HUMANS OF OKEECHOBEE: FRANK TERENZI'S COAT OF ARMS
"What's your favorite color?"
That's the question Frank Terenzi asks every festivalgoer queued up in front of his body-art-painting booth in Chobeewobee Village, one of the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival's tree-canopied nooks.
"Blue," says Daniela Brodner, 27, of Boynton Beach, who proceeds to dip her arms into one of Terenzi’s plastic washbasins, filled with a syrupy mixture of deep purple and blotchy orange acrylic paint. Terenzi squirts hot-pink acrylic into the blend from a ketchup squeeze bottle. The paint disturbs the psychedelic swirl.
With Brodner's sister, Klara, 21, of Miami, both pull their arms from the liquid. Their arms, up to their shoulders, are now coated in a fusion of colors.
"It's fancy. You become the art,” says Broder, of Boynton Beach, who bought festival passes for her sister, Klara, as a birthday present. They did not research the performing bands. "I have no idea which band is playing when, and I don't care."
Terenzi, whose Lake Orion, Mich., vendor booth Black Light Visuals transforms people's arms into tie-dyed canvases, says he loves the gasp of delight on festivalgoers’ faces when their coat of arms are revealed.
"When you dip people’s arms in body paint – it's a fluorescent pigment – they make this noise, almost like a surprised squeal. It gets me every time," says Terenzi, 23, who on Saturday afternoon sported a black bowler hat decorated with a sunflower above the brim and the phrase, "All Is Well." He also wore metal-rimmed sunglasses and a tie-dyed T-shirt smudged in lime greens and cobalt blues.
The body-paint artist says he abandoned his dream to become a full-time graphic illustrator after getting tendonitis in his wrists.
"It forced me to pick another career, so I thought, 'F---, I’ll become a body-paint artist and bring it to a festival,' " Terenzi says. "Just to see people smile and being out in the sunshine, that's perfect."
SEARCHES AT OKEECHOBEE
A group of festivalgoers who were assigned to campsites directly behind a Sheriff’s Office makeshift substation say they are fascinated with the cast of characters being arrested at the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival.
SMELLY BUT FULL OF SPIRIT
THE PARENTS OF OKEECHOBEE
Among the Hula-Hoopers, dancers and pin collectors at Okeechobee, there are also children and babies. The constant loud music and wild partygoers didn’t scare away parents from the festival.
DeJah Diane Hogan, 22, came from Detroit with her two children, a 3-year-old and 5-year-old.
"I came to see Kendrick Lamar. He's my favorite artist ever, and I know he's going to be doing a lot of shows overseas, so this was the last one I could catch," Hogan says. "And also, it was my daughter's birthday in, like, two weeks, so I took them to Disney World. That was for them, and this is for me."
On Friday, Hogan played with her children by the beach in Aquachobee.
"They’ve never been to the beach before. This is their first beach experience," she says. "They had a lot of fun going there seeing the sand."
Marcos Garza, 30, and Katie Cione, 31, brought their 2-year-old son from Fort Myers.
"I like that he gets to see everybody dressed up in their crazy costumes, just seeing people be who they want to be, instead of how society wants them to be. It kind of lets everybody hang lose, and I want him to see that it’s okay for you to be however and whoever you want," Cione says.
Erin Hilleary , 36, came from Saint Augustine with her toddler.
"I think it's really good for kids to see adults having fun, and playing, and expressing themselves," Hilleary says. "This is our first festival. I wanted him to be old enough to enjoy it and to listen to me."
-- Barbara Corbellini Duarte (@babicorb)
Apparently, the freaks come out at night at the Okeechobee Music Festival, and we've captured them on film.
HUMANS OF OKEECHOBEE
Eton Barrett fell into poverty within months of slinging drugs on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio.
But it wasn't until he witnessed a fire-spinning artist twirling a flame-licked staff at a music festival in the state's Nelson Ledges Quarry Park that he found his calling.
"I was like, 'That's it. I wanted that. One hundred percent,' says Barrett, 25, who spun his first staff three years ago last December. "Honestly, I'd been hustling for a while, and it wasn't sustainable. It was killing me, really."
Barrett now busks in the Tampa Bay area, showcasing his brand of flow arts in downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg: twirling a pair of acrostaffs (fiberglass poles whose ends are lit on fire) through his legs, around his neck and above this head, as if simulating helicopter propellers.
First, he douses the acrostaffs in denatured alcohol, which burns fast with a high flash point, an ideal chemical for "badass spectacles that I love to do," Barrett says.
After a "big nap" Saturday evening, Barrett will perform his fire-spinning routine at 1 a.m. in Okeechobee Village, in front of a fire-breathing iron snowman.
-- Phillip Valys (@philvalys)
BLASTING OFF WITH BASSNECTAR
You know that feeling when you're on a roller coaster, slowly inching up the rungs ready to blast off onto one exhilarating and unexpected ride? That's what it feels like the day Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, plays. The thought of his headlining set made people stop to tie their shoes tighter hours before he hit the stage in anticipation of dancing to the Santa Cruz DJ's bass-heavy set. His cultlike followers, known as Bassheads, were out in full force, united over their love for the Bass god.
He opened his set with Guns N’ Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle," and the crowd braced themselves, screaming "Buckle up," "Here we go" and "Ready for take off!" The roller coaster had reached its peak, hands dangling ready for the drops, stops and surprising turns. As always, Bassnectar played an incredibly high-energy set. Freaks unleashed as Bassnectar let loose. Fans became friends, and for that hour and 15 minutes, not a worry was shared among the thousands of Bassheads banging, moshing and dancing away.
It was Bassnectar's first performance since he rang in 2016 with his annual NYE360 show in Birmingham, Ala. As our roller coaster ride came close to an end, he teased us before the last drop, painfully reminding us it was his last song of the night. This reminder only made us dance and scream harder. When it was time to unbuckle, Bassnectar encouraged us to make this year the best one yet, and after the love everyone shared together that night, it was easy to believe that it would be possible.
-- This was Talia J. Medina's seventh Bassnectar show. (@medinasmedia)
OVERHEARD AT OKEECHOBEE
- "I'm sure I'm not going to be the only unicorn this weekend."
- "Has anyone seen my family?" -- a lone unicorn
- "OMG, that was like JFK, Abe Lincoln, shot down." -- fan after Bassnectar show
- "That was the most rejuventating thing in my life." -- after a shower
- "Glitter, stat."
- "I'm letting you all know now. It doesn't matter where you are, if you're in the hospital or whatever, I'm making Bassnectar."
- "I'm a new woman." -- after a shower
HUMANS OF OKEECHOBEE
For Sara Pelse-Livi and Jake Curbelo, the most joyful moments of Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival have occurred while walking 2 feet off the ground.
Since the festival opened on Thursday, Pelse-Livi and Curbelo have been walking a pair of slacklines tensioned to a cluster of trees in front of the Now stage.
"Music is not a distraction. It keeps you balanced, keeps you thinking, keeps your head clear on the line," says Curbelo, 20, of Hollywood, a cabana boy at the B Ocean Resort Fort Lauderdale. He's also an aviation major at Broward College.
He was wearing a green morph suit, which he says, helps him "blend in" amid the grass and pinecones.
"I'd want someone to Photoshop the stars and night sky onto me," he says.
Pelse-Livi, 21, says they've been practicing slacklining since May, and wants to bring their polyester webbing to SunFest in West Palm Beach.
"So many people walk up to us and be like, 'How the hell do you balance so well?' It brings people together. It's a great workout," says Pelse-Livi, of Hollywood, an environmental science student at Florida State University who is studying African lions for National Geographic.
-- Phillip Valys (@philvalys)
RANDOMNESS AT THE FEST
- The Walmart in Okeechobee is already out of all things liquid, festival promoters said.
- Showers are packed for women, with lines curving out to the street, but there were no lines for men Saturday morning. Showers cost $7, and tickets are only sold at the general store.