17 Acts That Won Okeechobee Music Festival
March 7, 2017
Looking back at this weekend’s Okeechobee Music Festival, it seems impossible to describe the time and effort that gets put into something of that size. From immersive productions at 14 different stages and communal areas, to the continuous schedule of performances that spanned nearly every musical genre. But no matter how well crafted the pagodas were, if you indulged in some self-healing at Yogachobee or took the time to take in the food curation across the grounds, at the end of the day, all roads at festivals should always lead back to music.
Sitting here sifting through the reservoir of sound I just dove into for the past four days, it seems immoral not to include each of the below artists who, at the time which I needed it most, took me (and the other 30K+ in attendance) for a wild ride. Breaking it down by main stages, here are the acts that blew us away this weekend:
When I saw that Usher & The Roots would be playing the festival, my attention was immediately taken, but only after seeing that collaboration live did I really understand just how much of a fan I have never stopped being since my middle school days. You have to commend a young and willing artist like GRiZ, who played during at least 5 sets throughout the weekend–and those are only the ones I caught. His solo set was the kind of party you’d expect from the electronic multi-instrumentalist, but seeing him play with the Funky Dawgz Brass Band through the crowd was a whole different experience. Speaking of the Connecticut funk outfit, these guys take the MVP cake by not only reviving the crowd during their own set, but keeping audiences entertained in between acts by throwing impromptu jams right on the dance floor. Gallant was as smooth as ever, his satin vocals flowing across the festival grounds and blending perfectly with high-caliber musicians during the Pow Wow (more on that later).
The middle of the three main stages was my personal favorite, housing almost half of the sets I’m reminiscing on during this piece. Perpetual Groove was exactly the kind of jam you need to uplift you at the beginning of a festival, and their fluid rhythms were enough to keep you going throughout the days. When we talk about musicians who can cover a broad spectrum of musical sounds with ease, BadBadNotGood needs to be on that list. Their jazz-led set was a deep and dark surprise. Talking about the unexpected, those who witnessed FKJ‘s set on Friday without familiarizing themselves with my favorite groovy French producer were immediately turned into lifelong fans of his bouncy music and loop-style performance. It was just perfect. The GRAMMY-winning musical wunderkind that is Jacob Collier blue the audience away during his set, showing off an interactive live camera feed while playing over 15 different instruments with ease.
Galactic brought New Orleans to Okeechobee in all the best ways, throwing down a truly stinky party when our ears needed it most. But if we really want to talk about something bad ass, the female-led Khruangbin was out of this world good. On a schedule filled with male musicians, it was inspiring to see Laura Lee killing it on the bass. Finally, we get to the collaborative jams. Saturday night’s Pow Wow featuring Michael McDonald (The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan) made you really understand why he’s a true American treasure. Joined by members of Vulfpeck, Snarky Puppy, and Soulive, the set also featured moments with Solange, Gallant, Allen Stone, Lawrence, and GRiZ. Epic is an understatement. And then the weekend came to a slow goodbye with the Gospel Soul Experience featuring the epically legendary Blind Boys of Alabama who have been taking people to church for over 70 years. Big ups to Allen Stone for killing this one too.
One of the larger performing areas, the NOW Stage went from feeling like a college rager and a massive funk jam all in one night. George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic was everything I had hoped it would be, and with the 20+ people joining him on stage, the crowd took some lessons in what it really means to rage. Vulfpeck, one of my current obsessions, was exactly what the crowd needed at 1AM Friday, wringing in the festival with one of the funnest (and funkiest) sets of the weekend. And although I may have already dipped my toes (and parts of my libido) into Anderson .Paak‘s live set before, seeing such a talented artist continue to perfect his performance never gets old.
This stage had more local acts than any other (might have been the only one, come to think of it), so it takes a special place in my heart to see acts like Roosevelt Collier and the Jacuzzi Boys have ample witnesses to their musical prowess. But I was more impressed by the electronic instrumental duo, Brasstracks, whose cover of R Kelly’s “Ignition Remix” while the sun blazed the crowd was one of my favorite moments of the weekend.
Whatever music you indulge in, the sold out second-year festival was a huge win for the South Florida music scene. The growth from their first year was palpable and we can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for next year. Check out the full gallery by Fujifilmgirl here.