Review: The top 13 moments of Okeechobee Music Festival 2017

Missed the Okeechobee Music Festival? We've got the best moments covered.

Last year, the Okeechobee Music Festival debuted on to the Florida music scene to both commercial and critical success. The 50,000-plus people were treated to a stellar lineup, artistic production and design, as well as great weather for a weekend of camping just north of Florida’s largest lake, Lake Okeechobee. Going into its second run, there were many questions to be answered. While many were requests from attendees wanting more bathrooms, maps, and arts/cultural setups, there remained an even more daunting question: how can they top last year?

While the festival returned headliner Bassnectar, added big names (Usher with the Roots, Kings of Leon, Flume) and promising young artists (Anderson. Paak, Solange, Rae Sremmurd), it seemed to lack the same star power as last year. However, as they added more acts along the way and introduced more art classes, yoga sessions, and meditation gatherings, the schedule began to fill out nicely. Finally, March rolled around and an even larger crowd than last year made their way down to the heart of South Florida. While the festival opened Thursday at noon, many didn’t arrive till late Thursday night due to the high volume of traffic that jammed the two lane roads that cut through Okeechobee county.  As people began to make their way through the festival grounds that night or early the next morning, they were greeted with an even grander and more coordinated setup than last year.  Festival organizers littered the place with more maps, better food vendors, and a far more intricate set up in the festival’s Yogachobee, Chobeewobee and Aquachobee ‘villages.’  In addition to these improvements, the festival added several more stages outside the ‘Grove’ area.

On top of that, the festival’s artists seemed to thrive in Okeechobee’s vibrant environment.  From artists collaborating on stage, showing up for surprise sets, to roaming the crowds with fans, they never failed to keep pace with last year’s electrifying show.  While there were countless unforgettable moments during this year’s festival, we’ve narrowed it down to the Top 13 Moments at Okeechobee Music Festival 2017. Check them out below: 

Logic Preaches Peace, Love and Positivity

After a four-month hiatus from live performing, the Maryland rapper Logic returned with an electrifying show at the larger Be stage. The rapper treated fans to a bevy of songs off his recent Bobby Tarantino mixtape as well as a number of other popular tracks.  As he jumped from fiery tracks like “Wrist” to “Flexicution” Logic repeatedly took time in between songs to preach his motto of “Peace, Love and Positivity”, a moniker that has become a theme of the rapper’s music.  He preached to fans to value love over money, an ideology that helped him go from living in section 8 housing to becoming a highly respected rapper.

Russ Makes A Statement

While Russ’ may have been lower on the lineup, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding the New Jersey native. Add the fact that he writes, sings, and produces everything he releases, his promising potential earned him a spot on Okeechobee’s Now stage, the largest at the festival. The crowd showed up in bulk for his mid afternoon set time, and he didn’t disappoint.  His hour set had everyone on their feet with many singing all of the words.


Wiz Makes Emotional Return to Stage

There was much speculation in the past week whether or not Wiz would perform at the Grove due to the passing of his sister on February 20.

“The loss of my sibling has been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with,” the rapper tweeted last week.

Donning diamond studded glasses, the shirtless rap veteran electrified the crowd that packed the field to watch him.  He ran through a set list of hits, as well as delighted fans to several  freestyles.  With the loss of his sister still looming, his set ending performance of “See You Again” felt even more emotional.  At the end Wiz stood on the end of the stage with his eyes closed and smiling, taking in a well deserved standing ovation.

Bassnectar Brings His Bass to the Grove

Bassnectar appears to have taken the role of Okeechobee host. This was no issue for his army of followers, dubbed the Bassheads, who flooded the Grove with Bassnectar shirts, hats, and flag totems. However, not everyone was pleased with his return.  After complaints from locals, Okeechobee county set a noise ordinance for festival organizers to adhere to, with the level of bass being the key issue.  Having ‘bass’ in his name made Bassnectar an easy target, and the California producer/DJ’s set was moved to an earlier-than-usual 9:30 p.m..This did little to take away from the impact his set had on the Grove.  As Rae Sremmurd finished their raucous performance, the largest crowd of the four-day weekend made their way to the Be stage for the only two-time Okeechobee performer.  Minutes prior to his set, security was forced to clear the media/press form the pit due to the explosive nature of the set’s pyrotechnics.  A few minutes later, after an explosion of fire and smoke, festival attendees were greeted with earth-trembling bass.  While he may not have played the last or longest set of the night his presence, or at least his bass, was felt by everyone.

Flume Dominates Friday Night

Last year was huge for the Australian DJ, as he earned a Grammy for his 2nd album Skin.  For this, he earned the honor of closing out as headliner on Friday. Those who saw him at St Petersburg’s Jannus Live in September saw a familiar set up with Flume’s unique LED-box stage set up. Flume’s set seemed to be a victory lap, as he opened with the first track off his Skin LP “Helix.” What followed can only be described as mesmerizing, as the combo of his hit records/remixes and tantalizing light show left many breathless.

Rae Sremmurd Flexes on Okeechobee

Rap’s most brash duo spared little time to warm up to the crowd Saturday night, as they came running out from backstage.  Slim Jxmmi, who makes up one-half of the Mississippi group, came out with a Hennessy bottle in hand, spraying both the stage and crowd.  Later, after a spree of crowd surfing, he grabbed a Florida-flag totem from a fan and waved it proudly center stage. As they ran through their smash hits like “No Type”, “No Flex Zone” and “Black Beatles”, it became clear that Rae Sremmurd is much more than the duo that spawned the “Mannequin Challenge."

A Sit Down with Kaiydo

Over the weekend I got the opportunity to interview Florida-native Kaiydo, a rapper who has quickly blow up over the last year.  Festival organizers saw the potential and not only booked him, but scheduled him to play one of the main stages, the Here stage.  As I sat down with him, it became apparent just how impressive his quick rise to fame has been.  The South Florida native only released his first song last December, and now he’s on one of the biggest stages in Florida.  His popularity down South is perhaps correlated with his music style, which he says he draws from “southern culture.” Despite the inexperience, his live performance showed no nerves.  Kaiydo came out to full crowd and ran through a few released tracks as well as some yet to be dropped.  At the end of the set, he jumped off the stage and ran through the pit to get up closer to the fans who were eager to see the young star.

Griz’s Sets

Griz seemed to be everywhere this past weekend, as he appeared numerous times throughout the festival grounds.  While he didn’t appear at the rumored Friday 2:30 p.m. set, he was found mingling with fans at the smaller Jungle 51 stage.  He then appeared at a 2:30am Saturday set at the Incendia stage in addition to his late-afternoon set at the Be stage.  This was only to be followed by an appearance at the Pow! Wow.  At both, he brought his energetic, saxophone driven set and showed fans a different shade of EDM.

Pow! Wow

The Pow Wow this year was hosted by Doobie Brother’s legend Michael McDonald, who brought on different performers song after song.  Solange, Griz, Vulfbeck and members of numerous bands climbed on stage to join the 70’s music icon in celebrating the second running of the festival’s Pow! Wow.

Usher and the Roots Bring the Funk, Rap

The most intriguing act on the lineup was undoubtedly Usher with the Roots.  A rare collaboration from the two was a cant miss opportunity for many, and helped Okeechobee sell out for the second year in a row.

The Surprise Sets at the Incendia Stage

When Okeechobee released the day schedule, there was little talk of the surprise sets that were scheduled to take place in the early hours of each morning.  Ranging from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., the festival’s new stage Incendia played host to a number of exciting performances, while also boasting one of the coolest stage shows.  The stage was flanked by metal spheres in which fans could watch from and also shot fire from above the DJ booth.  This added a cool aesthetic to surprise sets from Griz, Snails, and more.

Anderson .Paak Continues Strong Start Into 2017

If you had to pick one act on the lineup that had the most momentum going into the festival, its hard to argue against Anderson .Paak.  While he didn’t win a Grammy this year for his multiple nominations, he still made a huge impact on the music scene.  Both his 2016 albums Malibu and Yes! Lawd were critically acclaimed, and he was featured on other strong records with artists like Mac Miller and Kaytranada.  His live set at Okeechobee mirrored his strong performance form last year.  When .Paak finished the opening song “Come Down”, he was met at center stage with a minute long standing ovation form fans excited to see the up-and-coming Hip-Hop/R&B crooner.  Whether he was dancing around on stage or playing the drum kit, fans witness one of, if not the strongest performance of the weekend.

Pretty Lights

The last EDM act of Okeechobee was one of the mainstays of the Electronic festival circuit in Pretty Lights.  This time around, he brought his live band set to the folks at the Grove.  As the sun dipped below the tree line and neon lights lit up the trees in the dark, Pretty Lights brought out the wildest light show of the weekend.  While mixing over a live band, Pretty Lights was able to help end the festival on a high note. 

About The Author

LJ Hilberath

Franz “LJ” Hilberath is a Clearwater-native who contributes to Creative Loafing's Music section. He previously served as an intern and is now a freelance contributor for all things music.LJ can be found in the field reviewing concerts and music festivals around the country, and also works interviews for both local...
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