The Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival is only in its second year, but the critically acclaimed festival has already earned a reputation as one of the best festivals in North America, known for its beautiful location and on Florida’s Sunshine Grove and epic jam session PoWoW!
This year’s festival sold out just days before the festival opening with headliners Kings of Leon, Usher & The Roots, Bassnectar, Sturgill Simpson, The Lumineers, Flume, Porter Robinson (Live) and Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals. While the headliners are a huge draw, it’s the multi-artist PoWoW! series that takes place Saturday that draws a large audience. This year’s PoWoW! includes Michael McDonald, Gallant, DJ and electronic producer GRiZ, funk outfit Vulfpeck, Eric Krasno (Lettuce/Soulive), R&B singer Antwaun Stanley, and the horn section of instrumental jazz group Snarky Puppy.
“Last year we had Winn Butler, Miguel, John Oates from Hall and Oates and special surprise guest Mumford and Sons with Skrillex and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band backed up by Kamasi Washington and Mac Miller,” said Dan Larson with Soundslinger, which exclusively books the festival site.
“The PoWoW! is a chance for us to step from being a presenter to being a producer,” Larson said. “Everyone who gets into this business has those crazy ideas and PoWoW! is our opportunity to do that.”
Fellow Soundslinger talent buyer Ben Baruch said he works with musical director Eric Krasnow to pitch the jam session to agents and managers. All the music and songs are selected beforehand and two rehearsals take place onsite before the festival, and then its showtime.
“All of the artists get excited to be part of something they haven’t been part of before,” Baruch said. “There’s a ton of excitement to work withMichael McDonald and create something that they probably won’t ever get to do again.”
The goal is to make the festival as unique as possible, Larson explained, saying he books a combination of top tier bands and surging talent.
“After this year’s South by Southwest, we knew we had to have Andersen .Paak,” he said. “We’re also really in touch with our audience. We do a variety of polling and we leverage that data to prioritize what we should focus our efforts on.”
The festival takes place near Lake Okeechobee and the site includes several swimming spots and a beach stage.
“It’s not in a major city and the festival is about the experience,” he said. “Because what we provide goes beyond a great lineup, this place is really special and the property is unlike any other. It mixes what kids love about festivals into one site.”
Okeechobee opens today and runs through Sunday. Learn more at okeechobeefest.com.