Sunshine Grove opened it's gates early March 1st as The Portal opened once more and Okeechobeings flooded the secluded area in campers and tents. 2018 marked the festival's third year on the 600-acre landscape that hosts not only music, but a tight-knit community spanning generations. Okeechobee is, “a place where all are welcome, a place to get lost and found, a place to discover, and uncover new paradigms with the intention of making the world a better place.”
Okeechobee is divided into two sections: The Grove and The Moonlight Oasis. The Grove is home to the BE, HERE, and NOW stages and is the center of the festival. Moonlight Oasis, on the other hand, is the cultural epicenter of the festival where you can find ChobeeWobee Village and Aquachobee beach. Yoga, workshops, holistic practices, a white sand beach, and smaller performance stages are just some of the hidden gems in the Oasis. From The Grove, to a beach party stage, to nighttime performances at Jungle 51, there is always a set to catch at Okeechobee no matter the time of day; so we're counting back our top five favorite moments from The Portal.
“What's your least favorite song that you can think of off the top of your head?” Halsey asked the crowd Friday night. A massive sea of people had gathered to see the “Bad At Love” artist on the BE stage. “Ok, let me rephrase that question – what's your least favorite song that's secretly like your most fucking favorite song ever?” The crowd jeered back yelling out various song titles. “Oh I'm gonna take you there, but we're gonna do it my way,” she finished before breaking into a haunting, slowed down rendition of her now infamous song “Closer” with The Chainsmokers. Halsey took the upbeat popular track and transformed it into a truly beautiful solo piece to a piano backdrop that the crowd happily sang along with to “we ain't never getting' older.”
7:15 on Saturday evening saw a definitive divide in the crowd as The Flaming Lips took to the BE stage and Blackbear heated things up on the NOW. Singer, Wayne Coyne, stalked the stage, addressing the crowd before the rest of The Flaming Lips joined him. He hoped that, maybe, everyone could come together to truly enjoy themselves during the performance. And if you are normally someone that stands around at a show, maybe, just maybe this would be their night to go “ape shit.” “Your enthusiasm is going to make this thing so much better,” he emphasized. A crescendo overture played and The Flaming Lips kicked into “Race for the Prize” as confetti rained down onto the crowd for the entirety of the first song. Streamers and hundreds of colored beach balls were also tossed into the crowd creating an incredible lively experience. Even those who may never have heard a Flaming Lips song were captivated by the sight. Coyne returned to the stage bringing along a giant silver balloon that read “FUCK YEAH OKEECHOBEE” which sums up not only the performance, but the weekend as a whole.
The Okeechobee Powow! Has hosted guests such as Miguel, John Oates, Skrillex, Solange, Michael McDonald, and more in the past. This year The Roots opened up the Powow but the host was the one and only Snoop Dogg. Snoop performed hits such as “Beautiful” “Gin & Juice” “Drop it Like it's Hot” and “Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang.” Strippers took to poles on either side of the stage and fake money exploded over the crowd rivaling the amount of confetti The Flaming Lips had dropped. The one and only Chaka Khan also graced the stage with The Roots bringing some classic R&B to the mix. As she broke into “I'm Every Woman” she joked that she doubted most of the audience knew her songs, but that didn't keep them from dancing along.
Sofi Tukker took interactive to a whole new level during their set on the NOW stage early Sunday afternoon. The duo, comprised of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, struck radio waves last year with their single “Best Friend.” The set kicked off with some serious Lion King “Circle of Life” vibes that quickly turned to a funky infectious beat that kept the growing crowd dancing. Sofi Tukker then invited three guests onto the stage to perform a dance to their song “Awoo.” The three fans partied with Sofi Tukker on stage during the five minute song concluding in one of them getting sick on stage. “I don't wanna put anyone on the spot,” Halpern laughed. “But one of them just threw up on the stage.” A first, for Sofi Tukker, I'm sure (I hope).
“Everything Now” jackets were seen scattered throughout the crowd from the start of the weekend, but as Arcade Fire closed out the The Grove on Sunday evening, it looked like a company expo launch. Kicking off the set with the quirky song by the same name (off the album with the same name) really drove home that Arcade Fire are a band you're definitely going to dance to. The crowd bounced up and down singing along with vocalist Win Butler while the synth-pop tunes with heavy basslines took over the forest. The visuals during their performance were definitely giving off 70's dance club vibes, with disco and glittering lights filtering through the crowd. The band performed for a lengthy two hours, as the festival goers wound down from the weekend. The nineteen song setlist included notable hits from their previous albums including “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” “No Cars Go” and “Reflektor.”
While these were our favorite moments, they are just quick snapshots from Okeechobee which was a jam-packed weekend of music and more. Other notable performances of the weekend included Bassnectar, in his third consecutive year, Misterwives, Travis Scott, Foster the People, and Zeds Dead. Okeechobee 2018 also hosted “The Big Quiet,” an immersive sound meditation experience, for the first time on the mainstage of an American music festival. This once-in-a-lifetime collaboration included artists from Arcade Fire, Lost in the Trees, Local Natives, Sofi Tukker, and Miami's Frost School of Music Choir. And while there's a little something for everyone in The Portal, nothing compares to riding the Okeechobee Ferris Wheel at sunset while Ganja White Night slays an intimate set at Jungle 51 with only about 10,000 of their closest friends.
Until next time, Sunshine Grove. - Megan Garzone