Review + Photos by L Paul Mann
March 4, 2017 | Okeechobee Music Festival – Day 3 of the Okeechobee Music Festival dawned chilly and breezy. Non-stop partying began taking its toll on festival goers, and many took advantage of the cooler temperatures to get some actual sleep. But as high noon approached both Aquachobee beach and center Chobeewobee began to bustle with life again. The cold morning gave way to a sunny wind-blown day that created havoc in the camping areas, turning some tents into flying kites and stirring a virtual dust storm across the venues.
The musical lineup for the third day was the most impressive and ambitious of the four-day gathering. A small enthusiastic crowd of early bird music fans assembled for one of the first sets of the day in center Chobeewobee to hear young New Jersey singer Donna Missal and her band of rockers. The shy petite singer-songwriter appeared demure and nervous when speaking to the crowd, but when she began to sing all doubts seemed to melt away. The band and singer playing in a traditional blues rock style seemed to perfectly channel Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company. The band could have been right at home in 1960’s San Francisco but sounded fresh and new on the little Here stage in the middle of Chobeewobee village.
This talented new band was followed on the bigger Now stage by the veteran godfather of funk, George Clinton and his massive posse of talented singers and musicians. A Large crowd of young EDM enthusiasts was enraptured by the thunderous beat. A gypsy-like caravan of endless singers belting out classic dance tunes that stretched back to the early 1980’s, like the classic hit Atomic Dog transfixed the sweaty crowd. Clinton, who on recent tours had been sporting a more tailored look appearing in a well-tailored suit, switched his look to a more festival friendly New Orleans jazz party style. The master maestro continues to lead one of the funkiest jam sessions found on the planet.
Speaking of New Orleans, George Clinton,s set was followed up on the main Be stage with a raucous performance by the seven-piece New Orleans jam rockers, The Revivalists. The band worked the large crowd into a dancing frenzy. Lead singer David Shaw leaped about the massive stage like a Gibbon in the rain forest, climbing on speakers and hanging from power chords. At the end of their set, the animated singer gashed his head but kept playing as blood poured down the strands of his long hair.
There was so much diversity in musical style, genre and generation on Saturday it was hard to keep up. Souls singer Gallant laid down Prince like moves and vocals, while young brother and sister duo Tennyson played their unique brand of electro pop. The smiling siblings struggled though technical challenges that they resolved themselves as the stage crew seemed to have evaporated for their set. But they soldiered through with a unique, upbeat sound that endeared them to the young audience.
Sleigh Bells brought some much need hardcore to the festival with their sunset appearance. The band tore through intense new material from their latest album as well as from past records. With guitars wailing, animated vocalist Alexis Krauss thrashed about the stage like a whirling Dervish.
As the sun began to set, the trees in the meadow came to life bathed in massive multicolored lights. The EDM crowd came out in free in all manner of costume carrying countless totems and flags. Griz and Snails wowed the dance-oriented crowd. Later both would appear in a surprise set at the new Incendia stage on the beach in Aquachobee.
The young rap duo Rae Sremmurd brought a massive crowd to life as night fell on the main BE stage. The crowd surfed into a giant mosh pit during the performance of their hit song Black Beatles. Then despite being severely injured last year falling off the stage, the fearless Slim Jxmmi leaped into the mosh pit and crowd surfed across the entire front of the stage. It seemed like no one left their spots during the set change for the next act on the Be stage. The only performer to appear both years of the young Okeechobee music festival, Bass Nectar assembled the biggest crowd of the four days for his ear shattering set. Bass heads swarmed the stage and headbanged to the thunderous EDM much like a mob of speed metal fans.
One of the most special moments of the festival came next with this year’s version of the Pow Wow super jam. The jam is Okeechobee’s unique version of the famous super jam at Bonnaroo and features an incredible one time mash up of artists from multiple musical genres and generations. Veteran singer Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers fame leads this year’s jam session. The jam included performances by golden-throated R&B crooner Gallant, Griz brought his fantastic. Funk outfit Vulfpeck was the musical engine of the night. Eric Krasno of Lettuce and Soulive tied it all together with his amazing guitar riffs. Soul singer Antwuan Stanley also took several turns as the lead singer. While members of the animated jazz ensemble, Snarky Puppy added another layer to the musical smorgasbord. McDonald led the group in a few Doobie Brothers tunes before he was joined onstage by Solange for a powerful rendition of “What a Fool Believes.” Griz stepped up the energy with covers of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” and Al Green’s “Love and Happiness.”
But the best set of the night was yet to come with a two hour super mash up between Usher and The Roots. The enormous crowd swayed along to the magical funky beat and sang the chorus of hit songs like “Let It Burn,” “Confessions Pt. 2,” “You Got It Bad,” and the big hits by Usher. Questlove, Black Thought, and the rest of the roots rocked the stage while an animated Usher pranced about like James Brown on steroids.
On the other side of Chobeewobee village, EDM star Porter Robinson closed out the night with a visual set featuring sporadic fireworks lighting up the night sky. Robinson addressed the crowd at the end. “Thank you so much this has been one o the best sets of my life.”
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