By Selene San Felice
The first ever Okeechobee Music Festival turned its desolate swamp city into a modern-day Woodstock on par with mainstream camping fests like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Firefly on March 3 to 6. With over 110 alternative, rap, EDM and rock artists including huge names like Kendrick Lamar, Robert Plant, Skrillex, Hall and Oates, Miguel and Bassnectar squeezed into one weekend, even the most experienced (and aware) attendees were forced to miss some great acts. While headliners usually guarantee a great performance, they can also require long waits and claustrophobic struggles for a glimpse of the artist. It’s during the small acts, who may come on early in the day or conflict with a big name on the schedule, that untapped talent can reveal great performances. Here are some of Okeechobee’s hidden gems:
Twiddle: Reminiscent of their fellow, more mainstream Vermont jam-band, Phish, Twiddle’s funky improv sound conjured up the energy of a mainstream headliner. Okeechobee campers that made it out of their tents early enough for the quartet’s afternoon performance experienced a band with serious skill, able to blend jazz, bluegrass, reggae and even classical notes into their jam. Lead Vocalist and guitarist Mihali Savoulidis’ silvery voice and solo loops kept fans dancing and singing along to positive and powerful lyrics. Keyboardist Ryan Dempsey added a touch of Herbie Hancock to the band’s hippy vibe.
Eryn Allen Kane: Festival-goers lounging at Aquachobee beach on Sunday afternoon had snoozed through a few unknown acts, so no one was expecting such a soulful, sultry voice to boom from the petite Eryn Allen Kane as she took the stage. While rap fans began their long wait for Post Malone and Future, Aquachobee attendees arose from their naps to dance along to Kane’s popular tracks “Sunday,” “Bass Song” and more.
Marian Hill: Another of Okeechobee’s underrated smooth sirens was Samantha Gongol of Marian Hill. Gongol’s hypnotic, almost angelic voice combined with the poppy electric beat production of Jeremy Lloyd makes up the Philadelphia duo. While Marian Hill has only been in existence since 2014, the pair has a promising future with saxophone-infused hits like “One Time,” “Lovit” and “Got It.” The duo followed up Twiddle on Friday afternoon, giving unfamiliar fans who stuck around or were waiting on the upcoming Niykee Heaton an unexpectedly awesome show. Marian Hill gave a best-of-both worlds performance, allowing the audience to sway along with Gongol as she sang and jumped with Lloyd’s excited DJ-esque dancing.
Hermitude: By the time this Australian DJ duo took the Aquachobee stage Sunday night, there was definitely no chance of napping. Beach balls bounced around the purple and blue illuminated crowd, the largest yet for a small group, but the majority of Okeechobee played at the same time other fans lined up for bigger acts like Big Grams (Big Boi from OutKast and Phantogram) and Gramatik. Hermitude remixed popular EDM hits like Odessa’s “Say My Name,” but had the audience just as excited about their own songs like “The Buzz.”
Selene San Felice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.