I went to Okeechobee Festival and it was Pure Magic
When most think of music festivals in this generation, a few things come to mind: Bright lights, crowds of minimally-yet-imaginatively clad twenty-somethings, music reverberating from speakers two stories tall and of course, recreational use of mind-altering substances.
There are almost always extremes, of course, typically between those who see how far they can push their one-to-four-day escape from the real world past the limits of excess and those who float happily from one stage to another, taking in the sights and sounds with their tribe.
So when the Yoga Lifestyles film crew packed up and headed to Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival with newly-minted Media badges to cover the event, we were in for one wild, unexpected ride. Below is my first-hand account of the experience, and how it completely shifted my perspective on music festivals.
Watch the video below from our coverage of Yogachobee to experience it for yourself, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more yoga inspiration and community!
Okeechobee’s Location is A Breath of Fresh Air…Literally
The festival is held in the very appropriately named Sunshine Grove, a 600-acre property in the Southeastern region of Florida nestled between Orlando and Miami, about 45 minutes from the East Coast’s golden beaches. Many Florida natives could easily confuse the scenery with the likes of Midwestern farmland on the drive in, because it truly is in the middle of nowhere.
But that’s the whole point. One weekend in March per year, this unassuming stretch of land transforms into a fully immersive experience with interactive art installations, LED-draped forests decorated with hammocks, lively campgrounds, local vendors and an impressive sound and stage setup that would have Michael Bay taking notes. Aside from the campground, the venue is divided into two main areas: Moonlight Oasis and the Grove. In the former, you’ll find the decadently curated community of experiences.
This includes Aquachobee, a laid-back beach area to lay out in the sand and cool off in the lake; Chobewobee Village, a cultural mecca of art, refreshments, handmade goods and a very psychedelic forest channeling Alice-in-Wonderland complete with upside down furniture; and Yogachobee, the experience we originally set out to cover, where yoga classes, meditation, drum circles and workshops are held throughout the day.
The Grove is the epicenter of the festival, where the main stages host the performers throughout the weekend. It has three stages, named “Be,” “Here,” and “Now.” Each one has its own contagious vibe, with “Be” being the largest stage and the focal point of the area. Peppered around The Grove’s perimeter are stands selling local fare for campers to refuel between performances, and the selection is anything but ordinary.
There’s vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free options as well as comfort food. One of my most noteworthy meals was a hearty bowl of lobster mac and cheese, and it stacked up against what you’d find in a sit-down restaurant.
Yogachobee & The Big Quiet was a Revelation
I mentioned we initially went to Okeechobee Festival for Yogachobee, and I was seriously impressed with how integrated it was with the event. I was expecting a make-shift lean-to that could hold maximum a dozen people, shoved off into a corner patch of the venue to collect dust and be forgotten.
Not so! Yogachobee, as well as the other experiences throughout the festival, were well thought out down to the details to give an authentic, unique atmosphere. Yogachobee’s layout consisted of a tent that could comfortably hold at least 75, with a sound stage at its center and flanked by vendors selling eco-friendly clothing and trinkets.
The itinerary was also packed. At any given time, you’d find a variety of yoga classes and workshops happening, ranging from Acro yoga, all-levels Vinyasa, sunrise meditation… the list goes on. Check out the video at the beginning of the article to see for yourself, it captures some amazing connections we witnessed!
But to me, the most impressive wellness-focused event was the mass meditation held by the Big Quiet. For the first time, Okeechobee Festival hosted an experience centered around meditation on the Main Stage of a US music festival. A little background: The Big Quiet is a mass meditation movement that hosts large group meditations combined with unique musical performances across the country, with previous events in iconic landmarks like Central Park, Madison Square Garden and One World Observatory.
I watched as several hundred festival-goers gathered, sat peacefully on blankets and became a collective of stillness and breath as we were guided through the meditation. Onstage, several instruments and voices including guest violin from Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld and Lost In The Trees’ Jenaivieve Varga melted their music together to create an immersive soundscape that reverberated across the field.
This was considered a once-in-a-lifetime collaborative experience, but I hope to see something like this again. It was powerful, enlightening, and really set Okeechobee apart as a festival with equal parts music, art and culture.
The Headliners were Show-stopping and Diverse
I love live music, and can appreciate why so many people flock to music festivals to see some of their favorite performers all in one concentrated dose. According to the general public, the headliners naturally determine how well-received a music festival is. What was interesting about this lineup was that it wasn’t all specific to one genre.
I’m used to seeing the familiar faces of EDM, Reggae or alternative rock on their own respective, eclectically designed flyers. Okeechobee Festival was an exception, bringing together a melting pot of talent, and it just worked. There was a little of dubstep and house such as Zed’s Dead and Bassnectar; indie favorites like Foster the People and Arcade Fire, mainstream sensations like Halsey and Slightly Stoopid, and even hip hop like Snoop Dog and Travis Scott.
No matter what you’re into, you’ll find something that pique’s your interest. And worst-case scenario if you’re one of those unfortunate souls who hate music and for one reason or another get dragged along to this festival, you’ll hear something in passing by that you’ll at least recognize.
The Art was Immersive and Decadent
One of my favorite things about this festival was interviewing the local artists responsible for the installations. I discovered that each artist had three days to put together their displays, some of which were elaborate mixed-media pieces such as a saber-tooth tiger made of scrap metal, paintings, sculptures made from resources found in the campground and even an elevated platform encircled with cloth, which gave a serious nod to Burning Man.
There were plenty of interactive exhibits too, like an intricate teepee where campers sought shade from the afternoon sun a series of wood panels you could look through and see “a portal” to another perspective.
It should also be noted that music festival “season” typically takes place in the summer, and if you aren’t familiar with Florida’s climate, it will take all of five minutes in the scorching 90-plus degree heat to see what I mean. Okeechobee Festival is held in March, considered one of Florida’s driest months where temperatures climb up to 80, but can cool down to 56.
This makes for a very pleasant camping experience and worth checking out if you’re looking for a break from the major festivals in the summertime. Would I go back? You better believe it.