Dirty ankles, warm beer, tank-top sunburns, and never-ending groove. Yes, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival is in full swing. Once again, the quiet community of Sunshine Grove is filled with tens of thousands of hip-hop heads, beat freaks, rock jocks, and all manner of folks looking for a good time.
The party started Friday in the campgrounds as friends wandered the makeshift tent villages, which are named for texting slang terms. Partiers of all ages made BRB, NBD, and IMHO into temporary homes. Strangers shared coffee and bacon with their neighbors, and soon crowds were cracking open the PBRs.
Music filled the air at 12:15 p.m., and a few wide-eyed dancers moseyed through the gates to catch Yardij and CBDB. Dubstep dynamo 12th Planet delivered a sonic boom at 2:15 p.m. and set the tone for mayhem. The sun was scorching but couldn't match the blistering bass of his energetic mix of dance and hip-hop.
Folks at Aquachobee — a "daytime swimming, hanging, and music chill zone," according to the festival — were bobbing their heads and chanting along with rapper Pell. He bounced across the stage, cueing the audience to sing the chorus of “Got It Like That.” An even larger crowd formed under the spell of Haywyre's future-bass melodies. One woman in the crowd was giving free henna tattoos, while a man did his best walking-on-the-moon impression in a full astronaut costume.
The band Louis the Child showed its roots and dropped some Phoenix at the Now stage, while just around the corner, Waka Flocka Flame delivered his brash and bossy punk rap with high-octane intensity. “Fuck Donald Trump,” he yelled between shouts of “brick squad.” With his energetic blend of dance and hip-hop, he's the perfect artist for a festival like this. The place was damn near ready to explode by the time he went in on “Hard in the Paint.”
Snakehips had the Now stage reaching euphoric new heights, and BadBadNotGood helped the hordes get lost in the music. Mac DeMarco supplemented his jizz-jazz-style solo work with an endearing – if sometimes horrifying – stage presence and bizarre extracurriculars. The pepperoni playboy punctuated cuts from 2 and his 2015 EP, Another One, with onstage banter that’d make even the most hardened sourpuss crack a smile. After an audience member made the time-honored request for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird,” DeMarco and bandmates led the crowd in a chant of “Freebird” — “Why haven’t we thought of that before?” he asked. Later, he closed with a cover of Steely Dan's “Reelin' in the Years,” an appropriate shout-out to Saturday night's scheduled powwow with Michael McDonald.
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“The bass was whack, but Flume was dope,” one man said after the Australian superstar producer's headlining set. The volume of the speakers was set strangely low, and audience members in the back could hear one another singing along to his genre-defining drops. Fans were still all too happy to hear his remix of Disclosure's “You & Me” and his Vince Staples collab “Smoke & Retribution” despite the awkward levels.
Flume's finish seemed to mark a philosophical fork in the road for Okee peeps. You either started your trek back to the campsite to get some shuteye, or you wandered into the late night toward the wilderness of Jungle 51. Kim Ann Foxman was a good reason to stay up, playing a set as heavy on acid as it was light on vocals. It was simultaneously a shame and a special treat that Foxman, like other Jungle 51 performers, was relegated to a late-night set. She effortlessly maneuvered between tribal sounds, a faux-John Carpenter soundtrack, and retro drums that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Todd Terje track.
Umfang then beat bleary-eyed music fans into the blurry night. At 6 a.m., it was all over. Everyone headed off for some sleep. They knew Saturday would be a big day.