Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2016 – Day 2 @ Okeechobee, FL

I had the opportunity to attend the first year of the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida. Before I jump into the music, let me just mention that I drove about 50 miles down a single lane road into the centre of Florida and when I arrived at the venue, it was like a magical world in the middle of the woods. There was a lot of thought that went into planning for this, so much attention to detail, down to the last twinkling light strung through the trees and hand painted designs on nearly every paintable surface. The whole thing was a beautifully put on production and very smoothly run. Here I am going to recap a bit from all three days, and look out for full reviews of the best shows!

Saturday started with Swimm’s set at 12:30 am, which Chris Hess, lead vocals and guitar, joked about by saying, “it’s also 9:30 in the morning right now, so I’m grateful for all this!” referencing the crowd. Chris started the show with a quiet little number he wrote about south FL, “Darkness of Love.” They have a very psychedelic indie-rock presence on stage, everlastingly cool. “Belly” seemed to be a crowd favorite as well as the song that drew in the most passersby.  Probably my favorite parts of their set is when they jumped into a short cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Adam Winn, drums, played harmonica in “Suddenly.” Chris’s mother was in the crowd and he dedicated a song to her, and after a joking reference to mushrooms and acid combinations, said “I’m just kidding! Police, don’t take me to jail, I just want to be here with my mom!” You can read my interview with them here.

After Swimm, I ran over to another stage to catch Givers. I hadn’t listened to them in the years since “Up Up Up” came out. The five piece was here from Lafayette, Louisiana, and proud of it. They began their set with “Saw You First” and had everyone smiling from the beginning. The audience seemed to be a group of dedicated fans, singing along to most every song. There wasn’t much banter with the crowd between songs, but during them Taylor Guarisco, guitar and vocals, and Tif Lamson, percussion and vocals, asked for a lot of crowd participation: clapping, swaying, fill-in-the-lyrics, and dancing.  They had a very festival look, with the eclectic outfits and plants draped over their instruments; they fit in well and helped in making a positive, creative atmosphere.
The highlight of Saturday night was hands down the once-in-a-lifetime PowWOW! The masterminds behind the Bonnaroo Super Jam, created this to set this brand new festival up for success. Those who were announced before hand to take part in this was John Oates, who was receiving cries of “John, you make my dreams come true!” before the PowWOW started, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, one of my favorite bands ever, and Miguel. The three covered an array of songs, from Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “Let’s Grove,” to Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” to a heartfelt cover of “Rebel Rebel” lead by Win who said some heartfelt words after about the dearly departed David Bowie. Towards the end of their two hour set, surprise guests started showing up on stage for a song here and there, namely Skrillex, Mac Miller, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Zigaboo Modeliste, Kamasi Washington, and Mumford & Sons, the latter of who I freaked out because I was front row and wasn’t expecting to see them until the next day, let alone that close.

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