Seven local acts will fight for a place in paradise when the Destination Okeechobee battle of the bands hits the Ground next Thursday, February 13. The competition's winning prize is a 30-minute slot at Okeechobee Music Festival in March. Each act will have 15 minutes to impress the crowd and two judges, and as if the promise of catching many of South Florida's most exciting musical acts under one roof wasn't enough, one voting audience member will win a ticket to the camping festival.
Here's the lowdown on the artists vying for a spot at Okeechobee:
Besides being the only solo artist participating in the battle of the bands, Markus Caesar — who records under the name ArtLoveTrap — also enjoys the distinction of having played at Okeechobee in the past. During the festival's 2018 iteration, he performed with his then-band Free Dystopia at the Pyramid Palace, a small stage on the festival grounds. When his first EP, Colorblind, debuted last year, ArtLoveTrap flew solo with his jazz, funk, and soul-infused strain of hip-hop. He names Curtis Mayfield, Outkast, and Lenny Kravitz as some of the artists who inspire his songs and attempts to “bring forth the culture and evolution of music.” ArtLoveTrap will be the only hip-hop act competing at Destination Okeechobee, a point of pride for the artist. “I used to find myself in the dilemma where I was too hip-hop for rock shows and too rock for hip-hop shows,” he says. “But now I’ve come to this space that I can create music comfortably.”
Whether it's through their Spanglish music or seven multicultural bandmates, Los Wizzards can make a strong claim to embodying Miami's diverse nature. The band’s founder, Wizzmer, collected members bit by bit during open-mike nights in 2016. The group performs original songs, such as “Spanglish Love” from its upcoming album, in addition to Miami-fied reinterpretations of popular hits. With a drummer, bassist, guitarist, rapper, and three horn players, Los Wizzards blend funk and pop to create high-energy music that Wizzmer says has led some observers to call them the Magic City equivalent of Bruno Mars. “The sound we are creating is [meant] to include everyone,” Wizzmer says. “We aren’t playing for one part of the city; we are playing for everyone.”
The Polar Boys
Three-fourths of the Polar Boys have known one another since middle school, where they experimented with Beatles covers as a three-piece jazz band. In 2017, the indie-pop act evolved from performing covers to composing original songs. “When we first started, we had this Beach Boys, Beatles persona, and I think you can definitely hear it in the earlier music,” lead singer Andy Zambrana says. His hazy vocals complement the band's dreamy bass lines, especially on recent releases such as “Intro” and “Nothing Has Changed.” These newer singles build on the group’s classic pop-rock roots by incorporating Steve Lacy-inspired indie-rock guitar work into its sound. The Polar Boys have yet to release an album or EP but recently toured with fellow Miami rock band Cannibal Kids.
What started off as a jazz band built from shared experiences of cutting class and performing at family events has blossomed into Remyz, a group playing funky pop and R&B. The guys have been jamming to smooth songs with groovy guitar melodies since 2014. “We can go into different lanes of R&B, have funk influences, but still have a pop sensibility,” Remyz guitarist Oscar Familia says. Stage presence is a top priority for the bandmates, who take inspiration from accessible rock acts such as John Mayer and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The group tailors its performances to sit at the nexus of relaxation and hype. The quintet has never performed at a music festival before, and Familia says if they prevail at the competition, the win is bound to kick off a wave of inspiration and motivation for the band. “It’ll light a fire under our butts like no other,” Familia says.
The lead guitarist of the Summit, Timothy LaRoque, transferred to South Broward High School as a junior and began piecing the band together by forging friendships in his concert band and jazz band classes. As he and his friends' high school journey came to an end in spring 2018, the Summit began to branch out with original songs and out-of-school performances. A year later, the band released its first album, Def Cat. Although primarily influenced by classic rock, LaRoque explains he is influenced by everything he heard as a child. ”The Beatles, those are our gods,” LaRoque says. Pop-rock elements shine through in songs such as “Two-Way Ave” and “The Shelf.” At the battle of the bands, the Summit's usual four-person setup will play with the addition of honorary band member Steve Miller, a guitarist with the Treetops. “For us, musicianship is a big thing,” LaRoque says. “Every single one of our songs has a solo, so we’re trying to bring back the solos.”
Supergold came together when half of the band stumbled across the other via search flyers plastered around Florida Atlantic University. Although there have been a few tweaks in the lineup, the core group of five has been together since August 2018. Last year, the bandmates released their first EP — Paris, Texas — and toured throughout Florida, Tennesse, and North Carolina. Supergold songs such as “Moneylover” and “Alligator” display a keenness for indie rock and contrast plucky electric guitar parts against dark vocals. Lead vocalist Alex Alston prioritizes live performances over studio wizardry and production tricks in his songwriting process. “I think when we’re playing: How is this going to translate?” he says. “What’s going to feel right playing in front of people?”
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Tasty Vibrations started off as a duo: guitarist Max Accetta and lead vocalist Sean De Beltrand. The two then linked up with the rest of the bandmates through a kava bar most of them frequented. Accetta, who has played the guitar for nearly 15 years, explains that each member has accrued years of experience on a range of instruments, allowing for each musician to bring a variety of influences to the table. In 2019, Tasty Vibrations released its first EP, Cave Man. The five-song project blends alternative rock with traces of funk, reggae, and jam-band influences. More than any of the other competitors at Destination Okeechobee, Tasty Vibrations’ sound is the most island-ready. “Our thing is to make sure we don’t overplay because we do like to jam,” Accetta says. “We can get a little carried away with it.”