By Flynn Snyder and Davis Schierlmann
Going into Okeechobee, our expectations for the artists set to perform were already sky high. We had been familiar with many of the artists prior to going. In fact, the whole reason we found out about the festival was the discovery that one of our favorite artists was set to perform at Okeechobee. That said, not only were we blown away by the musicality, showmanship and personality of many of the acts, but we were also surprised by some relatively unknown artists that definitely deserve more of a spotlight in the music and festival worlds. So, sit back, relax and enjoy our music recap of the standouts and surprises of the 2020 Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival.
Vampire Weekend: It’s no secret that Vampire Weekend has made a big name for themselves in the music industry. The group has two Grammy Awards under its belt for Best Alternative Music Album for their third and fourth albums titled Modern Vampires of the City and Father of the Bride, respectively. Our expectations for the group were not only met, but greatly succeeded. This was our second time seeing the group live and they sound better each time we see them. Leading guitarist and vocalist Ezra Koenig delivered intriguing vocals and a perfect combination of swagger and mysteriousness in his stage presence that captivated any member of the audience for the full set. His undeniable chemistry with newcomer to the group and guitarist Brian Robert Jones lead to some magical moments and incredible riffs on stage in the opening Sunflower number and later on in the set with This Life. You can tell with this group that they set out during each live performance to deliver something unique in each set that will give audiences something to remember.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones: One word: WOW! We kind of went back and forth with this group, whether or not to put them in the standout or surprise category. But honestly, this group is in a league of its own. Donning the stage in a bedazzled gown that gave us all types of Elton John vibes, lead vocalist Paul Janeway belted out skyscraping, southern vocals that made all passersby turn their heads. Janeway, an unassuming looking guy in his thirties, belted out Alabama-style southern soul in an electric fashion. He hit notes that were higher than most buildings in New York City and kept the energy on ten throughout the whole set. He didn’t do it alone, though. The horn section of this group as well as their guitarist energized the crowd with their solos throughout the set as well. But it was ultimately Janeway who brought the energy, stage presence and downright weirdness to this performance. The vocalist shoved the mic cord in his mouth, belted out a ballad while crawling on the floor and ended the show by tackling his bassist to the ground. Spit takes, sweat and all, this group definitely gets the award for most energy and best vocals at Okee.
GRiZ: No crowd was more engaged with a performer than the audience that came to watch GRiZ, the American DJ known for playing the saxophone during his sets. Mixing electronic with pop, GRiZ managed to get everyone moving during his performance. The cool thing about his set was the newcomers who had never heard of him before were just as into the music as his die-hard fans. Joined by singer Kayla Jasmine and rapper Probcause, both of whom GRiZ has collaborated with added to the hype, party like energy of the set. Notably, GRiZ, along with other artists who performed at the festival, has given the go ahead to Okeechobee organizers to release the video of his full set during the country-wide quarantine.
Cory Wong: In a music festival that saw alternative heavy hitters from the likes of Vampire Weekend to Mumford and Sons, one band (or should we say subsection of a band?) stood out in the most classic sense of moving a crowd--a superb guitar. With a set that included perfectly executed elements of funk such as organ, saxophone, and drums, Cory Wong, front man of Vulfpeck, himself stole the show with what can only be described as a transcendent performance on the guitar. A noteworthy aside worth mentioning is the fact that in our interview with Bombargo (stay tuned for our full interview in part three of our blog!) all three members mentioned Cory Wong as THE artist at Okeechobee that they would most like to collaborate with. Bombargo could not have been more right; Cory Wong is an artist that Burnt Rooster absolutely recommends you see live, be it on the festival circuit or at a local venue.
Glass Animals: If Vampire Weekend was reason number one for going to Okeechobee, Glass Animals was reason number two, and maybe number three too now that we think about it ?. As pioneers of the still-developing genre of Psychedelic pop and trip-hop, Glass Animals produced an experience unlike any other at Okeechobee through their use of simplistic, yet trippy, visuals in tandem with their unique musical style. The most notable moment of their set occurred when front man, Dave Bayley, hopped down into the crowd, subsequently walked all the way into the middle of the crowd, and busted out their smash hit "Gooey" to the joyous surprise of everyone present.
EarthGang: American hip hop duo EarthGang had many memorable moments throughout their set. From using their music to inspure the audience to paying homage to their late friend and collaborator Mac Miller, rappers Olu and WowGr8 managed to hype up, inspire and motive the crowd for the entire set. This group was relatively unknown to us prior to going to Okeechobee, but they left a lasting and memorable impression in our minds and we always turn them on when looking to get energized and inspired. The duo will be on the road this summer as they’ll be traveling throughout Europe and the U.S.
Keep on the lookout for our next, and final, blogpost for an interview with vintage pop, soul band Bombargo. We sat down with a couple of their members at Okeechobee and they talked about what it’s like being an up-and-coming group, the importance of family to the band, and some wild, behind-the-scenes stories about the fascinating life of musicians. Stay tuned!