Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival is here to stay, and it’s basically the Bannaroo of Florida.
The sold out first year of Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival opened its gates Thursday afternoon March 3, 2016 to the strains of the Miami Beach High School’s Jazz Band with Nigel Hall and Florida superstar guitarist Roosevelt Collier. By nightfall, the all night dance parties commenced at the Aquachobee stage and Jungle 51, and Okeechobee quickly established itself as one of the premiere festivals in the United States. Featuring an incomparable 800-acre festival site made up of large stretches of luscious flat lands and stunning tufts of tropical jungle, the perfect weather met the creative layout, gorgeous lighting, stunning sound systems and remarkable programming to create a weekend for the ages for this new annual spring break event. Festival founders knew it would be great, but how great it was surpassed their wildest imaginations.“I couldn’t be more pleased and excited,” said festival co-founder Paul Peck of Soundslinger. “We had a feeling we were creating something special, but I’m still trying to process exactly what just took place here. Everything went perfectly as designed and our fans loved it in every way we hoped. There was a fantastic energy on site all weekend as one great moment lead to another. The Okeechobee community is an extraordinary one. We can’t wait to do this again next year.”
Among the many highlights from the weekend were all the spontaneous sit-ins and collaborations, including the legendary PoWoW! Featuring Miguel, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, John Oates, Skrillex, Mumford & Sons, Mac Miller, the legendary Meters rhythm section, the Preservation Hall Jazz horns and more, as well as Tom Morello and The Avett Brothers coming on stage to close the powerful Mumford & Sons set and the festival itself to play “House of the Rising Son,” The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Then there were the parades that Butler and Preservation Hall led through Aquachobee and the surprise DJ sets by Butler and Morello. The diversity of the music could be felt everywhere. From Kendrick Lamar’s epic performance one day after dropping his new album to Robert Plant’s sunset slot during which a “shooting star” exploded in the sky above the stage (the explosion turned out to be a SPACE X rocket ship launching out of the NASA space center in the Cocoa Beach area) to Bassnectar and Skrillex’s sonic explosions to Kamasi Washington’s jazz explorations to all the local Florida artists that appeared via the Destination Okeechobee program.
Notable additions to the high level of positivity that radiated throughout the festival were the diverse and delicious food being offered by local vendors and the locally sourced well lit artwork that could be found in every nook. Lounges were created in jungles where fans of all ages relaxed in hammocks that were slung between palm trees. While Jungle 51 burned with lasers and lights beaming from a crashed UFO, an oasis of escape and calm could be found in the forest called Yogachobee.
Recently named by the New York Times as one of the places “Where Music Lovers Should Go In 2016,” Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival boasted an extraordinary multi-genre bill, with more than 130 artists, bands, and DJs from around the globe performing across six signature stages.