Words by: Lys Tanzanite
Here is my gift to you.
A few words of gratitude toward the creators of Bonnaroo & Okeechobee Music & Arts Fest,
You will not be able to categorize this article as your typical “music festival review.” I’m not going to talk about this in a traditional format because this is not that kind of music festival.
I’ve spent the last four days attending Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida, and in doing so, gained insights from a true fans perspective.
I fully invested into all of the activities you had to offer,
and I have to say, I see you.
I understand what you are trying to do for our generation; I can feel the energy that you’re putting out. There’s an intention for hope.
Hope that we can learn to connect and grow with each other.
Bare with me, I am going to do something a little different here. I’m going to share with all of you, my personal experience coming to Okeechobee! From the perspective of your sweaty, exhausted, smelly, overwhelmed yet inspired, music festival goer.
The real reason we all dress up and come together to dance like crazy under the enchanting moonlight.
We started this website/publication with the hopes of sharing with people, the truth behind the music. In my previous experience as a freelancer, working for other publications, I was always told not to personalize my articles too much. I was told that it was important to remember that it’s the magazine I am representing, not myself. Now I can understand why that is a good strategy.
But I still want to acknowledge that I have something special here; I have a gift to share with the world. That gift is my way of bringing to LIGHT what is happening through the eyes of the people I like to call, “The Ones In Between.”
So, allow me to share with you glimpse into what it felt like for me at Okeechobee Music Festival 2016 …
Arriving at a camping festival as big as this one, the first thing you want to do is create a stylish fun campsite! Maybe at the same time, slowly introduce yourself to other campers around you. And maybe you’ll start to connect your canopies? Or share some blow-up furniture? Exchange food & drink?
Either way, you begin to plug into your environment. What’s astounding about a gathering like this one, everyone is there for mostly the same reason. We’re so used to these chains society places on our brains that when we go to events like these, we find the ability to break through those chains! We finally get to exchange ideas with like-minded individuals.
Okeechobee did an excellent job making sure that the camps were easy to get maneuver around in. They kept the stages relatively close to everything and that it wasn’t hard to find bathrooms or food.
Upon being welcomed into this festival, each attendee is given a booklet with the schedule, a map, some information about what the festival does to give back and a few words of advice.
The first sentence of the packet read,
“Welcome, wondrous souls, global gypsies, psychonauts, treehuggers, yogis, wondering vagabonds, bass-heads, fearless lovers, and late night dancers! Amongst these trees, whispers can be heard of a time passed, and you Okeechobeings, are here to re-awaken this magical land as it enchants your inner child.”
Now if that doesn’t describe the vibe Okeechobee is trying to set, I’m not sure what would!
One of the most interesting parts of this festival is the way they accommodate to all sorts of demographics. They seemed to have something for everyone, young, old, spiritual or not. You could find your place here, and once you did, the possibilities were endless.
Okee did the right thing when assuming a majority of attendees wouldn’t be arriving until Friday. So they kept the events more subtle on our arrival day (Thursday.) They offered a variety of vendors and activities for all tastes. HSG’s personal favorite was Dome of Flow Art and the Charka Activation/Water Bar, which was offered inside “Spirit Ill,” the Yogachobee area of the festival.
As we awakened on Friday morning we could all feel the excitement in the air; more people were starting to arrive not to mention the lineup of incredible performances taking place that day!
The stages were all aligned, and named “BE,” “HERE,” and “NOW.”
This I found to be so dazzling! After attending and sometimes covering Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Nashville, Tennesse for the last 4 years, I specifically remembered a vastly beautiful sign painted somewhere on the Roo farm that read something similar to that. I even remember having a special moment with that painting where I stuck one of my “you are beautiful” stickers on it. In fact, I still have a photograph of it, here it is!
Okay, okay now that I am back from my Bonnaroo-daze, let’s get back to Okeechobee. The day started with some mellow opening acts and quickly began to pick up once the lovely Grace Potter took the stage. Her vibrant personality and stunning vocals allured people into the venue; you could feel them starting to gather.
From there, we moved over to the, “Now,” stage, where Nahko Bear and Medicine For The People were scheduled to perform. A personal favorite of the HSG tribe!
Did you catch the Sunflower?
We loved Nahkos transition into a more reggae-style performance. There was a particular connection happening in the crowd; people began to let their guards down.
Nahko has that way about him; he shows people balance.
He teaches us not to feel helpless, but to raise our voices. And most importantly, he stands for peace, which is something we can’t get enough of these days.
The evening only continued to get more lively. Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters rocked the, “Be,” stage! The former lead singer from Led Zeppelin gave it all he had, and those mannerisms felt just right! They measured to exactly what you’d expect from a legendary musician such as this one.
As the sun began to set, Daryl Hall & John Oates took the, “Be,” stage. Pairing with Hundred Waters right next door on the, “Here,” stage.
As the sky subtly darkened, people started coming through the trees. I like to call this crowd, the “ones who play with lights.”
RL Grime had people feeling angelic and funky, making weird faces at each other while laughing with friends!
And from there the dancing was underway, as the bass-heads started to gather around the “Be” stage. It was evident by the number of people we saw wearing the Bassnectar symbol throughout the day, that some individuals had come especially for this performance.
Lorin opened with a mind-boggling compilation of Guns & Roses– “Welcome To The Jungle”, and then dropped heavy into, “Heads Up.”
There’s something special about this crowd, something that makes you feel a part of a captivating madness. I don’t know if it comes from the head banging or the release of bass you feel throughout your entire body. Either way, this set was magical.
If you weren’t completely shaken up by this performance, the night concluded with Boston funk band, Lettuce, on the, “Here,” stage. And Alaskan rock band, Portugal The Man ROCKING OUT on the,“Now,” stage.
Can I share with you another festival favorite of mine? The constant chatter and random conversations you partake in just by walking through the crowd.
I want to share a few things the HSG tribe overheard when walking back to our campsite that night.
I hope this gives you, even more, insight into the things that were being discovered all around us.
“If you allow it to be so, the universe will flow through and around you; that ‘s all it wants.”
“I just want to skip!!!!”
“Oh my goodness, I LOVE her Sunflower!!”
“Has anyone seen my TURKEY??”
Oh hey! Look at that, it’s Saturday, and we are only half way through this incredible experience! After a morning yoga session and coffee break, The HSG tribe naturally wanted to find a place to hang their hammocks and chill!
Hammock sessions were made very easy for us at Okeechobee Fest. Deep in the heart of the ChobeeWobee Village was an array of trees they called the “Chai Lounge,” where people got to chill out on some pillows. They could set up their hammocks or even just sprawl out on the ground!
We were welcomed by a bright young woman, serving tea, on the house of course!
Hoop Spirit Guide had a hammock thought session with the beautiful Shelbi Grever, who flew all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah to attend this festival! We asked her what she was enjoying most about this gathering, and this is what she said,
“Okeechobee has been quite magical for me. From the moment we were greeted at a gate, I have felt nothing but love. One thing I’ve truly loved about this festival is the people. Everywhere I look I see smiles on people’s faces, and that automatically puts a smile on my face. I feel like I’m in my element. I can feel the energy of the crowd wherever I am. No one is here to judge. This is the place to escape reality for a few days and that’s exactly what I am doing.”
Ahhhhh, now that was a lovely hammock chill, it’s time to hear some music!
As evening peaked its way in, we decided to have dinner under some trees while jamming to some Lotus and Mac Miller.
We listened to the suggestions that came from numerous Okee guests and made our way to the, “Now,” stage to catch some of the Bonobo DJ set. We were grateful for the input we were given because the night started out just right after witnessing that talent!
We could feel the music beginning to flow through us.
The spirit of the festival was beginning to form its identity as the infamous Colorado native; Big Gigantic took over the stage! The live saxophone incorporated with heavy drums were sure to make you start moving! As soon as you thought it couldn’t get any better, those original electric sounds gave you a full audio-sensory experience.
Now before you skeptics are quick to judge on what I mean by that, let me show you what was happening in this crowd.
Oh and I think during that time Kendrick Lamar was performing? But it was hard for many attendees to notice through those noticeably long moments of silence that would take place without any reason at all. We would sometimes hear some sporadic counting that would conclude with what sounded like a rap verse?
Try not to take me for abusive in saying this, but I’ve personally seen Lamar perform on five separate occasions and none of them I can attest, were very ‘moving’ experiences. But hey, if it weren’t for myself as well as my groups boredom that took place during his set at last year’s Bonnaroo, we wouldn’t have ended up doing some wandering around the Roo farm that night. Which also means we wouldn’t have ended up getting that ‘Magic’ key that gave us an exclusive front row Mumford&Sons performance.
But HEY that’s a story for a different time! My point is, maybe we should be expressing gratitude towards Kendrick Lamar after all, his set did encourage guests to form a connection with each other.
Let’s not allow my last statement to detract from what was happening in and around Okeechobee. It became apparent that the excitement was re-arising as the festival so elegantly arranged for the group Lotus to perform on the, “Here,” stage. (Where Kill The Noise was previously set to play but didn’t due to some scheduling issues.)
I noticed the euphoria start to take place, written all over people’s faces; they seemed appeased by this change of pace. We overheard guests mentioning how happy they were about getting another chance to see Lotus, seeing as how they’d missed their earlier set.
This set a friendly vibe for up and coming acts that laid ahead. You could feel people starting to let go of any lingering emotions that had arose from that day!
The HSG tribe took ten minutes of that time to sit down in a small circle between the two stages. We closed our eyes and fully surrendered to the moment; we could feel all of the energy flowing around us and it was disentangling. It’s easy to embrace taking these sort of meditative breaks at festivals like Okeechobee; after all there are reminders all around you.
“Be Here Now.”
Alright, so we’re all set to rage with Skrillex! Let’s set the mood for you readers; we had poi artists on one side of us and hoop dancers on another. Sonny started his attainment by re-mixing a little Zomboy- “NEVER SAY DIE,” and then, of course, he transitioned into some those original,“ Skrillex-like,” beats!
But of course, this EDM prodigy had to make sure to throw in some of that Damian Marley, just in case you weren’t fully engrossed in what was happening already, that sure did the trick! The crowd danced with passion. That is something I admire about a Skrillex performance; he seems always to make a solid effort in connecting with his crowd. He’s creating an atmosphere that pulls you away from what’s happening all around you into what feels like another dimension.
Now if you weren’t already exhausted from that radical performance, you could head over to the “Now” stage to catch one of the nightly PoWoWs! Very similar to that Bonnaroo-style of night-time sets, arranging numerous artists together on one stage for a jam session!
Stay with me and remember we’re sharing with you this experience through our eyes.
We want to give you a genuine feel as to what is happening at these kinds of gatherings.
So, the HSG tribe started our journey back to our campsite, of course allowing ourselves to be come enchanted by any stops that may happen along the way.
This trip, in particular, was one that opened up our eyes to the environmentally sound art displays Okeechobee had to offer.
There was a small artistic stage set up that was entirely made up of recycled cans! We gathered from the crowd that these two artist brothers had created this framework; and they were calling it, “The Palace.”
And it certainly looked like one. What was fascinating was the way the sound would travel up using just these recycled tin cans.
These particular vibrations seemed to trigger a certain responsiveness in bodies and our minds. You could feel the flow.
And that’s not all; just glance over your shoulder and be stunned by the excitement that surrounded what they called, “The Feeble Fobbler.”
I would describe this exhibit this as a Burning-man-style sort of demonstration; it allowed guests to connect, literally with the art display! And when I say connect I mean; you get to play on it with your friends while getting to watch the fire spout out from all angles!
Oh and lest we do not forget the Fire Show performance that took place around Mr. Feeble Fobbler!
Fire & Flow? I think so! Check out this talent!
So now that we are comfortable and warm, we continued our journey to our campsite where we noticed something we could NOT just walk past.
Entirely made out of wood, giving it a cabin-like feel, this small stage was set up to allow just a few people to join in on this mini dance party. Above this dance party, you could see the DJ’s, standing right above you! If you wanted, you could reach up and touch their shoes!
This 25-foot tower they called, Nataraja Torana, was built by a group of Eckerd College graduates, a school known for its creative projects.
This stage featured well-known local DJ’s, bands, and artists from the Tampa Bay Area.
“So the wooden DJ booth that you could dance under. I experienced community magic as soon as I entered the area below. The vibe, the energy, it was unreal. Moments like that stand out to me more than killer sets from the biggest headliners. I just remember feeling an overwhelming amount of joy when we were all dancing underneath the DJ’s just groovin. I definitely had a moment of bliss.”- Jonathan Mayoza
The final day of the festival gave us the chance to relax over in the Yoga-chobee area. We educated ourselves on Permaculture and becoming mindful in our everyday environmental choices.
What stood out a lot to the HSG tribe, was the talk on “Sacred Water Solutions,” done by Kelsey Cavanagh. She touched on learning to be grateful for water, as it’s the source of all life itself. She spoke about how it seems as though some of us have lost the connection with this gift the planet generates. And she encouraged us to become more aware of the energy that binds us to water.
SO while a few of us became more educated on perma-culture and the other few took advantage of the free thai massages taking place next door. I decided to go on an advemture, giant sunflower in hand!
I started to frolick around the Chobeewobee village. Maybe you saw me that afternoon? I could’ve tagged your totem with a “you are beautiful” sticker, because let’s face it, YOU ARE!
The talent that stemmed from the opening acts indeed awakened the surroundings on that Sunday afternoon. As the sun started to go down on this final night of Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, artists such as White Denim, Ween, Shpongle and Big Grams were there to entice you.
But the happiness seemed to set in as the group Gramatik, took over the “Here” stage. The mix of instrumentals with that electro swing swag, made you want to dance all over the place with your friends!
If this performance wasn’t the vibe you were in the mood for, right next door to the, “Be,” stage, Folk rock band, The Avett Brothers was performing! They opened up their music souls for all of the festivals to see! AND WOW, these two brothers can sing!!
If you ever have a chance to see The Avett Brothers perform, we recommend that you do so!
Soon after that, the energy in the venue began to disperse as, The Heavy took on the, “Here,” stage! Pairing with, Odesza, who was set to perform on the, “Now,” stage!
You could instantly tell where a majority of the crowd wanted to be.
I feel like this statement can best be made clear by allowing you to imagine this: a bunch of attendees climbing the V.I.P. fence to get a better view from the (relatively empty) lifted section.
And I won’t lie to you; we ‘re huge fans of Odesza, so we joined in on climbing the fence with everyone! I felt comforted in doing so because of the (seemingly relaxed) security guard that was helping some of us up! He even held my sunflower for me.
Our fun didn’t last very long when two distinctly unhappy ladies came storming over and began checking everyone’s wristbands. But hey, it was fun while it lasted!
But nothing could get in the way of this exciting moment. You see, I was getting the chance to dance from my soul again. These two talented drummer/producers have a way of making you want to do that. I had the opportunity to prance around with my beautiful friend, Isis Meadows, from Atlanta, Georgia to one of their newer TRAP style remixes of Alex Adair’s, “Make Me Feel Better”.
A particular friend of mine whom I only get to reconnect with, most of the time, at music festivals. Not a bad meet up place, I might add.
But let’s rewind for a second back to nine months ago, where both of us were together at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and she was introducing me to Odesza for the first time. I remember this moment like it was yesterday.
It’s amazing the way a sound, a particular vibration and that feeling it gives you, can place you back to an exact moment in time. It’s like a time-machine that allows you to only go back to a time where you felt extreme bliss.
This was so meaningful to both of us, and we gave this set every bit of energy we had!
So for that I want to say, Namaste to Superfly Entertainment Co. & Okee co-founder, Nikos Katsaounis for making that moment possible.
You could feel the bittersweet sadness starting to take place in the venue. The festival was nearing an end, and one of the final acts of the night was about to be on the, “Be,” stage.
This was a performance that we at Hoop Spirit Guide, were overwhelmingly elated for!
ALL HAIL the OKeeGods for gifting us with legendary British rock band, Mumford & Sons! What a privilege this was, a telling moment in time that you would’ve NEEDED to be part of.
I’m not so sure quite as many people in the crowd had felt the same way we did, even the lead singer Marcus Mumford noticed the crowds visible end-of-festival daze.
It’s hard not to be captivated by his energy, especially when he pointed out to everyone that he could tell they were exhausted! He made sure to let us know that he was going to join us for a drink, and together we could push past this disoriented stamina.
And that didn’t stop the group from putting on a performance of a lifetime, making sure to accommodate to the environment by playing some hit tracks. Lead singer Marcus also jumped into the crowd to party with everyone for a bit! It was astonishing the way his vocals were so in-tune as he continued to perform while fans were jumping all over him!
In real Mumford fashion, they, of course, had to invite another influential musician (or two) on stage to jive with them! Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine made an appearance, and he made sure to show the crowd what an electric guitar is really made of!
Who knew you could play with your teeth? And we got it on camera! Check it out.
Before I wrap this up, there is something I want to say to Mumford and Sons.
Some of your truest fans saw you that night and never stopped singing along. I want to personally apologize for some of the actions that arose out of a few of my brothers and sisters at Okeechobee Music Festival that Sunday.
But I feel like I’m speaking for huge part of my generation when I say to you, we are grateful.
Grateful for that genuine passion you have for keeping rock music alive, grateful for your bassist Ted Dwane for continuing to tour even after recovering from a traumatic brain surgery. And mostly, we’re grateful you haven’t given up on us.
It’s you that continues to share with us your light. And as you share with us that light
you give us a glimpse of what we all truly are
and that is O N E.
We chose Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival as our launching piece at Hoopspiritguide.com because we felt this would be the best way for readers to get a sense of our style.
Remember; this is just our perspective. From a team of people that have gathered throughout different countries, to share with YOU the bonding experiences that are happening in the midst of the chaos!
The bond that takes place through the connections made in the music.
“Music can change the world because it can change people.”- Bono
We want to share with you; the t r u t h.
We want to help ignite the fire within you.
C R E A T E with you.
And most importantly,
share with you the transcendent changes that are taking place, The Rainbow Revolution.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”- Aristotle
What if we started to incorporate the knowledge we obtain from gatherings like Okeechobee, into our everyday lives.
I m a g i n e what we would become!