Though the cold temperatures mostly abated by the time Okeechobee's fourth and final day got underway, windy conditions and dark clouds lingered over the proceedings. They didn't seem to faze the festival attendees (when they finally woke up). Most of the early sets from indie acts like Lucy Dacus were sparsely attended, and not just because everyone was still nursing hangovers after three days of raging. In general, non-electronic acts drew much smaller crowds than the massive EDM and bass acts that attracted the ravers, though plenty turned out for headliner Mumford & Sons.
The festival's last day also saw memorable performances from hip-hoppers Flatbush Zombies and dark-synth duo Ghostland Observatory, as well as Glass Animals. Meanwhile, the dance-oriented Jungle 51 stage hosted a trio of incredible female DJs on International Women's Day.
Here are the highlights from Sunday at Okeechobee Fest 2020:
Though only a few attendees emerged from their tents to catch Miami band Jaialai's day-opening performance, those who did were treated to a very chill time. The group’s beachy psychedelic rock, reminiscent of Beach Fossils or even early Tame Impala on songs such as “Say So” and “Culebra,” provided the perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday afternoon, even if the acid-droppers who might’ve most appreciated the dreamy pedal effects and vocal manipulators were all still asleep. The foursome is local now, but it’s easy to envision the band releasing on a major indie imprint such as Sacred Bones or Captured Tracks and playing to much larger audiences in the future. — Douglas Markowitz
“You look cold and tired. I am too, so I think this will be good,” Lucy Dacus said by way of introduction at the Be stage. Like Jaialai's set, hers was criminally underattended, a trend for indie acts across the festival as hordes of EDM fans flooded to their favorite DJs. Dacus, a singer-songwriter out of Virginia, took it in stride, allowing her low-key, poignant songs to provide subtle catharsis following four long days in Sunshine Grove. The lyrics deal with romantic strife, painful social interactions, disliking oneself, and other everyday dramas, whose impact Dacus downplays with soft vocals, dry banter, and an easy charm. “We’re gonna do a song about flirting,” she said at one point. “Maybe you’ve done it.” Then she launched into a song profoundly suffused with longing and anxiety about simply speaking to another human being. The next intro was even more direct: “I’m afraid of pain, both yours and mine.” The stage was a little too big for Dacus and her band, and the psychedelic visuals playing on the screen behind her didn’t suit the mood. She rose to the occasion nonetheless, producing one of my favorite sets of the weekend. At a certain point, party music gets old, and all you want is for someone to explain what they’re feeling in a song. Dacus filled that void perfectly. And she covered Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” which was all-around cathartic. — Douglas Markowitz
Flatbush Zombies fans were calling for the bandmates to rise from the dead even before they took the stage. The DJ got things going by playing recent trap hits and classics from the likes of Chief Keef and Roddy Ricch to hype up the crowd before the three rappers bounded onstage one after the other. In contrast to the easygoing, genial vibe of Earthgang — the weekend’s other big hip-hop group — Meechy Darko, Erick Arc Elliot, and Zombie Juice displayed pure, unrestrained aggression. Their gritty vocals, streetwise lyrics on songs such as “Vacation in Hell,” dark trap production, and powerful stage presence signaled they came to do one thing only: turn up. For that reason, they were the weekend's best fit for Okeechobee’s vibe of controlled chaos, and they had the massive crowd in the palms of their hands. They weren’t afraid to rap a cappella or play unreleased material — though they did stop short of inviting injury or infection. “If you wanna see me do a front flip in the crowd and risk me getting coronavirus,” Darko said, “y’all gotta give me that energy!” He didn’t jump, but can you blame him for being careful? — Douglas Markowitz
Louisahhh faced a classic DJ dilemma early Sunday evening: What’s a world-class selector to do when there’s no one around to see her do her thing? The answer, seemingly, was simply to have fun with it. The longtime DJ/producer had the honors of opening Jungle 51’s programming the final night of Okeechobee. Chalk it up to the relatively early set time or the collective exhaustion of festivalgoers, but by 7 p.m., few revelers remained beneath the area’s ornate and monolithic DJ booth. A shame, because she was absolutely running it on the decks. Louisahhh came up in dance music during the mid-2000s, a period when genre versatility was a particularly celebrated quality. The trait was on full display during Sunday’s set, which saw Louisahhh traffic in indie-adjacent tracks, along with old-school rave sounds as well as techno and electro selection. In addition to dropping a stripped-down remix of Hot Chip’s “One Life Stand” — and mouthing along to every word of the all-time classic — she also mixed in Scissor Sisters’ 2004 synth-pop spin on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Another rhetorical question: If a DJ performs in a jungle and no one is around to hear it, does she make a sound? — Zach Schlein
Any Okeechobeeans who had contact with the outside world had good reason to feel uneasy going into Sunday evening. As if life in 2020 weren't sufficiently frightening enough, coronavirus fears passed through Okeechobee’s portal to sow unease among guests. As one fester succinctly put it to her friends during Ghostland Observatory’s Sunday-night set: “The whole weekend’s been fuckin’ weird, yo!” The synth-pop duo proved to be the perfect soundtrack to prepare the audience for its nearing return to the scary and upsettingly real world. Accompanied by a stage setup of four LED triangles of varying sizes, the performance at the Now stage felt akin to an occult ritual. Populated as they are by strange desires and tragic figures, the group’s sad synth numbers — think Cold Cave, Depeche Mode, or Ministry’s “Every Day Is Halloween” — resonated all the more heavily at the conclusion of a music festival. A good time was had by all nevertheless, and heads could be seen nodding to the beat even far away from the stage. “Sad Sad City” proved to be a major highlight, resulting in many a glowstick held aloft and even a handful of newcomers rushing over to catch the song as it played out. — Zach Schlein
Glass Animals showed no signs of having recently returned from a two-year hiatus after drummer Joe Seaward sustained life-threatening injuries in a road accident. With seemingly boundless energy, the British four-piece's gregarious frontman, Dave Bayley, charged from one end of the stage to the other, adding appropriately boisterous energy to "Life Itself." He bantered easily with the audience and poked gentle fun at the general level of stonedness (“Some of you guys are pretty high”). Seaward, meanwhile, played barefoot. “Please tell me they’re going to play 'Hazey,'” an audience member uttered just as that very song's dreamy R&B-inspired intro kicked in. “It feels good to be back on the stage, man — it’s been a minute," Bayley understated, taking a moment to soak in the cheers. “It’s good to be here, and this is just the beginning.” The bandmates huddled around Seaward and then broke off to launch into “Poplar Street” from their 2016 sophomore album, How to Be a Human. When all was said and done, the set somehow brought together all the disparate sonic elements of the festival, creating a nexus where big-stage indie rock met synth-heavy electro with a touch of drum circle. My heart stopped when, at the very end, Bayley walked too close to the pyrotechnics. He seemed to get singed, but he walked it off. Here's hoping that outcome is a metaphor for the year ahead, for the band and for all of us. — Olivia McAuley
Mumford & Sons
At a festival rich in electronic music and ear-blasting bass wobbles, Mumford & Sons seemed an odd and strangely conservative act to close out the main stage. Okeechobee-goers didn’t seem to mind, though; the folksy British band's set drew a sizable crowd for one last Be stage hurrah. Perhaps emboldened by the knowledge that they were the only headliner to lead with acoustic guitar and banjo, Marcus Mumford and company ably ran through highlights of the group’s discography, including Sigh No More favorite “The Cave” and “Below My Feet” off of 2012’s Babel. The set offered a series of surprisingly soft tones to see off a weekend of madness, but maybe that was the only way it could have gone: As with all good parties, the comedown is inevitable. — Zach Schlein
There are no half measures for Ellen Allien. The Berlin techno auteur played her three-hour Okeechobee set to perfection, expertly pacing one of the most interesting sonic narratives I’ve seen. Though her performance was on the longer side for this festival (most DJ sets averaged about an hour), Allien was the perfect choice for extended play. Some DJs can get entrenched in keeping the crowd at maximum energy, but Allien was refreshingly unself-conscious and unapologetic about changing things up. She riled up the ravers with intense techno rhythms, only to about-face to a near standstill with ambient melodies she created via sampled harpsichord for a neoclassical vibe. Famous for her 24-hour parties in her hometown, the veteran DJ certainly knows how to keep a party going. So deep was her own immersion in the performance that she moved away from the deck only when she dug the beats so much she couldn't help but dance. — Olivia McAuley
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Maya Jane Coles
On Okeechobee's final day, Jungle 51 handed the reins to three leading women in the underground dance scene: Louisahhh, Ellen Allien, and Maya Coles. It was a fitting gesture that coincided with International Women’s Day and one that was all the more welcome after Aussie electro-pop artist Alison Wonderland had to cancel her set at the Here stage owing to an unspecified illness. By the time Coles got going, the festival's Grove section had shut down, initiating a mass migration to the festival's final destination. As if acknowledging the gravity of the circumstances, she sampled Arabic vocals like a call to prayer. The set dove straight in, dark and deep, driven all the while by an unrelenting bass line. It was a straight-ahead, uncomplicated techno homage that steered the Jungle stage to an unmitigated fever pitch. Neither Coles nor those who heard her call came up for air that night. — Olivia McAuley