Written by Arooj Mustansir
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival outdid themselves once again this year by throwing their most legendary event to date. From the music itself to all of the incredible people there, every aspect of it delivered and set the bar insanely high for other events. Few festivals are able to have such immaculate production while maintaining intimacy but Okeechobee has mastered that. There were countless surreal moments and parts of the festival that made it so memorable. After reflecting on all of the magic ourselves, here is what we thought were the best parts of this year’s journey into the portal.
Full Moon Beach Party
My favorite part of the festival was kicking it all off with an unforgettable moonlit beach party. The Thursday night festivities featured performances by Thriftworks, Opiuo, and Bassnectar. Thriftworks started the night off strong with a glitchy experimental set which had a mysterious feel to it that kept the whole crowd engaged. After that Opiuo switched up the mood with a funkadelic set that had everyone dancing. The energy at that point was off the charts and Bassnectar knew exactly how to capitalize on it. He played a one of a kind set with downtempo and freestyle elements throughout it. Unlike his Friday night set, this one was designed to use minimal visuals in order to emphasize the environment that the nature and people there created. Out of all the times I have seen him this was the first time I have seen him play a set like this and I was completely mesmerized. Even though it had minimal stage production, the set still captivated everyone with its rawness and authenticity. That night alone proved to me that choosing Okeechobee to kick off my festival season was undoubtedly the best decision I could have made.
Late Night Sets
Okeechobee was practically designed for night owls with all of the late-night madness present. The smaller stages at the Moonlight Oasis kept the party going well after the main stages closed. Attendees could choose to get lost in the flames and heavy sounds at the Incendia Stage or the house beats at Jungle 51. I spent a lot of my time at the Incendia stage to catch secret sets from huge acts like Ganja White Night, Boogie T, Clozee, Zeds Dead, and many more. It got very chilly at night so the heat from the fire along with the intensity of the music was the perfect way to stay warm and entertained. The Jungle 51 stage was nestled in the palm trees in the opposite side of the grounds. The sounds combined with the mystic beauty of the area definitely kept my adrenaline pumping well into the night. The RV lot also featured unofficial DJ sets that went on for hours after the sun rose and all the stages closed for those that still had energy left. My personal favorite was from up and coming producer Mersiv who blew everyone in attendance away with a relentlessly heavy set. Festival goers were certainly able to make the most out of every minute there because it was a nonstop party from the moment the gates opened.
Sunshine Gove is a massive venue and which means that it has the potential to get hectic and confusing but Soundslinger managed to create an organized layout for the grounds. The campgrounds wrapped efficiently around the stages so the venue was easily accessible no matter where you were camped. The venue itself was divided into the one section known as The Grove which was home to the 3 main stages and another section called the Moonlight Oasis which held the smaller ones. The main stage was moved to the Be stage this year and was further away from the other two stages which helped alleviate previous year’s sound bleed issues. Although the Moonlight Oasis and The Grove were pretty far apart, there were so many intricate art installations along the way that the trek back and forth became its own adventure of constant discovery. Each part of the festival grounds had something special to offer which made my time in Sunshine Grove that much more worthwhile.
What makes this festival stand out is the fact that it is able to maintain a transformative and sacred atmosphere while showcasing such huge names. I can promise you that there is nowhere else on earth you can catch acts like Snoop Dogg and Hasley while being immersed in such a community and art based environment. From wellness-oriented activities such as Yogachobee to constant reminders all around to stay present, it is clear that organizers worked extremely hard to implement transformational elements in the festival. Every year I have attended Okeechobee I made some incredible connections with fellow attendees and this year was no different. People were so welcoming and positive there and I did not run into a single rude or disrespectful person this year. Even though this is a more mainstream festival, the crowd was still filled with loving and authentic people which is really commendable considering how negative crowds can be at festivals this large. The overall vibe that the music and crowd created is more than enough to keep me coming back every year.