Last Friday a few members of the WVUM team traveled to Okeechobee for a fun filled weekend at the South Florida town’s very own music and arts festival. Considering the festival only launched last year, it has made a huge impact on the local music scene with all tickets selling out and fans flocking from all over the country to check out everyone from Wiz Khalifa to The Lumineers.
This was my first camping festival in the U.S so I was excited to see how it compared to those I have attended back home in England and other parts of Europe. I must admit it was pretty similar although of course much warmer than the U.K. and the ability to camp next to our car was a welcome break from lugging all of my stuff across fields.
Organizers definitely wanted the sojourn in Sunshine Grove to be a break from their daily routines and considering I had no cell service the entire weekend I definitely felt at one with nature and embraced the escape from real life. In addition to that there was Yogachobee which offered an impressive assortment of classes and motivational talks and Chobeewobee Village which boasted a tea lounge and interactive musical theatre.
Aside from all the spectacular extras, impressive design touches, pyrotechnics and enormous illuminated animal statues, there was the music. On Friday night, Flume treated the crowd to his hits ‘Say It’ and ‘Never Be Like You’ and his remixes of Lorde’s ‘Tennis Court’ & Disclosure’s ‘You & Me’. Saturday saw Usher & The Roots throw it back to Usher’s greatest hits with everything from ‘U Got It Bad’ to ‘Yeah’ and Sunday had band of brothers Kings Of Leon close the main stage of the three day extravaganza.
Personal highlights included Solange’s flawless choreography and vocals despite technical difficulties making her significantly late to the stage. Anderson Paak wowed on the same stage less than 24 hours later churning out songs from his 2016 album ‘Malibu’, regularly switching from center stage to behind his drum kit and even treating the crowd to his vocals from his track with Mac Miller ‘Dang!’
Jacuzzi Boys were another favorite as I have been listening to the Miami band for a while and despite them frequently popping up in a number of locations across the city I had not yet seen them live. Sunday afternoon at the Aquachobee stage was finally my chance! I loved the contrast of people simultaneously moshing and sunbathing to the band’s punk set as they powered through the final day of the festival.
Bleachers pulled in a pretty big crowd on Sunday evening and I was sad when I realized their set would clash with the beginning of Anderson Paak’s set (I ducked out early in order not to miss him) but I did stay long enough for their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ which was the the perfect late afternoon pick me up before the many other big performances still to come that night.
Finally we had the festival’s closers Kings of Leon. I have been a fan of this band for years and have seen them both in London’s Hyde Park and headlining Reading festival in 2009 (a now infamous performance because 2008’s ‘Only By The Night’ was a breakout album for the band and at this point they were rather resentful of it and playing those songs live and were very rude to the crowd) Even in 2017, almost a decade on from that album you could see there is no passion in performing that album’s hits ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Sex On Fire’ even though these got the biggest reaction. Old school fans were treated to ‘The Bucket’, ‘Taper Jean Girl’ and ‘Molly’s Chambers’ from their first two albums plus ‘Fans’ and ‘On Call’ from 2007’s Because Of The Times but Caleb Followill’s lack of interaction with his huge audience left me feeling underwhelmed. Having experienced other headliners close festivals in fairly epic fashion I felt even a little bit of confetti would have been a nice touch.
Overall it was an unbelievable few days with awesome crowds, tasty food and drinks (Saigon Sandwich Shop and Bearclaw Coffee had my vote) and I’m excited to see what the festival has in store for next year!