Inaugural Okeechobee Music Festival throws everything at the wall – and gets it to stick 

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Florida boasts a long list of successful music festivals: genre-specific ones like the Fest in Gainesville, UMF in Miami, Electric Daisy Carnival in Orlando and the panoply of jam band get-togethers that go down at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. When it comes to genre-crossing mashups, though, the Sunshine State hasn't had as much luck. Harvest of Hope in St. Augustine nailed an impressive hip-hop/punk/metal/rock/folk mix, if only for two years, while Orlando's own Orange You Glad succeeded on an intimate indie scale in the early 2010s. In South Florida, Langerado's ambition did it in – the 2009 festival was abruptly canceled, then a 2011 reboot also bit the dust.

All of which makes the pre-event scope and success of Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival, slated for March 4-6 on a pristine 800-acre parcel of land in Okeechobee dubbed Sunshine Grove, that much more exciting. Founded by longtime music festival veterans Paul Peck (who got Bonnaroo, the granddaddy of 21st-century festivals, off the ground) and Steve Sybesma (who runs China's largest electronic music festival), OMF is aiming far beyond just the stars.

First, there's the festival's utopian mission, large-scale art installations and light-mapping projections, which will be interspersed among the rural, never-before-open-to-the-public paradise. There will be a stage situated on a swimming hole, and all-night dance parties from Thursday through Sunday. A dedicated meditation-and-massage area and arts village will feature "rogue performances, dance, art, shenanigans and tea." There will be an organic vegetable farm for food vendors. And, true to Peck's track record in organizing the now-famous Bonnaroo SuperJams, attendees can go to two different "once-in-a-lifetime superstar collaboration PoWow!s." One features modern R&B kingpin Miguel, John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, Win Butler of indie-rock royalty Arcade Fire, George Porter Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste of New Orleans' legendary Meters, along with fellow Big Easy icons Preservation Hall Jazz Band, current avant-jazz mastermind Kamasi Washington and more. The other is a folk-pop dream session of Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, Tom Morello and more.

And that doesn't even touch the jaw-dropping regular lineup. Pine for the classics? Robert Plant, Booker T. Jones and Walter "Wolfman" Washington will take you there. More into the cutting edge of current hip-hop? How about Kendrick Lamar, Future, Fetty Wap, Mac Miller, Joey Bada$$ and Shabazz Palaces. Got EDM on the brain? Skrillex, Bassnectar, Bonobo and 50 other artists famous in the trance, house, and techno worlds will be there. Like avant-garde indie rock? A reunited Ween will be sure to get things weird, while Odesza, Portugal. The Man, Youth Lagoon, Moon Hooch and White Denim will mix the experimental with the funky. Love native Florida artists? Hundred Waters, Roadkill Ghost Choir, SWIMM, Sunbears! and the Supervillains will surely represent, along with a few other bands added via a Destination Okeechobee application system for Sunshine Staters. And this still only represents a fraction of the full lineup.

Clearly, Peck, Sybesma and other OMF principals like talent buyer and marketing manager Dan Larson (who got the newly redesigned Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts off the ground in 2014) and head of operations Jim Tobin (who's worked seemingly every major festival in the U.S.) went for a "throw-it-all-against-the-wall" approach. But so far, nearly everything has stuck. The New York Times included Okeechobee on its "Where Music Lovers Should Go in 2016" list, while esteemed outlets like Pitchfork and Billboard have prominently featured the festival. The first two tiers of tickets sold out within weeks, prompting OMF to add a fourth day to its electro-heavy Moonlight Oasis scheduling. Which proves the comparisons Peck and Sybesma make to Burning Man actually kind of legit.

"We really want to create a place where people can have a little bit of a throwback experience – a ritualistic, joint, shared experience in a physical place," Peck told the Broward-Palm Beach New Times in December. "Real people, in real time, with real music, just in nature ... it's why [people] go on vacation. You want to have this adventure, this experience that you're never going to forget."


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