Review: Okeechobee Music Festival

by | Mar 9, 2016 | Art + Culture, Music

Photo: Rick Munroe

The non-stop sounds of 24-hour music, beer, suntan oil, and some other things that give you a contact high was just a small part experienced at Okeechobee’s first Music and Arts Festival.

The dust has settled, my skin is tanned, my ears are clean and the laundry is done. After nearly a week of sleeping on an air mattress in a massive tent, I have had time to reflect on what the festival meant to me and the memories that I will carry forward in anticipation of next year’s event.

All 30,000 tickets were sold for the festival’s sea of bright colored tents filling nearly every corner of the 800 acres. More tickets could have been sold to people coming in droves from every corner of the nation. You never would have guessed it to be the first year and a test. Promoters were “testing” the event to see what head counts were in place and what tweeks would be needed for the future.

Timing of the festival could not have been better. The weather was perfect, warm days and cool nights. There was plenty of natural amenities, and a generation of music lovers willing to share a cold bottle of water with a stranger.

When it comes to music, the stages were perfectly placed even while jumping from stage to stage seeing the bands perform. What was interesting, even though the stages were very close, there was no audio bleed from each of the three stage areas. Needless to say, the platforms were well designed with incredible sound.

The music acts including headliners Robert Plant, Kendrick Lamar, Hall & Oats all giving legendary performances. For those who attended, it was a great opportunity to see such musical icons up close making this event memorable forever.

At times it got crowded, but the video screens made it possible to sit far back and enjoy the concerts and have plenty of space to stretch out.

Okeechobee was much more than music, it featured a Ferris wheel, a massive lake for water play, and an art area that allowed those with creative abilities to express themselves. The festival had plenty of vendors hawking over-priced food and beer. One of the most common complaints, was only one brand of beer was sold, and since you couldn’t bring your own in the area, one had to settle for Corona or it was ‘nada’. The lines for food and drink were minimal which made getting back to the music quick. Bathrooms and water were aplenty and you never had to wait for too long.

The festival-goers consisted mainly of those in their early 20’s, college aged people that just enjoy the music. My estimates were 80% of those attending were under 25. Typical of many of these types of festivals, as they appeal to bodies that can function with little sleep for 4 days straight.

For many, it was a time to become disconnected from the technical world as cell service was spotty and internet access even less reliable. Perhaps this was good allowing many to focus on the experience rather than attaching to their devices.

When it comes next year, I don’t think they will be able to double the amount of attendees. The people will surely come, but where will they fit, questions promoters must work out. After all, nearly all of the campgrounds appeared to be completely full, literally from edge to edge. Although the event didn’t sell daily tickets, this might be an option for next year as the grounds are only an hour from West Palm Beach and other communities on both coasts. Many people want the festival experience without wanting to sleep in a tent for a total of four nights.

So if you missed this year’s festival, rest assured there will be a second. The overall experience was one that I will remember and place it at the top of my festival experiences, including Coachella and Bonnaroo. I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event.

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    By: Chloe Park

    Chloe is a writer and photographer who has covered music and pop culture for publications including the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Times-Union. She has covered the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Bonnaroo and other music festivals.

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