Sets in Review: Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival 2018

Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival 2018 just wrapped up its third year with monumental expectations to meet and even bigger shoes to fill.

The festival coincided with the University of Florida’s spring break and ran from March 1 through 4, timed just right for those kicking off their vacation.

Festival goers ditched the phones and entered the Portal for what has become a yearly tradition. Having attended the show for two of the last three years, I knew the question everyone seemed to ask would arise again: but how does the lineup really stack up to that of the years before?

With the ghosts of old lineups lingering and the inevitable chatter of comparisons between each year, I found myself in the conversation, too.

While this year still had an fairly inclusive lineup, some of the bigger names initially seemed a little less impressive. Acts like Khalid, Okeechobee veteran Bassnectar, Arcade Fire, Foster the People and Travis Scott were hard to compare to previously hosted acts, like Flume, ODESZA and GRiZ.


Photo by James Lynch

But, as it always seems to go, by the end of the fourth day at the festival, it was as though festival-goers had never asked the question. And like clockwork, I couldn’t stop talking about the experience.

Soundslinger, which puts on the event each year, decorated the grounds with entrancing art installations, hosted artists and vendors, and held numerous interactive activities. There were also what seemed like endless (albeit pricey) food trucks, even though prepared campers  brought enough junk food to sustain their whole campsite.

In the past, the three main stages, while conveniently positioned for the fatigued and lazy festival goer, caused some noticeable sound interference, even to the casual listener. But, this year, the problem was non-existent after sound technicians worked on resolving the issue.

Performances by Big Gigantic, Big Wild, Foster the People and Local Natives were personally the most memorable.

Festival favorites were back and better than ever, like late-night DJ spot Jungle 51, beachfront stage and hangout spot Aquachobee and the always necessary, pass-out-on-your-hammock spot, Tea Lounge.


Photo by James Lynch

In comparison to similar Florida-based camping festivals like Hulaween in Live Oak, Okeechobee hosted more of a collegiate crowd. Think FSU fraternity flags draped over Jeeps and campsites that look like gameday tailgates with an incredible live soundtrack.

Driving out of the grounds that Monday after the festival was a true testament to the high-energy, carefree atmosphere of the festival, while returning to reality left you craving next year in the Portal.  

With festival tickets for Hulaween about to go on sale for next year and Okeechobee soon to follow, I’ll be the devil (or angel, depending on how you look at it) on your shoulder: buy the tickets again.