Okeechobee Music Festival’s inaugural year was so wildly successful in 2016 that their work was very much cut out for them for round two this year. OMF aims to please all with the eclectic mix of genres they have to offer, but it looked like they were playing it a bit more on the safe side when it came to their electronic acts. Bassnectar, Flume, and Porter Robinson were among the biggest EDM names OMF17 was bringing out. I was hoping to see a couple different names than usual when it came to the headliners (like Usher & The Roots!), but I was still happy with some of the smaller performers. Regardless of what I personally thought of the lineup, I knew I was going to attend again this year because of how much I ended up loving it last year.
Okeechobee has quite a unique set up. Last year I spent most of my time bouncing around the three main stages, “Be,” “Here,” and “Now.” These are where you would most likely be seeing your favorite headliners perform (Flume, Bassnectar, Kings of Leon, and such). In order to access these stages, you would stand in a brief line, scan your wristband, and enter what was considered to be the main venue. This year, however, I wanted to do things a little bit differently and explore Chobeewobee Village, the much larger and spread out portion of the festival.
The Village was what, to me, made the whole festival unique. The more I got to explore, the more enamored I became with the festival, and the more I had hoped I could pry the rest of my friends from the main stages to share the experience with me. Chobeewobee was where you would not only find some of the coolest, tucked away art installations, but there was plenty of great food and some very chill vendors. The best part of it all was that there were also plenty of smaller and more intimate stages that artists were able to perform at all night. There were five additional stages outside the main venue (which makes eight total)–my favorites easily being the Aquachobee beach stage and the Incendia stage.
Aquachobee was the biggest stage in Chobeewobee Village and it was stationed right by a man-made beach. During the earlier parts of the day, the area would be pretty sparse; folks mainly relaxed by the water and listened to some chill tunes that were being played right next to them on stage. It was a great place to meet up with friends if you wanted to get up and out of your campsite after breakfast/lunch. By night, though, Aquachobee transformed; festivalgoers would flood the entire area, as far back as you could see, as they waited for their favorite artists to come on, but they weren’t packed in like sardines, which is sometimes how it felt inside the venue.
It was here where I got to see Space Jesus throw down for my first time, and whose set I can only describe as “Bassnectar on acid” (the dude actually looks exactly like Lorin himself). It took a bit of effort to get through the sea of bass heads, but I went on a solo mission to the front and I’m happy I did. His set was easily my favorite of the whole weekend. Ganja White Night also drew another huge crowd to Aquachobee on the last day. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was same folks who took over the stage for Space Jesus as well, since they were laying down some groovy dubstep beats that kept the crowd womping back and forth for the whole show.
The Incendia stage was also something else. When walking by this small stage that lay right next to the campsites, you probably wouldn’t think much of it at first. Once the sun went down, though, the stage literally became engulfed in flames. This smaller stage was designed purely for DJ sets, with decks in the front of the crown of fire that was set up behind them. I’m a sucker for pyrotechnics, so I had to stick around to see what else this place had to offer. During each heavy drop, the top of the stage would erupt as two flamethrowers spewed huge fountains of fire that lit up the entire crowd. Like many of the smaller stages around Chobeewobee Village, Incendia had sets that went on until 9 in the morning. Also, if you were there at the right time, you were able to catch a 12th Planet b2b GRiZ b2b Snails set that occurred sometime near sunrise and caused many campers to wake up and sprint over to the fiery madness.
It’s easy to compile a list of big name artists to attract people to a festival. Throw them onto a few big stages with some solid lighting production and you can bet people are going to have a good time. For me, inside the main venue didn’t seem very special compared to many of the other festivals that I have been to so far. The main venue also seemed to be a little overcrowded this year. It was the exact same size as last year, but it felt like there were almost twice as many people. I remember dancing freely without having to bump shoulders with strangers who were trying to do the same, but trying to find those spaces was a bit harder this year. If you wanted a good spot in the crowd with a group of your friends, you better had get there well before the set started or else you were kind of screwed.
If I were to make a suggestion to the people who produce OMF, I would ask them to either reduce the amount of tickets they sell next year, or to strengthen the experience inside the venue. “Be,” “Here,” and “Now” are all essentially next to each other. Yes, it’s convenient to move between stages, but I think it would be cooler to incorporate them more into the Chobeewobee Village part of the festival too. Looking back, the village and the venue almost felt like two different entities.
OMF has sold out two times out of the two years it’s been active. They did a stellar job with Chobeewobee village, but I feel like they should have the resources to expand that creativity over to the main-stage portion of the festival. If executed properly, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be able to compete with festivals like Electric Forest.