Selling out over 30,000 tickets in its inaugural year, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival drew an eclectic crowd of both performers and concertgoers. Bands and DJs alike were spread out among five stages across the pristine land of Sunshine Grove providing unique, once in a lifetime performances every hour on the clock.

The music wasn’t the only attraction that the festival offered- from Aquachobee Beach to the tea reprieve nestled in the heart of Yogachobee, attendees were able to participate in an intense game of volleyball with their neighbors, or take a trip through time and space during Astral Travel.

For those nostalgic and looking to reflect back on their ineffable 4-day weekend, or for those unable to attend, here are a few highlights and takeaways from inside The Portal.

The Jams

For every stage throughout the grove, there was a different style of music pulsating through amplifiers. Between rock, rap, funk, electronic, and all of the subgenres in between, there was a little bit of something for everyone.
The Be, Here, and Now stages held local artists and household names alike, ranging from Miami Natives SunGhosts to Rolling Stone’s number one Best Album winner of 2015, Kendrick Lamar. Robert Plant and duo Hall & Oates proved that classic Rock n’ Roll is still alive and kicking as their separate performances brought the house down at the Be stage, as well as during the PoWoW! on the Now stage, where John Oates payed homage to the late David Bowie with solo artist Miguel and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. Neo-psych rockers Dr. Dog and Dungen, as well as jam band Twiddle proved that there was no need to be a musical legend in order to please a crowd.

The Activities

Activities commenced the second attendees decided to set up camp. Walking around the campsites, you could see neighbors helping neighbors. Between the raising of tents and the reoccurring reapplication of sunscreen, there was a clear sense of togetherness proving that sometimes, it really is just about the “little things.”

Attendees were also able to channel different parts of themselves through the activities provided by the festival, some channeled their inner yogi by attending different forms of group yoga at Yogachobee, while others channeled their inner beach bum at the volleyball court in Aquachobee Beach, soaking up the sun and bass thumping music from Aquachobee’s nearby stage.

The Hidden Gems

A festival covering 800+ acres of land doesn’t particularly scream “intimate” but trekking from the campsites to the stages, one may stumble across a few hidden gems. Just before entering The Portal that leads to the main stages, one may bump into a long, free-falling stream of ropes, similar to that of classic door beads. Behind these is a little world, similar to that of Alice in Wonderland with tiny vintage tables and cushions and tea galore! The Chai lounge beckons you to relax in your own little world and meet new friends from all walks of life before jumping back into The Grove.12805772_10206144916327322_1779346195025506641_n

The Vibes

Okeechobee Music Festival promoted serenity, clarity and a sense of togetherness that rang true among the crowd. It was rare to walk past someone without giving or receiving high-fives and compliments. Between dancing and singing next to someone during a performance, or simply striking up a conversation while waiting in line for lunch, the portal party never ceased to stop.

The Innermost Portal

From entering the festival itself and traveling through each portal, the most exclusive portal was tucked inside of the Artist Grove. Providing shade and comfort for artists and staff, the Artist Grove proved to be the most relaxing portal of all.

It’s not every day you get to experience what goes on behind the scenes at a large-scale music festival, but when you do, it’s something you will hold close to you forever. Entering the Innermost Portal allowed you to experience first hand Robert Plant sipping tea and watching the sunset right before jumping on stage to perform with the Sensational Space Shifters and Post Malone epitomizing the phrase “It’s 5 o’ clock somewhere” as he shared a beer with fans and friends alike. Mac Miller ran around with friends, still high off of his performance buzz, while Skrillex enjoyed a cigarette on the stairs leading to his trailer.

This portal aided in reminding others that these artists are people too. The Innermost Portal stunned the senses and soothed the soul.