Okeechobee in Florida is an excursion to a music oasis

 By Pooja Pasupula

February 25, 2018

Splashes of color. Bursts of passion. Flecks of a daydream. All meshed together to create an escape through a portal toward a dimension full of whimsical, thrilling and boisterous beach-inspired tropical adventures. These are the defining remarks that characterize Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival.

Residing in the calm and laid-back county of Okeechobee, festival goers and music fanatics alike can traverse down to this remote area of Southern Florida centered between Orlando, Miami, and West Palm Beach to escape the mundane nuances of earthly reality, if only for four days in March.

Okeechobee 2016 photo by Zach Burkhart for CLTure.

The festival takes place on Sunshine Grove, a mesmerizing land that’s divided into two areas known as The Grove and Moonlight Oasis. The Grove is the focal point of the festival grounds, and home to the three main stages BE, HERE and NOW, where you will see most of the main headliners perform. Moonlight Oasis is the cultural epicenter of the event where one can explore the mythical worlds of Jungle 51, Aquachobee Beach, and ChobeeWobee Village. In these lands attendees can participate in yoga workshops, swim in tropical waters, explore a psychedelic tea forest and peruse homemade goods and craft items. Attendees can also feast on the variety of food the festival provides, consisting of local recipes, organic choices, comfort food, and vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free options.  

Founded only three years ago, with its inaugural run in 2016, Okeechobee has amassed a hefty lineup each year, with notable artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Robert Plant, Solange, Odesza, The Avett Brothers, Usher, The Roots, Joey Bada$$, Sturgill Simpson, and Kings of Leon performing at the event. But this year’s lineup could be the most impressive to date, with a heavy surplus of new and returning artists.

Here are our 10 can’t-miss acts you should check out this year:  

Leon Bridges – Sunday, Be Stage at 7:45 p.m.

Soul. Pure, unadulterated, straight to the heart soul is what distinguishes Leon Bridges. He bloomed out of Fort Worth, Texas in 2014, and he’s been pouring out the rustic, sorrow-filled gospel he’s known for ever since. His music pays tribute to the R&B and blues sounds that emerged in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Trombone Shorty – Saturday, Be Stage at 9:00 p.m.

It only makes sense that Trombone Shorty is a New Orleans native by the way he gives his own spin on classic instrumentals. Anyone can sense the Louisiana nativism roots in his upbeat, bouncy, and uplifting jazz. He has collaborated with an enormous list of A-list recording artists, stretching from all different kinds of genres, as far as funk to hip hop to even rock.

Sylvan Esso – Friday, Be Stage at 4:15 p.m.

Music that sounds like a combination of low femme vocals and video game sound effects isn’t what one wouldn’t normally would expect to enthrall the ears, but Sylvan Esso pulls it off flawlessly. Her music is filled with electro-pop memorabilia; from rhythmic synth to wobbly bass, she both soothes you into tranquility, and makes you want to writhe on the dance floor all at once.

Lil Dicky – Sunday, Be Stage at 6:10 p.m.

“Really wish that I didn’t care about him anymore, but I do.” You may recognize a different variation of that lyric from when Lil Dicky’s song “Molly” overtook the charts two summers ago in 2016. His sound is characterized by upbeat melodies and loud, in-your-face raps. Known also for his comedy, Dicky rose to prominence after the music video to his song “Ex-Boyfriend” went viral on YouTube.

Smino – Saturday, Here Stage at 8:15 p.m.

He’s a fresh newcomer that blends soul, hip hop, and funk. His latest album, blkswan, exemplifies this while additionally giving listeners hints of the same contemporary R&B tones that artists like Bryson Tiller and Jeremih are known for.

Khalid – Friday, Be Stage at 8:45 p.m.

A voice that captures rhythm and the blues, and twists it with a modern pop flair, this singer has taken the music industry by storm. He’s was up for not one, not two, but five Grammy nominations this year after only releasing his first single “Location” two years ago in 2016. Khalid’s debut studio album, American Teen, features songs focusing on the youthful years and all of the struggles that accompany it, such as love and heartbreak.

Poolside – Friday, Aquachobee Beach at 6:15 p.m.

When electronic dance music smashes together with chillwave, you get none other than the Los Angeles-based duo, Poolside. Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise steal the hearts of song-lovers alike with their “daytime disco” tunes. Their music reminds of listeners of an era filled with retro-tinged synth and acid-washed, gleeful vocals.

Travis Scott – Saturday, Be Stage at 11:10 p.m.

Predominant rapper and record producer hailing from Houston, Texas, Scott is known for his mellow tones and a seamless blending of hip hop, R&B, and trap. He broke into the rap industry back in 2012 after signing his first major-label deal with Epic Records, and soon after signing deals with other major artists, such as Kanye West and T.I.

The Flaming Lips – Saturday, Be Stage at 7:15 p.m.

Originating in the 1980s, The Flaming Lips have an impressive 17 studio albums, 18 extended plays, 15 singles, and ten compilation albums. This plethora of art sets itself apart from other alternative rock bands with its melancholy-tinted strums, low sad croons, and psychedelic post-punk folk.

Denzel Curry – Sunday, Now Stage at 2:50 p.m.

Curry is actually a Florida native sprouting from Carol City, a short two-hour drive south of Okeechobee. He began his rap career in 2011, and has since notably put out two full-length albums. His latest album, Imperial, fuses classic trap and hip hop beats, while also mixing in distinct cloud rap tones. Curry’s cloud rap sound is characterized by ethereal, dreamlike beats, and hazy, majestic wordless vocal samples, with lo-fi undertones.

Check out the full 2018 Okechoobee Music and Arts Festival lineup.

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