As I look back on the three days I spent at Okeechobee Fest — the first music festival I ever attended — only two words sprint to mind:
When I told my mom I was attending Okeechobee Fest, she simply responded, “HA, you’re going to die out there.”
I could have gotten offended, but mom kind of had a point. You see, I was raised in an outrageously wealthy community in South Florida, where, shockingly, camping was never part of the picture. So, honestly, how was a simple srat girl like me going to survive her first ever music festival complete with 20-hour days, no showers, very little cell phone service, and weather under 60 degrees?
By way of the amazing music, that’s how.
10:00 a.m.: After about an hour and half drive, I reach Okeechobee with a car packed full of what I think will get me through the next three days. Dumbfounded by the lack of what there is to offer nearby (a Walmart 40 miles away, a gas station 15 miles), I pray that whatever is in my Jeep is enough. I pick up my wristband and it is off to car checks. On the way, I receive a text from my mom saying, “Police are checking all cars before going on, a lot of arrests for drugs already.” WAY TO LIFT MY SPIRITIS, MOM. We decide Portal 1 is a viable option for camping. Plus it is next to a Ferris wheel, and who doesn’t love Ferris wheels? After waiting 45 minutes, my car is up. Hesitant, I roll down my window and am approached by a kind volunteer who tells me he is checking my car. I comply, but he simply looks at me and says, “You’re good, enjoy your weekend.” It’s lit.
11:30 a.m.: I approach my campsite, which happens to be in a forest and very, very far away from the Ferris wheel. It is time to set up my first ever camp. And what’s a better set up than a car-bed.
My jeep turns out to be the Four Seasons of Okeechobee, tbh. Mattress pad, pillow, blanket, sheet, CAR CHARGER. It was perfect.
1:30 p.m.: Time to explore. My camp buddy, MacKenzie, and I set out to see any and everything before the night we began (and thank god we did). Our campsite is ready and it’s T-5 hours until any relevant show. Why not take the time to figure out what we’re working with for the next three days? After a 35-minute walk from the forest to any sign of festivalizaiton, we arrive. Aquachobee.
We enter a sand-filled, chaotic landscape full of people already tripping and floatation devices flying in air. Corona’s tiki hut is flooded with dozens of people attempting to buy $11 beers and $18 doubles. Its only saving grace is that the liquor is Ciroc. Well played, Corona, well played. We continue our exploration to the food trucks. Again, Okeechobee gets away for the $12 chicken tenders because they are good af. I sense that my bank is going to be sufficiently broken by the end of these three days. Bellies full, we decide to head back to camp to get ready.
3:45 p.m.: We’re lost. The forest has swallowed us whole. All the tents have blended together. WHERE IS MY FOUR SEASONS JEEP?
5:00 p.m.: I find my Four Seasons Jeep. Time to party. As we get ready to start our night, a strange man approaches my car. He asks me, “Are you cops?” I respond, “Uh, no.” He proceeds to whip out a small bag with a white substance, pours it on my hood, and lines it up. I ask what he’s doing. He responds ketamine. He snorts it, walks away, and says “Thank you for your service!” Same.
6:15 p.m.: Main stage time. We stop a nice young lady giving rides on her bike-cab, and pounce on that opportunity faster than Donald Trump calls Marco Rubio “Little Rubio.” Best 5 bucks I’ll ever spend. We walk the tree filled path and we enter The Grove.
10:30 p.m.: Four hours go by as we stage hop stopping for snippets of X Ambassadors, Robert Plant, Daryl Hall and John Oates, and dare I say it, Lil Dicky. All were fun, but nothing memorable. It’s 10:30 p.m. and it’s time for RL Grime. His set is far from subpar. Playing on the NOW Stage, he absolutely crushes the game with his memorable remix of Jumpman, utterly insane mashup of Red Lips, and a banger flip of Tennis Court. The only downside of the set has nothing to do with Grime, but the stage itself. NOT ENOUGH BASS. It’s ok, I got over it quickly (not really). Rating: 9/10
11:45 p.m.: Without question, the biggest hype up of the day. Bassnectar. I’ve never seen Bassnectar live, and I thought I was unprepared for camping until I realize I am not at all prepared for the next hour of my life. I get advice two minutes before the set on how to survive without getting a concussion: “Let the whole experience go through your body and you’ll be fine.” Oh, okay. Remind me to ask my doctor if letting blunt force trauma to the brain evenly disperse throughout my body is a good way to recuperate. Let me just tell you this: the one thing I learned from this one hour of my life is that you don’t know bass until you’re moshing with 3,000 people, fearing for your safety, avoiding a concussion, experiencing one of the craziest moments of your life. Rating: 8.5/10
2:00 a.m.: Unable to do life at the moment. My ears. My mind. Four Seasons Jeep.
6:30 a.m.: Well hello there, sun. Sure, no one I’m really excited about comes on until 6 p.m., but that’s cool. At least I baby wiped myself in my Bassnectar delirium last night. I don’t smell bad yet, that’s a good sign.
11:00 a.m.: More exploration and I stumble across one of my dear colleagues. Straight shout out to Mark Wolf and the Coronachobee crew for having one of the best setups of the whole festival. The beach was the perfect activity on this semi-cloudy afternoon. Ah, the cluster of different genres of tunes coming from the Aquachobee stage and the sound of elated festivalgoers who haven’t slept since the start. What a time.
12:30 p.m.: It’s time to find the best view so a 30-minute photo-op can commence. Honestly, does one really attend a music festival without a signature insta picture? This was mine:
* Drinks and naps for 6 hours *
6:30 p.m.: IT’S OFFICIALLY SATURDAY NIGHT. Big Gigantic, Kendrick, Skrillex, oh my. I make it my mission to have front row for a group so close to my heart, Big G. I come in hot to Bonobo. His ambient and ethereal sound calms me down a little bit. It was the perfect act to counter my epic emotions. Rating: 7.5/10
8:15 p.m.: My heart can’t contain its excitement. My head can’t control its bass. My mouth can’t control its song. With unarguably the best set of Okeechobee, Big Gigantic took their game to a whole new level. From pulling out their signature early tracks like “Can I Get A,” to whipping out “Teach Me How to Dougie” and topping it off with an UNBELIEVABLE sax solo by Dominic himself, there’s nothing better Big G could have done. I have two words: bow down. Rating: 10/10
9:30 p.m.: How did I get on stage? It’s all a blur. Did the woman I spoke to even speak English? Is this actually happening? When I check back into reality, I find myself sprinting across stage to be face-to-face with a sweaty Dominic Lalli, a sax still strapped across his chest, and a confused gaze as he waits for me to say something. I have no words other than, “Hi, I have no words.” GOOD MOVE, SOFIA. He laughs and I interject before he can get a word out. I go on to say what any rockstar music correspondent should go on about: How much of a fan I am of their artistry and how instrumental talent in the EDM world is dying and how they’re our savior. Dominic laughed again, we snagged a picture, and I left. So thank you Big Gigantic, thank you for being Future Funk Jesuses.
9:45 p.m.: I’m still recuperating until I realize it’s time for Kendrick. It’s also time for a corndog. As I sat on the far side of the audience eating my corndog, I realize what Kendrick can do to a crowd. His hype ability is unlike anyone’s I have ever seen. “Alright” and “m.A.A.d. city” have this power over the crowd that brings everyone to life. Although I find myself confused at one point when he brings a young guy on stage. Kendrick proclaims that this guy was going to commit suicide and that this moment was going to be the thing that saves him. I look around in hopes that people are equally confused. They must be…or they’re just tripping. Stick with the hype game, Kendrick. 8.5/10
12:00 a.m.: Skrilley. Oh Skrilley. I was not expecting what came out of you Skrilley. Maybe it was the digested corndog, maybe it was the fact that I got into the production area, maybe it was versatility of your set. Skrilley, how you pulled out all of the stops. Levels, Promises, Boy Oh Boy, 7/11, Wild for the Night, Lean On/Bangarang Mashup (WHAT), a Tom Ford to Soulja Boy transition (DOUBLE WHAT). Something that really stuck out to me though was the way he connected to the crowd. Every 10 minutes or so, he would go on little tangents about how beautiful life is and how blessed we are to be where we were. Skrilley knows how to pull the PLUR heartstrings. You know how I know that? He closed with Cinema. Rating: 10/10
2:00 a.m.: What is Jungle 51?
2:17 a.m.: I’m so stressed, what are those movements, what is this music, are those creatures? Why did I come in here?
2:30 a.m.: CAR.BED.
3:00 a.m.: contemplating the past 36 hours
Last day, best day.
7:30 a.m.: Wow, I really need to pee. It’s still early no one will be up, it’s the perfect time to use the port-a-potties. I unlock my car from the inside. The alarm is blaring. HOW DO I FIX THIS? IT WON’T SHUT OFF. People are rising from their tents with angry and confused looks on their faces. I contain the noise. I sprint to the port-a-potties.
Shields self from society for five hours in hopes that people will forget I interrupted their PLUR slumber
12:30 a.m.: As a walk to camp, I spontaneously decide to ask two cops on horses how their weekend is going. It’s hard to take any answer seriously when I realize that they’re two cops on horses. I think they appreciated the chat I had with them though. We proceed to take a selfie.
1:15 p.m.: Since it’s my last day I decide to do something a little different with my afternoon and not stay on the beach. I gather the scraps of funds that I have left, wait in line for an hour, and buy myself a phenomenal food truck sandwich. My camp buddy, MacKenzie, and I sit on the grass and watch a strange rock band perform in their underwear. It was a very strange phenomenon. Rating: 2/10 (Two because one had abs)
6:10 p.m.: As the sun starts to set on what is going to be our last night, I start to reminisce on what this weekend was like. I get in my feels. I tell myself it’s not over yet, you haven’t even seen Mumford and Sons.
6:30 p.m.: The Hermitude sunset set. Hermitude not only had the ideal setting, time, weather, and audience for their set, but also some of the best tuneage I’ve heard in a while. For starters, they did their entire set live. Drums, keytar, production sampler, everything. The best moment of the set hands down was the HyperParadise Trilogy. A 6-minute blend of the original, Flume and Ganz flip. That combined with the perfect sunset and their Australian accents telling the audience to “finger click” to the beat. You can’t beat it. Rating: 9.5/10
7:30-9:30 p.m.: Two hours of sets being completely different than what I had hoped for. An excited spirit quickly dissipates into disappointment when Gramatik’s set turns out to be zero future funk and 100 percent BASS HEAD; Rating: 5/10.
The Avett Brothers and Big Grams are great per usual, but going back and forth, it turns out I’m unable appreciate them as much as I would like; Combined rating of an 8/10.
Surprisingly, Odesza is the biggest throw off of them all. Lights and the full band are an immediate 10/10 and maybe it is just me, but I find myself slowly dozing off as I watch them. Their ethereal sound and smooth transitions are so relaxing that they’re almost boring. As I leave the stage, I realize that the people who are enjoying it as much as I enjoyed a show like Big G are tripping…balls; Rating: 7/10
9:45 p.m.: Yes, standing a great spot for Mumford and Sons 45 minutes early is 100 percent worth it.
10:30 p.m.: My phone dies. It’s time for Mumford and my phone dies. It ends up being the best thing to ever happen to me. A two hour show full of classics, hits of their new albums, and covers with guest appearances from the Avett Brothers, Tom Morello and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Their personalities first came out to play when they admitted to the audience that they were drunk. Same, guys. After every song, Marcus would go on a random rampage whether it be about playing soccer with the fiddler, or questioning why on earth the United States is “voting for that c*nt, Donald Trump”. Then came the incredible cover of “House of the Rising Son” with the Avett Brothers, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Tom Morello’s electric guitar solo with his tongue. Yes, his tongue. Yes, my phone is still dead. The biggest surprise of the night has to be given to Winston Marshall and his spontaneous and ON POINT performance of AC/DC’s hit “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Pure shock and amazement were the only two emotions the audience felt that night. Nothing I say can give this performance justice. It’s a set I’ll never forget. Rating: 11/10
2:00 a.m.: Whoah.
7:00 a.m.: As I get my life together, I realize that I still don’t smell that terrible, I’m alive, and that this was arguably the best weekend of my life. Nothing prepared me for these last three days and I’m so glad because the whole experience was so perfectly imperfect. I see how this is addicting. I see the worth; this feeling I’m feeling, there’s no price on it. As I drive out the forest and see the ferris wheel fading into the distance, I think to myself, “You really never forget your first time.”