I, like most people, was a bit taken aback when I saw the lineup for the inaugural Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival (OMAF). Mumford & Sons, Skrillex and Kendrick Lamar all headlining? At first glance it seemed like a festival with an identity crisis. Most things that attempt to please everyone fall short of pleasing anyone.
Though it was only the first day, OMAF is off to a great start at proving that it is, in fact, possible to put together an extremely diverse and top-notch lineup that caters to music lovers of all types. Really though, what else would you expect from the people who put on Bonnaroo? This isn’t their first rodeo and that shined through on the logistics side of things.
Our day started with Robert Plant. I had high hopes for the former lead singer of Led Zeppelin and he managed to exceed them. Considering the man is pushing 70 and all the years of wailing, touring, groupies and drugs had inevitably taken their toll, he still managed to deliver an incredible performance. The front man lead his group Robert Plant and The Sensational Shape Shifters, mostly out of Bristol, England and all extremely talented in their own right, as they served up a set of new Shape Shifter’s jams and Led Zeppelin classics. The pinnacle of his performance was “Going To California”, which sent the crowd into a frenzy as soon as the opening melody began. While I wasn’t around to experience Led Zeppelin in their prime and Plant understandably opted for some lower notes instead of wailing and belting out the high ones, his voice was still on point.
After that we made our way to the “Now” stage to catch Lil Dicky. Now even though his subject matter is comical and he doesn’t take himself seriously, this Jewish rapper has the skill set to contend with most lyricists. Everything from his cannonball into the rap game with “Ex-Boyfriend“, which earned over a million Youtube views in less than a day to his latest release of Professional Rapper prove he’s more than capable of writing and spitting hot fire. He doesn’t mind poking fun at himself and is pretty irreverent towards the rap establishment, which always makes for an entertaining performance. He took to the stage with an MC and DJ and after leading the crowd in the “Star Spangled Banner”, launched into “How Can I Become A Bawlaa”. He then reminded me why I hope I never have a daughter by pulling a girl clad in fishnets and a black bodysuit on stage (after asking if she was 18 of course) and proceeded to grind on her during his rendition of “Lemme Freak“.
Next up was Hall & Oates, who I wanted to see out of sheer curiosity and they ended stealing the show. Daryl Hall, who’s still extremely active in the music community and regularly hosts jam sessions aptly titled Live From Daryl’s House stood behind his keyboard while his magnificent mane blew in the breeze that had started to pick up. Backed by three percussionists, a bass player and a man glad in a gold sequined jacket who happened to be the most phenomenal saxophone and flute player I’ve ever heard. There was a minor issue with the sound from Hundred Waters, who was performing on the adjacent stage, bleeding into the audience of this stage, but that was remedied by moving more towards center stage.
They played all of their hits, save for a few and exited the stage before coming back for an encore which consisted of “Rich Girl” and “You Make My Dreams Come True”. I’ve never seen so many people smiling and dancing at once.
From there it was time to go and see RL Grime, an EDM producer and one of the few DJs who still mixes their sets live. After getting a few shots in the pit, I retreated to the outskirts of the crowd just to take in the sheer spectacle of what was taking place. Festival totems and signs were thrust into the air with reckless abandon as the group collectively lost it to RL Grime’s set, which included a remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Courts”, his original “Core” and his rework of The Weeknd’s “The Hills”, which has blown up, gathering over 17 million listens on Soundcloud.
Finally it was time for Bassnectar. I don’t particularly care for his music, but I was the obvious minority as he managed to pull the largest audience of the night. Thousands of people packed into the “Be” stage and began to scream as the lights dimmed. The experience of standing in the pit before the dozen subwoofers that simultaneously roared to life was surreal and I felt myself sandwiched between thousands of watts of sound and the headbanging bass heads who had staked out front row spots. Again I stepped out of the pit and back just to take in my surroundings: lights and lasers refracted off the CO2, hippies headbanged collectively and fist fulls of glow sticks were sent flying into the crowd at every drop.
We caught a bit of Portugal. The Man on our way out and called it a night, retreating back to the hotel to start sorting through the hundreds of pictures the day had given us.