griz. We tried hard but arrived to the meet up a few minutes after 5:30 and no one was there so it was going to be just the 4 of us. We got a decent spot with good people around us and plenty of room to dance. We decided to stay and watch Rae Sremmurd just to get a good spot for Bassnectar. After listening to Sremmurd I think I understand the lack of love at the festival. His lyrics are filled with degrading slander and disrespect to women of all cultures and at times his lyrics didn’t make since. i.e. “I ain’t got no type, bad bitches is the only thing that I like.” I’m gonna go out on a limb here but I believe “Bad Bitches” would be considered a type. But enough of all that because when Nectar came on everything went out of my mind and I felt home as the bass hit my chest. He played some old favorites and some new stuff that made for a pretty well rounded show. Again, I missed the visual aspect with so many flags and totems. It was just very disappointing to not be able to see the show. I feel robbed in a way. We bounced around the rest of the night to see some of everything that was going on. We started at the Pow Wow and went to Sturgil Simpson, Usher, OTT, and Porter Robinson. Cortney went to the bathroom during Porter while Malek and I sat down and started talking about the future. He is trying to get a new job in San Francisco as a fishmonger, and I was telling him about my huge move of quitting my job recently to go to music festivals fulltime. After a while I realized Cortney had not returned, I imagined her with full finger lights on like a lantern asking people if they’d seen two guys pulling a wagon but I looked all over and just couldn’t find service to text her. Eventually Malek and I gave up and went back to camp to regroup because we were determined to stay up until sunrise. It was perfect timing though because just as we got there we realized Cortney was already back and soon Danielle, Manuel, Danny, and Ian all had arrived, too. We had some apple sauce and beers while we discussed our nights so far. Finally, after many forgotten items we were on our way to late night music and whatever else would catch our eye. We came across a trading blanket on the way and everyone swapped some stuff. Malek got some sweet pearls for his Mardi Gras beads, I’m not sure what I took but I left a bunch of finger lights, I remember Ian left an Okee candi bracelet. The actual blanket everything was on was so badass we wish we could have traded for it. Haha. Things got real hazy at this point so I’ll finish this night off by just saying we made it past the sunrise. Watching the sun come up in the distance was all I had hoped it would be, if you don’t have the tradition of catching at least one sunrise every festival you should pick up on it. Beautiful.
Barely got 4 hours of sleep but was up and at it again Sunday like I’d slept a full night. We took our time to pack camp up and get everything situated because we weren’t staying the night. Cortney and I went in to catch futurebirds and set a meet up with Danny and Malek for Moon Taxi. Futurebirds was just the nice relaxing start to the day I needed. We headed over to the meet up and found everyone pretty quickly, at that moment I caught Ian out of the corner of my eye. We ran over and chilled with him for a little while during Moon Taxi and then he was on his way. This being the last time we would see each other for the festival it was hard to see him go. We had said our goodbyes earlier that morning though because I was unsure we’d meet up again. Ian truly has a good soul and his love for everything can be felt through the embrace of his hugs. I hope to link up with him again in the future and I am going to have an interview with him eventually. And not too long after, Danny was also saying goodbye for this festival, he had a 14-hour drive back to Tennessee so I understood him leaving early. So much going on I feel like I barely watched Moon taxi and they finished up. I will be seeing them again soon though so it isn’t a big deal. We missed another meet up with the camp for Anderson .Paak this time but we ended up with a good spot. I missed him at Hulaween last year so I we determined to see him here and I’m glad I was able to. His music has real soul to it and I don’t see that in mainstream hip hop that much these days. He is also an excellent drummer which I didn’t know. We caught Pretty Lights after that, and as everyone knows his shows always live up to his name and this time was no different. The light show had a grid like set of lasers that went from one side to the other along with a melty background image that changed every so often. The crowd loved it, especially the girl next to me who was getting well acquainted with my leg throughout most of the show. Malek and I had lost Cortney again and we decided to get out of the crowd to look around for her. We settled in with a great view and plenty of space. I used to be the biggest Pretty Lights fan but I have fallen off in recent years. My love for electronic music is really falling to the way side as I grow and see more and more different acts. I will always have love and show respect to the DJ’s that helped sculpt parts of my life but I’m in love with live bands. I want to see a show, see the creation of the music there before my eyes, be taken on a musical journey through different genres and tempos all at one show by a collective of artists who vibe with each other on a higher level. This act brought my Okee journey to a close and as I walked back to camp I thought about the last 4 days and everything I had experienced. I had made some new friends and great memories that I will cherish for life and it became more evident than ever that nothing is as we plan it and life is full of lessons that can be learned. Malek and I said our goodbyes and he was on his way to enjoy the rest of his journey, I gave the camp a last good look over to take it in and got in the van. It felt nice to sit down on the cushioned seat of the van, but it was hard knowing I was leaving but I always have the next one to look forward too. I’m contemplating going to Fool’s Paradise at the end of the month, but I am definitely going to Wanee at Spirit of Suwannee at the end of April.