Dispatches From Okeechobee Music Festival 2020: Day Three

Saturday at Okeechobee Music Festival was a day filled with soaring highs, disappointing lows, and lots and lots of wind. 

After temperatures dropped on Friday night, strong winds rolled into Sunshine Grove on the third day of the festival, occasionally wreaking havoc at campsites. It wasn’t uncommon to see tents, canopies, and other camping apparatus overturned or blown far away from their homes. Thankfully, the weather didn’t seem to impact the stages in any way, and the show(s) went on undeterred.

Vampire Weekend proved to be a formidable headliner, drawing a respectable crowd to the Be stage. Though none of the weekend’s indie or rock bands could match up to the draw of the electronic and EDM acts, Vampire Weekend seemed to attract lots of attendees who wouldn’t otherwise be found at a guitar-based show.

The NYC indie band’s set was a solid effort, which included hits and fan-favorites from throughout its career. That said, it’s hard not to feel cheated by a 90-minute, 18-song set from a band that’s been known to perform marathon 30-song shows since the release of Father of the Bride. In theory, the PowWow, which was scheduled to begin at the exact time Vampire Weekend’s set ended and billed as “Featuring Vampire Weekend and Friends,” should have been an extension of the band’s set, and one that would showcase obvious collaborations with Haim, who are have multiple features on the most recent Vampire Weekend. That is not what happened.

Instead of “Featuring Vampire Weekend and Friends,” the evening’s PowWow featured absolutely no Vampire Weekend, and seemingly none of the band’s friends. Instead, what we got was a performance by Cory Wong and his band that stretched into the wee hours of the morning, though that was partially due to Daylight Savings Time taking effect during the performance. 

Now, I have no problem with Cory Wong–in fact, I’d attended and enjoyed his set earlier in the day– but the problem with the PowWow wasn’t who was on the stage but who wasn’t. Whether it was due to false advertising or simply poor communication, Saturday night’s fake-out was disappointing, and a low point for the festival so far.

Stray observations from other attended sets: 

  • Cory Wong– This supernaturally talented guitarist, known for his role in the indie-funk collective Vulfpeck, put on a blast of a set late in the afternoon on the Now stage, which included at least one Vulfpeck cover. The only issue was timing related– Wong and his band took far too much time to soundcheck and prepare before their set began. The same problem would recur as they took over the Be stage later in the evening, with fans being made to wait nearly 20 minutes for the sets to begin.
  • Clairo– Clairo is a darling of indie radio, and after catching her set on the Now stage, it’s abundantly clear why. Still touring behind last year’s excellent Immunity, the Massachusetts-based indie-pop singer showed remarkable poise and an impressive stage presence, and her songs shone brightly in the live setting. After her 45-minute set wrapped up, I was kicking myself for missing her performance in Fort Lauderdale a few months ago,.
  • Haim– The three sisters that make up Haim are back in a big way, and their set on the Be stage on Saturday night seemed to be an announcement of their re-arrival. The set began and ended with bombastic drumming by the trio, included some endearing banter, and featured the live debut of a song from the band’s forthcoming record. The only thing that was missing was the no-brainer collaboration with headliners Vampire Weekend that we didn’t get.

Check back tomorrow for a recap of the final day of the festival.