Okeechobee Music Festival 2017 Winners and Losers

At times, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival felt like a tale of two worlds. There were the relatively clean VIPs and artists, and then there were the smelly, dirt-rotting GA camping hordes. There were the shoe-gazing, indie-darling, folk-music hipsters, and then there were the rabble-rousing, totem-touting professional festie dwellers.

Most of the weekend went off without a hitch, but there were some decided winners and losers this weekend. We break it down for you below.

One of Okeechobee's many sexy sax men.
One of Okeechobee's many sexy sax men.
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Winners

Sax solos
Sax players were the real stars of so many performances. George Clinton had a mean soloist in Parliament Funkadelic. Griz let the sax sexiness fly during his band's set and then again when he and his group joined Michael McDonald for the PowWow. The Roots, of course, brought some sexy sax lovin' to their set with Usher, and everywhere at the fest, it seemed sax players were getting their due shine. You get it, sexy sax men.

Horse Girl
No one in the whole festival was as happy as the woman who climbed inside a horse installation made of wrapped wire. We have no idea how she got inside the installation, and we have no idea how she got out, but if you had seen the light radiating from her face the moment before she realized she was trapped, you too would have considered it a win.

Queen Solange & co.
Queen Solange & co.
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Solange
Watching Solange and her crew perform Saturday evening was like watching a perfectly framed and composed still image breathed to life. Every move, clap, and sashay was immaculately staged and choreographed. Unfolding under the watchful gaze of a single blood-red circle suspended at the center of the stage, the show – undoubtedly rehearsed – appeared effortless. It was a live photographer’s wet dream.

The only thing more satisfying than hearing A Seat at the Table perform live is watching a crowd of people collectively lose their shit to “Losing You,” Solange’s career-defining 2012 track. From the moment the song's relentless groove kicked in and hands were raised in ecstatic recognition of the track's strong punctuation of a conclusion, Solange, her band, and the audience briefly embodied the joy, the wonder, and the unity that only pop music can offer.

Usher: let the squealing beginL
Usher: let the squealing beginL
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Our inner teenage girls
It doesn't matter who you are — young or old, man or woman — when you hear Usher get onstage and start singing “You Got It Bad” or “Let It Burn,” you turn into a squealing 13-year-old girl. We were lived out or middle-school dance dreams when the legendary singer crooned through beautiful renditions of his biggest hits with the impeccable backing of the Roots' band. A woman nearby actually cried out, “Is this fan-girling? I think I'm fan-girling.” Honey, we all were.

Rave on, rave girl.
Rave on, rave girl.
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Bass heads
Bass heads were the undeniable kings and queens of Okeechobee's second year. Any time you book Bassnectar anywhere, these dirty hippie ravers — like bassier versions of Deadheads — come out covered in wire-wrapped crystals trying to sell you decorative pins and various glass smoking devices. It's disappointing when only a few hundred gather for Solange yet tens of thousands flock from stage to stage to listen to the same bass-heavy style of music for three days in a row, but they crave the nastiness, and they are living that life to the fullest. Good for you, you hoop-twirling, booty-shaking weirdos.

Cousin Antoine
Whoever that guy was on the mike during Michael McDonald's PowWow, he was a bloody genius. Clearly inebriated and winging it, the MC had the audience cracking up between tunes before the mike was finally taken away. Cousin Antoine, thank you for your services.

Dust-conscious fashion
Dust-conscious fashion
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Losers

Palm Tree
Before Solange took her rightful place on the stage, the decidedly not-bass-head crowd turned on a hapless totem-holder. Right by the front of the stage, someone waved a fallen palm frond, but everyone else decided that shit had to go. An angry chant of “put the tree down” and a few thrown beer cans and glowsticks succeeded in shaming the totem-holder into submission. That's not the reason Solange started her set 30 minutes late, but it did make for a very interesting moment of people-watching.

Our throats
There was so much damn dust, not that there is much that can be done about a woody, grassy area in Okeechobee. Still, between the dust, the dirt, the screaming, and the days of consecutive smoke sessions, no one who attended this festival will have full vocal range for a week. Festival employees handed out handkerchiefs to help curb the amount of dust attendees breathed, and that much is to be commended.

Waiting patiently.
Waiting patiently.
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

The sound
Solange couldn't start her set until 30 minutes after her scheduled time thanks to technical difficulties, but that wasn't the only bit of sound to take issue with. The whole concert was quieter than last year's. Rumor has it that neighbors complained about the noise after the inaugural fest, so all the main-stage speakers were set to lower levels. Flume, the Roots, Kings of Leon, Griz, and Bassnectar all sounded a little soft to attendees in the back. It was easier to hear other concertgoers singing along than it was to get lost in the music. It's tough to find that sweet spot.


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