At 9 a.m. on day two of the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, campers were awakened by booming bass music. It set the tone for the rest of the day: While some opted for yoga in the tranquil Yogachobee tent, others somehow slept through the din, rousing themselves only for the musical itinerary to recommence at 1 p.m., when 305 locals Los Wizzards and Richie Hell overcame the glaring sun to deliver impressive performances. The weekend then officially kicked into full swing with sets from hip-hop artist Gunna, Big Gigantic, Moon Boots, and other acts. Though some Okeechobeings may have mistaken the sighting of a fireball in the sky for rogue pyrotechnics, it was in fact the Space X rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
Here are the highlights from the second day of Okeechobee:
Miami six-piece band Los Wizzards battled its way to its 30 minutes on the festival's Be stage by taking first place in the Destination Okeechobee competition earlier this year at the Ground. The Latin fusion-meets-ska outfit's spot was well earned, and there was no holding back when the bandmates took the stage Friday. Their outfits — matching graffiti-splashed white pleather jackets and white pants — were a bold choice on an 85-degree day when the midday sun beat down punishingly. Bolder still was their performance: a no-holds-barred spectacle of kinetic energy. Founder Wizzmer (guitar), Juseph Ballestero (drums), Alex Coombs (trumpet), Rafael Querales (bass), David Rodriguez (sax), and Samy Hawk played their respective instruments with such verve that spectators' eyes began to cross in an effort to catch each move (and it wasn't just the heat and booze). At one point, Wizzmer pulled off a full split, only to be quickly outdone by Coombs, who went into a backbend from a standing position while pulling off a harmony. Coombs and Hawk closed the set by jumping into the crowd and breakdancing with the audience. In case anyone had forgotten that these oh-so-Miami musicians hailed from the 305, they finished by ripping off their jackets to reveal Heat jerseys. — Olivia McAuley
Having an early slot at a festival is hard. The crowds are still mostly asleep after having raged all night, and the stragglers who do turn up seem to be killing time while they wait for a bigger act. Miami electronic artist Richie Hell had this unwanted honor Friday afternoon, but he did wonders with what he got. Hell's distinctly tropical electronic music, full of Latin rhythms and cheeky samples, along with his psychedelic, hieroglyphic-style visuals — spirals, kabuki masks, even an inflatable cobra — created a jungle atmosphere that was both mysterious and relaxing. Revelers could dance to it, nod their heads while lying in front of the Now stage, or even, as some decided to do, play pickup soccer. Now that's one way to start the festival day. — Douglas Markowitz
Several odd sights were seen during Moon Boots' set at the Here stage Friday night: the Bible that sat unattended on a nearby table; not one, not two, but three families with young children, one of whom was brandishing those light-filled ball things that ravers like to twirl (the precocity!). But the most arresting sight was the girl in the zebra-striped cowgirl hat and bejeweled jacket being cheered on by her friends (clad in cow-print onesies) to kick up a dust storm through her fancy footwork. Go off, queen! Such sideshow scenes were an appropriate complement to the sonic wares the DJ/producer was selling. Moon Boots nimbly navigated the sounds of nu-disco and a touch of blog house for the slightly older ravers and even found time to incorporate some positively symphonic string samples. In a beautiful moment of confluence, he briefly mixed in Lil Louis' legendary "French Kiss." It's impossible to know whether Moon Boots attended Louis' you-had-to-be-there show on Okeechobee first day, but that fleeting day-two hat tip was a thrilling moment that prompted this writer to overcome his depleting energy reserves to cut a rug on the grassy turf. Moon Boots proved more than worthy of his artistic moniker: He gets feet off the ground. — Zach Schlein
Certified by Young Thug with a guest spot on "Floyd Mayweather" in 2016 and staking his own claim as a hip-hop artist to watch with his mixtape "Drip Season 3" two years later, Gunna has been working hard to reach rap's top ranks. He was greeted by a surprisingly large turnout when he headed onstage, considering the early hour (8:20 p.m.). Then again, given that he was one of the few hip-hop acts at Okeechobee, it's only natural that partygoers would crave a change of pace. With his DJ serving as a central anchor on a podium placed center stage, Gunna took charge stage with uncharacteristically high energy. "This is some real shit!" he yelled before the Asian-inspired string intro of "Who You Foolin" played; the drop incited the first (much needed) twerking session I've witnessed so far at Okeechobee. Fire throwers perfectly timed the start of "Drip Too Hard," a recent collaboration with Lil Baby that was nominated for a "Best Rap/Song Performance" Grammy. The sole sour note occurred when the rapper exited 15 minutes early to clear the stage for his DJ to play a song he'd "just produced." The crowd immediately began filing out — albeit with smiles on their faces. — Olivia McAuley
Computer-game graphics raced across the LED screens framing the instrumental-electronic duo Big Gigantic, as the words 'let the games begin' relayed a foreboding message. Fireworks exploded skyward — signifying, perhaps, that the weekend portion of the festival had officially begun. It's incredible, really, that I was punched in the face only once as the enormous congregation of fans appeared seemingly out of nowhere, clamoring for a good vantage point. A live brass section elevated the set to new heights, adding texture to the outfit's already dynamic sound. Dominic Lalli, reed man and DJ to Jeremy Salken's masterful drums, melted into a sax solo, steering the sonic experience on an intergalactic voyage to contemporary-jazz cyberspace. The track "Good Times Roll," a collaboration between the duo and fellow EDM auteur GRiZ played out the set. "That wasn't Big Gigantic," gasped two girls as they left, open-mouthed. "That was Bass Gigantic!" — Olivia McAuley
Nora En Pure
Festivalgoers turned out in full force for Nora En Pure's swing at the Here stage's decks, despite a precipitous drop in temperature that was felt all around the Okeechobee grounds late Friday night. She kicked things off at 11 p.m. on the dot with a dreamy take on Phil Collins' pop classic "In the Air Tonight." The rest of her set followed suit, with selections that landed on the more dramatic side of the sonic spectrum. Though Pure's performance lacked the funk found at other Okeechobee DJ sets, it was impossible not to immerse oneself in her vision of a post-EDM deep-house world. — Zach Schlein
He's the headliner for good reason. DJ Lorin Ashton, better known as Bassnectar, has earned a legion of loyal fans who arrive for his sets hours early to get up front and shake the railings. Even from a distance, you can see the fearsome might of this massive assemblage: With their totems and flashing lights hoisted in the air like banners of war, the Bassheads look like an army prepared to do battle. Onstage, amid a barrage of lasers, pyrotechnics, and seizure-inducing imagery, Bassnectar serenaded his forces with a raw, high-tempo mixture of heavy drum 'n' bass hits, grinding and squelching melodies, and militant hip-hop and grime vocals. Unlike a lot of superstar DJs, Bassnectar doesn't mix his tracks but plays them one after another, the gaps making his sets feel like a studio album performed live. And unlike a lot of the DJs you won't be seeing at Ultra, a bit more is at play, structurally and texturally, in these tracks than the standard, boring rise-and-drop routine into which so much EDM falls. It's not trendy music, but then again, these are not trendy people wilding out to it. Their fealty is something you can understand only when you witness a set in person: the aggressive music, the euphoric crowd, the countless lights and colors in the dark (and, undoubtedly for many, the drugs). I'll never feel a part of this scene, but I gained respect for it this weekend. There's a part of me, if I abandoned all of my pretentious tastes and inhibitions, that could sincerely get down to this. When it comes down to it, "Bassnectar" doesn't refer to a single DJ. It's everything in front of and around him, the total experience. It's Gesamtkunstwerk: a total work of art. Maybe it's great art, maybe it's not, but it's art all the same. That much is undeniable. — Douglas Markowitz
After Bassnectar wrapped up at the Be stage, fans filtered over to the Here stage, stationed under a massive, colorful canopy not unlike Ultra's Resistance Megastructure or Coachella's Gobi Tent, to see Kaskade. I was told by a friend that I had to wait only three or four songs for the DJ colossus to play his biggest hit, "In Your Eyes." Fool that I am, I fully expected a Peter Gabriel sample to be deployed in said song. To be honest, I didn't hear much of anything as distinctive or exciting as the former Genesis frontman's voice in Kaskade's set. He played a bunch of LIV-ready house tracks one after another, exhibiting no originality or discernible expertise for mixing. Which is to say I think "In Your Eyes" was the fourth cut, but by then, I was already so bored and the tent was so packed and so acrid with weed smoke that it barely mattered. As I left, Kaskade, commenting about the cold weather, wondered if we were really in Florida. It was a deeply obvious joke — just as banal as his set — and I had no patience for it. So I left. On a cold night like this one, the warm embrace of one's sleeping bag beats a DJ set that might as well have been phoned in. — Douglas Markowitz
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