OkeeFest Founders Resign After Fest's First Year
In a surprising move, producers Steve Sybesma and Paul Peck have resigned from Soundslinger, LLC, the company they co-founded with landowner Cliff Rosen in 2014 to produce the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, citing "philosophical differences.” Their respective titles were co-founder/CEO, and co-founder/Chief Creative Officer; their tenure with the company ended on Oct. 18.
With headliners including Mumford & Sons, Kendrick Lamar and Skrillex, as well as a meaty middle bill, OkeeFest launched in 2016 as Florida's biggest-ever camping festival, hosting more than 80 artists, bands, and DJs on five diverse stages. By hosting such diverse acts as the Avett Brothers, Bassnectar, Robert Plant with his Sensational Space shifters, Miguel, Hall & Oates, Fetty Wap, Ween, and Booker T. Jones, primary talent buyer Peck melded genres and cultures in a way Bonnaroo, Peck’s previous employer, once did. More than most fests, OkeeFest was successful in melding the jam and dance cultures, resulting in an eclectic audience who happily consumed unique and surprising performances.
In a prepared statement, Peck and Sybesma say they will resurface in a “to be named” new company, where they will "continue to produce festivals and other live events, focus on content creation, offer live event consulting services, and develop a variety of exciting new initiatives.”
Sybesma, in the statement, adds: “We are sorry to leave, but wish the remaining organizers continued success with their future endeavors. I look forward to continuing my amazing business relationship with Paul to build upon what we have achieved together.” Peck thanks, “all of our incredible staff, contractors, vendors, investors, industry friends, agents, managers, and artists for helping to make this happen. We are extremely proud of what we accomplished together.”
Sybesma began as an independent concert promoter, and then, along with partner Dave Lucas, grew Sunshine Promotions in Indianapolis into one of the lleading promoters in the Midwest (1972-2000), founded Deer Creek (Klipsch) Music Center, Polaris Amphitheater, and TourDesign, and acquired and restored the Palace Theater (Louisville) and the Murat Centre (Indianapolis). After selling their companies to SFX Entertainment, Sybesma moved to China in 2003 and co-founded China West Entertainment. At Soundslinger Sybesma, with Peck, oversaw the overall creation and direction of the OkeeFest.
Peck was formerly with Superfly Productions, where he helped to launch Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in 2002, and became a key member of the festival’s booking and programming team, including his role as producer of the famed Bonnaroo SuperJams.