As Okeechobee Fest 2016 unfolds beautifully into its third day, we're still reeling from the killer performances and topnotch production that went down over the course of the festival's first full day.
Saturday's lineup included some of the fest's biggest names, from Kendrick Lamar to Miguel and Skrillex, and while the music definitely lived up to the hype, the cool spring weather, happy festi crowds, and irreverent spring-break vibes at Aquachobee Beach definitely help bring the new festival to the next level.
It may be Okeechobee's first go-around, but the level of experience and passion behind its conception and launch definitely shows. As we take in five stages of music and palpable feel-good vibes in the air, it already feels like an established fest, making us more than confident Sunday will blow our minds and leave us waiting for what's to come next year.
How Americana are Deer Tick? So Americana that one of their guitarists was wearing flannels underneath his overalls. So Americana that whistling was a key component of one song, while they brought out a fiddler for another. So Americana, each of their two singers emulate Bob Dylan vocal tics, just from two different eras. The five-piece from Rhode Island took the Be Stage early in the afternoon while much of the crowd was still hungover to perform their laid-back country rock mix ripe with alternate tunings.
"We don't have a new record out, so we're just playing whatever we feel like it," frontman John McCauley told the crowd. They incorporated tracks from their five-album catalog, along with a cover of Jimmy Lloyd's "I Got a Rocket in My Pocket." They also threw in a new song for no extra cost that they said the audience would love, because "it's kind of about drugs." The one comment they made that wasn't Americana was not praising any of their fellow guitar-based acts, instead claiming they most wanted to see Kendrick Lamar. — David Rolland
Ishmael Butler was once known as Butterfly when he emceed '90s rap legends Digable Planets. With Shabazz Palaces, the Seattle rapper took a different mentality on the Now stage. Less focused on the lyrical flow, on Saturday afternoon Butler hid behind a laptop and a pair of sunglasses while he manufactured sounds. Standing next to him was the other half of Shabazz Palaces Tendai Maraire who was in charge of beats both digital and composed from various parts of a drum kit. Their spacy, experimental music Butler said in an interview with the New Times last month was often inspired from commercial jingles from when the duo were young. You would never guess that from watching their set as hooks were the last things on their mind. Rather Butler played around with vocabulary stretching the limit of what words can and should rhyme like "show" with "perpetual." A light crowd grooved and nodded their heads to the sound, getting most excited when a smoke machine sputtered fog on the stage. — David Rolland
This was the first set of the day where festival goers seemed to fully awaken. The Philadelphia sextet performed a high energy, hour long set on the Be stage at 4:15. A large screen projection of Dr. Dog played on two screens peripheral to the stage allowing the packed frolickers to witness the jam band in close up fashion way back from under the pine tree of their choosing. The festival veterans played all their beer pong anthems in succession from "Lonesome" to "Bring My Baby Back" to "How Long Must I Wait." The two guitars, bass, drums, keyboardist, and multi-instrumentalist brought their peppy, goofy harmonies complete with hand claps and dance steps as they noodled up the frets of their instruments. The crowd didn't call for an encore, but they finally were alive, hungry for more music which after all that happened Friday night/Saturday afternoon was a feat of itself. — David Rolland
He said this was his first time performing in four months, but Pittsburgh's Mac Miller came out swinging the mic like a sledgehammer, ready to convert any hater in a five-mile radius. His tattooed arms swayed back and forth as he instructed the screaming hoards to do the same. The energy stayed in constant motion as we worked through “Watching Movies,” “Lights Out,” “100 Grandkids.” His face frozen in perpetual scream lurked on the screen, the album cover for his latest LP GO:OD AM making up the only stage decoration, parental advisory sticker hanging in the bottom right corner like a badge of honor. Energy reached new heights when Miller began lambasting long-time arch nemesis and surprise Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. “Fuck this motherfucker,” he spat before going into his song named after the millionaire, the song for which Trump threatened to sue the rapper, but never did.. “I need you to do me a favor (and vote), it's getting way too close to us actually getting Donald Trump as President.” He rounded out the set with “Dead Homies,” “Break the Law,” and more from GO:OD AM, and when his hour slot was up, it was hard to watch him leave. Thankfully, he made special appearances at Miguel, Kendrick Lamar, and the supergroup PoWow stage. Safe to say, Miller is happy to be back. — Kat Bein
British DJ Bonobo hit the Now stage for a breezy 6:30 pm set, lighting up the tree encircled Grove stage with purple, yellow, and orange light beams like a rave spaceship descended on the lush grounds. During his hour-long set, the festival veteran pumped out a danceable, mid tempo antidote to ear-blasting acts like Skrillex, getting the crowd swaying hips as bubbles and glowsticks floated overhead. The timing and excellent production throughout Bonobo's set provided a sensuous, energizing tipping point from the day's smooth, laid-back daytime sets (like Brooklyn's Cameo Culture at Aquachobee Beach), to the jam-packed main events at the Grove. — Falyn Freyman
He's trying to be the God MC, and he's getting pretty damned close. Lamar's set was strong as one might have expected following his breathtaking Grammy performance, albeit with fewer theatrics and neon-painted dancers. His powerful words and jazz-revival accompaniment was all he needed to turn the crowd upside down, and since he was the only set marked for the time, most everyone who wasn't sleeping was there to witness. He dropped “Backseat Freestyle” early, the perfect hype-up anthem. He taught the crowd to sing along to “m.A.A.d city” and turned the heat up with “These Walls.” He brought his good friend Mac Miller out on stage for an extended bit of shine, but the highlight came when Lamar brought an overzealous fan to share the stage and the mic, capping the exalted moment with a friendly dance-off and one giant, loving hug. He promised us that, no matter how big, rich, or famous, Kendrick is and forever will be a servant of the people. He preached togetherness and representation for the people, and our collective voice returned his words tenfold as we rapped along. There are a lot of great rappers on the scene today, but walking away from Kendrick's performance at the Be Stage, it was hard to imagine how any of them could possibly be greater in this moment. — Kat Bein
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
PoWow (Miguel, Win Butler, John Oates, and more)
Okeechobee has so far been an amazing festival, but if there's only one thing its peers take away from its example, we hope it's more supergroup “PoWow” sets. Who doesn't want to see a band made from the day's headliners coming together for a perfect jam session? Miguel took the role as lead singer while Arcade Fire's Win Butler played back-up and musical support. John Oates played band leader alongside legendary musicians responsible for some of MoTown's greatest hits. They played a fanciful series of covers, ranging in every style and era, from “Hotline Bling” to “Rebel Rebel” and “Iko, Iko.” As a resident of Canada, Butler kept poking fun at American politics. He invited Okeechobee attendees to join him across the northern border when Trump becomes president, lauding the wonderful health care system and inclusivity to Muslims, Mexicans, and more. The band jammed for a couple of hours, eventually joined by Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller and Skrillex's Sonny Moore on guitar. When his guitar broke, he focused more on being a back-up dancer. The atmosphere was jovial, the only serious thing about it being the incredible level of musicianship. It's great watching a first-time band come together so tightly. Honestly, we wish they'd put out an album. — Kat Bein
Skrillex is my latest guilty pleasure — a guy whose banging, dub-fuelled EDM-pop is so shamelessly in-your-face, so grossly entrenched in neon-soaked spring breaker youth culture, it took until last night's closing set at the Now Stage to realize why it's actually so great. As the Miguel-led PoWow jam went down across the Grove, Skrillex drew the bigger crowd by far, churning out his signature dubstep remixes of pop hits like the Bieberiffic "Where Are Ü Now" and Flo Rida's "Good Feeling," inspiring flailing arms, robotic dance moves, and glowstick wars at every drop of the beat. It's completely indulgent and glossed-over, but it's also surprisingly self-aware and completely of the moment. — Falyn Freyman