The Okeechobee music festival, the newest Florida music mega festival, had its inaugural opening day, Thursday, March 3rd. The festival located in south central Florida, near Lake Okeechobee, the biggest lake in Florida may become one of the premiere destination festivals, along with Coachella and Bonnaroo. The festival began with a soft opening under balmy overcast skies, with pleasantly cool temperatures as evening settled in. The four day event has a similar format to the premiere American festival, Bonnaroo, held in Tennessee each summer, but with its own unique elements. Like Bonnaroo, only a portion of the festival was open the first day and only to VIP and special ticket holders. The music is roughly divided into three main genres, Rock and Jam bands, Hip Hop and EDM. There should be enough bands in each of these categories to keep any music purists happy in their own niche. But the beauty of festivals like this one is to explore and experience new musical horizons outside the attendees usual scope of interest. This may also be one of the first truly 24/7 musical festivals with live music and performance art scheduled from noon Thursday until the early hours of Monday morning.
Jan Blomqvist played a pleasant sunset set on the Aquachobee stage, ground zero for the first live music of the festival. The English singer and EDM artist mixed some eloquent tunes just as people began to arrive at the stage, which is adjacent to a genuine beach with its own swimming pond. A few brave souls waded into the water, while many more worked on their vacation sun tans. A crowd began to gather around the stage as the next act began to play upbeat dance music. Miami’s own Spam Allstars featured an infectious mixture of Latin Jazz, Funk, Rock, and EDM music that had the early bird crowd gyrating to the beat. This band is pure musical fun. Like Bonnaroo, one of the most unique features of the festival will be jam sessions mashing up musicians from different genres. There will be at least three main jam sessions during the four day event. The first of these took place Thursday, just after the Spam Allstars ended their set. The jam was lead by pedal steel guitar blues master Roosevelt Collier, Jeremy Salken, the drummer extraordinaire from the EDM duo Big Gigantic, Lettuce collaborator, keyboardist Nigel Hall, and the funky bass player from The Lee Boys. They were joined by the Spam All Stars Horn and Flute players, as well as their guitarist. The crowd swelled for their explosive jamming blues drenched set, and the audience let out a deep moan when the band had to end their set. The other jams scheduled include, the most high profile one, which takes place late Saturday (Actually early Sunday morning), and is modeled after the Superjam at Bonnaroo that has become legendary. The Powwow will feature a collaborative performance that will feature vocalist Miguel with Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, backed by an all-star lineup that includes John Oates (of Hall & Oates), Kamasi Washington, The Meters’ George PorterJr., Zigaboo Modeliste, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, DJ Chris Karns, and Eric Krasno & Neal Evans of Soulive. Major special guests, both announced and unannounced, are also expected to take the stage. The final jam just announced takes place during Mumford and Sons closing headline set. They will be joined by special guests Tom Morello, The Avett Brothers & Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The Aquachobee stage ended the evening with a set by young charismatic EDM musician Big Wild. By this time a very large crowd had gathered and the EDM theme for the rest of the night had been set. Three separate other villages had EDM DJ’s playing non stop music in at least one of them throughout the night. A troupe of performance artists danced from village to village enticing the young crowd to follow along in a dance craze. By midnight the EDM stages were swarmed with fanatically dancing music fans. Tomorrow, the main village with it’s three main stages is set to open at 11am with a world class line up in store. Located deep in rural south central Florida, the festival grounds are a remnant of old Florida, with its swampy bayous and beautiful tropical forest groves. It seems to be a perfect site for this new 24/7 music festival.