So you've decided to make the multihour drive north to the middle of nowhere to spend three days and four nights listening to music in a field. Let's assume you want this to be good music. Well, New Times can help you. Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival will return this March following a one-year hiatus, and we're breaking down the best acts on the 2020 bill for you, the Miamian of discerning taste. We know a thing or two about previewing and reviewing Florida music festivals, and Okeechobee is no exception. We promise we wouldn't steer you wrong (at least not deliberately).
Here are ten acts worth checking out at this year's edition of Okeechobee:
As with many of her indie-pop contemporaries, Claire Cottrill's songs as Clairo wrap a maelstrom of conflicted emotions in a warm blanket of pleasant sound. Although lyrics on songs such as "4ever" and the hit single "Bags" speak to the anxiety and ambivalence of young adulthood, Cottrill's soothing voice and gentle guitar provide a perfect counter to her sense of doubt. For those of us who aren't into feeling sad and confused, she has also performed a string of features for more explicitly electronic artists such as Charli XCX and Mura Masa. Clairo is scheduled to play at Okeechobee this Saturday.
Is this Atlanta hip-hop duo the second coming of Outkast? Some observers say comparing the team of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot to Big Boi and André 3000 is unfair, but it's not an unflattering comparison. Both rappers clearly derive inspiration from the lightning-fast flow and witty wordplay of Sir Lucious Left Foot and Three Stacks, and their production frequently feels very Southern-fried. They're also part of the Spillage Village collective with R&B crooner 6lack, fellow tongue-twisting rapper and J. Cole's Dreamville Records labelmate JID, and others. If you miss Earthgang's show at the Ground this Wednesday, you'll get a chance to check them out at Okeechobee.
Ellen Allien will be pulling double duty the weekend of Okeechobee: In addition to DJ'ing in the festival's Jungle 51 area, she'll also mix at Club Space alongside fellow techno queen Charlotte de Witte. However, it'll make for a nice change of pace to catch her amid lush greenery rather than the urban scenery of downtown Miami. Allien arguably has one of the most enviable CVs in all of dance music: ten albums, more than two dozen EPs, and residencies at the likes of Tresor, E-Werk, and the Bunker, all legendary Berlin techno clubs. Her DJ style is an uncompromising, expertly mixed barrage of hard, heavy techno. Enough said.
Brooklyn isn't just the home of hipster coffee shops and socialist podcasts. It's also the site of a truly trippy hip-hop scene fronted by the likes of Joey Bada$$, Kirk Knight, and the tremendous trio known as Flatbush Zombies. Comprising rappers Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick Arc Elliot, the group translates its members' lives on the gritty streets of "Bklyn" into druggy, macabre rap on albums such as Vacation in Hell and last year's Escape From New York. They're also a part of Beast Coast — a NYC rap supergroup composed of the Zombies, Joey Bada$$'s Pro Era collective, and fellow Flatbush natives the Underachievers. You can watch the Zombies come to life Sunday.
This guy is so much more than "French Kiss," one of the seminal documents from the original era of Chicago house: Marvin Burns, AKA Lil Louis, was one of the first DJs to play disco in the Windy City. As the genre fell out of vogue and house rose to take its place as Chicago's nightlife soundtrack of choice, he began producing tracks for labels such as Dance Mania and Diamond Records. The 1989 track "French Kiss," with its iconic midsong slowdown and amorous sample, became his biggest international hit. Since then, he's been rightfully celebrated as a house music pioneer and was even name-dropped by Daft Punk in "Teachers" as one of the duo's canonical inspirations. In 2015, he suffered severe damage in his left ear after a soundcheck mishap in Manchester. Fortunately, his hearing loss hasn't stopped him from taking to the decks. He has since declared, "Even if I can only hear with one ear, I’ll play twice as loud so you can feel it." He'll share his love of loud music and strange sounds with Okeechobee-goers Thursday night.
As part of the formidable trio Boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, Richmond, Virginia, native Lucy Dacus is a major player in the recent wave of female-led indie rock acts that includes Soccer Mommy, Japanese Breakfast, and Snail Mail among its ranks. However, she's also a fierce solo artist in her own right. On her albums Historian and No Burden, she engages in insightful songwriting on topics such as grief, loss, and the difficulty of maintaining relationships. If that sounds too heavy for you, she has an EP of holiday covers. Get you somebody who can do both! Dacus will play Sunday.
Maya Jane Coles
This London artist's iconic single "What They Say" is one of those songs that's immediately recognizable even if you don't know its name offhand. It's the organ riff that does it, placing the track right within a specific, hard-to-pinpoint moment of U.K. underground house that followed dubstep but preceded Disclosure. For Coles herself, the track was simply a jump-start to a prolific DJ and production career. She has put out two LPs and a couple dozen EPs, and one could start an argument over which one of her BBC Essential Mixes is the best. She's also a prolific remixer and has reinterpreted tunes by the likes of Little Dragon, Flume, Maceo Plex, the xx, Depeche Mode, and many others. She'll perform in Okeechobee's Jungle 51 area Sunday.
Unless you're here for the likes of Bassnectar and Kaskade, Friday is a little sparse for fans of dance music that falls outside the EDM umbrella. Thankfully, Soul Clap is here to give us the funk. The duo of Eli Goldstein ("Elyte") and Charles Levine ("Cnyce") is arguably the biggest electronic act to come out of Boston, where the two hosted techno parties in Irish pubs early on in their career. Since then, they've become big names on the international DJ circuit thanks to their canny, eclectic mixes of house, techno, soul, R&B, and anything else that'll tear up a dance floor.
There's a serious case to be made that Ezra Koenig and company are the biggest contemporary rock band in America. Vampire Weekend's 2019 album, Father of the Bride, recently won the band a Grammy (its second) for Best Alternative Album over the likes of Bon Iver, Big Thief, Thom Yorke, and James Blake. The group's tour in support of the album, which stopped in Miami last August, also had several sell-out dates, including one at Madison Square Garden. Even if you already saw the band at the James L. Knight Center, one can argue that Vampire Weekend's newest sonic iteration is best experienced at a festival such as Okeechobee. Look no further than the bright, '70s-rock-inspired arrangements on Father of the Bride and the troubled lyrics on songs such as "Harmony Hall" and "Sympathy." There's also the turn the band has taken into jams: Ezra and the gang did an extended version of "Sunflower" at the Knight Center, and they'll lead Okeechobee's PoWoW! jam session Saturday in addition to headlining the same day.
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No, this is not another SoundCloud rapper: Yung Bae is the leading light of a movement called "future funk," a blend of modern house with classic disco and Japanese city pop that emerged in the wake of vaporwave. Bae basically realized that the weird chopped-and-screwed samples of old pop music sounded pretty good on their own, so he added modern drums and effects such as filters to come up with a new take on a classic sound. The Sailor Moon-inspired cover art on most of his releases is a bonus. Bae will play Saturday.
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2020. With Vampire Weekend, Bassnectar, Mumford & Sons, and others. Thursday, March 5, through Sunday, March 8, in Sunshine Grove, 12517 NE 91st Ave., Okeechobee. Tickets cost $279 to $599.99 via okeechobeefest.com.