While Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival happened almost a month ago, I finally feel calm and settled enough to post the last of my remaining pictures. The last two days were some of the best musical experiences I have ever had. To be honest, one of the hardest parts of the festival was balancing my picture taking and editing with actually enjoying the experience as a patron. Because I was representing myself and not working with a larger publication, I felt like it was more appropriate to go to the festival as any other person might for the last two nights.
That being said, there were definitely a few things that made Okeechobee stand out. The variety in stage sets, from the Aquachobee Beach Stage to Jungle 51 and the central main stage area, definitely meant there was something for everyone. While I have outgrown my ability to stay up all night and continue to watch shows the next day, that option was available for those who wanted it.
The festival managed to sell out tickets in its first year, so I'm interested to see how they handle the rise in popularity given that there's about a 30,000 person cap. The cap isn't a bad things by any means. I didn't have to deal with the insane stampede that happens between popular sets at Bonnaroo (not complaining at all about my Roo experience, it's just worth noting). You also had a shot of actually finding people in your group if you got separated, no easy feat at any festival. I still brought my own roll of toilet paper every time I went to the rest room, but the facilities were always relatively clean and well stocked. If you've been to a festival, you know exactly how important this is.
As far as the last two days of music go, my highlights were Kendrick Lamar and The Avett Brothers. Kendrick brought me to tears by bringing a teenage boy on stage to rap his lyrics. My interest in rap has been increasing steadily since late high school and Kendrick really is phenomenal live. On the complete other end of the spectrum, The Avett Brothers are an old favorite. It was delightful to see how far they have come in their set since 2011 when I saw them for the first time. And getting to see them in a once in a lifetime performance with Mumford and Sons, Tom Morello, and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band was something I'll never forget.
If the question after my experience at Okeechobee is "Will I attend again?" then I will have to answer with a big fat maybe. I think it is a wonderful and worthwhile experience, but taking almost a week off to manage the 12 hour trip was a bit much even for the epic line up. I decided to forgo Bonnaroo this year for the better (in my opinion) line up at Okeechobee and to give a new festival a shot. However, the fact that Roo is my home state festival AND is only about four hours away definitely gives it an advantage if the lineup is more to my tastes in the future. There were also a few hiccups at Okeechobee that I'm definitely willing to forgive as growing pains; but once again, it makes it hard to justify a 12 hour trip.
All that being said, though, being given the opportunity to attend a brand new festival is something I definitely wasn't going to pass up. If you live closer, I recommend it. This festival may be the only time certain folksy leaning bands that don't have large niche audiences in Florida come to town. It's a good price for what they extended into a four day festival. At the end of the day, I had a blast making memories with Ari, meeting new people, and seeing shows which is really what it's all about.