October 27th – October 29th 2017 at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak Florida
Written by Maria Ekaterina
Photos by Roger Gupta
Live Oak, Florida held an unparalleled music experience for more than 20,000 people over Halloween weekend. The sold out four day event in it’s fifth year at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is quickly picking up momentum as the ultimate other-worldly weekend of the year. EDM, Jambands, Reggae, Psychedelic, Funk, Bluegrass, Hip-Hop and Global Fusions incorporated amidst the seven unsurpassed sets of String Cheese Incident, bring the live music experience to a whole new level. Through colored lights illuminating Spirit Lake, alongside stunning art installations set under the magnificent Spanish moss-draped Cypress and Oak trees, thrives a unrivaled spirit of Halloween.
Upon arrival at Hulaween, it’s important to take some time during the day to get acquainted with Spirit Lake. It may mean missing a few sets while enjoying what the lake has to offer while setting your weekend compass. Thursday offers a great taste of the weekend to come with rising art installations throughout the forest, and a non stop stream of the finest jam bands soaking the audience in juicy tunes. One of the largest growing pieces in Spirit Lake is the mural maze lead by the head designer and builder Andrew Wagner who has an outstanding team of artists joining the contributions. Andrew’s talents were seen throughout the weekend as his first mural contribution called the monkey in the yellow vest left a captivating impression on the mind for days to come. Each piece stands out on it’s own while inviting a personal journey to unfold within the extraordinary details of each masterpiece. Contributing to the masterpiece is Oceanman who is a new artist with his most talked about piece featuring a UV reactive positive/negative energy lion. Each year, new additions continue expanding the journey through the mural maze which has been curated and collected through previous years with the help of artists like Annie Kyla Bee who has been contributing her art for the past four years. Days before everyone’s arrival on site artists like Ania Amador spend time manifesting their vision to life and in her words, it has grown into a tremendous reality for many who wander through the forest. “What started as 640 sq ft along the entrance wall the first year of Hulaween, has turned into over 5000 sq ft of visionary art throughout Spirit Lake. It has been an amazing experience watching this idea turn into an ever growing reality and I am so thankful for all the artists that have contributed for the purpose of touching people’s lives.”
Awakening the extraordinary weekend, Psychedelic Monks opened up Hulaween’s official pre-party Thursday morning and funked up the Spirit Lake Stage before the soul rocking group Luthi smoothly layered their multi-tone jams into everyone’s groovy afternoon. Highlighting an already rocking pre-party, Kyle Hollingsworth Band delivered one of the best sets of the day alongside Greensky Bluegrass, closing out Spirit Lake stage embodying the energy of a whole weekend festival in just one day. Fascinating fire performers, miraculous aerial acrobats and astounding forest decorations continued to spiral out of seemingly thin air throughout the weekend. The late night silent disco welcomed early morning shine as crowd watching, takes on a whole new lens at Hulaween.
Between the four stages open Thursday, the Amphitheater stage gave folks an intimate taste of the weekend with The Nth Power, The Devil Makes Three, Lettuce and two firing sets of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The Amphitheater stage doesn’t have a bad spot in the house. Lined with long, wide steps leading down to the pit, the sounds resonates spellbindingly throughout the moss draped trees. With plenty of room to dance and actually see performers get funky on stage, it’s easy to spend the whole day here dancing or chilling in a hammock between the trees.
The Patch stage complimented the Amphitheater stage schedule, making it easy to go back and forth listening to the best sounds of the day. Surrounded by otherworldly creatures the entrancing flight between the two interchanged marvelously. From Zach Deputy’s funky, untamed and limitless jam early afternoon to late evenings double Umphrey’s McGee sets. Drawing a full house towards the end of the night EOTO & Friends sparked the late night adventures throughout Spirit Lake. Relaxing in a wooden spider’s abdomen or cozied up by the vivid late night lake lights or admiring impressive Jet Pack water acrobatics allows a continuous kaleidoscopic stream of interactive activities to unfold in your favor. Heading back to your campsite brought treats of it’s own as Griz and Space Jesus threw downs secret sets throughout the weekend.
Hulaween will ultimately change you for the better. Participating in a hoop workshop with Taylor Flows or finding balance with Ahlee Dee and her Indo board, energizes and balances the mind throughout the jubilant weekend. Everyone at Hulaween feels more connected through workshops like Ceremony of the Heart or meditation with Anamorphosis Art. Those who traveled alone into the depths of this amazing festivals quickly found themselves amongst a multitude of new friends. The magic that lives here is uniquely curated and brought to life each year through the momentous vision of very talented organizers and artists. This magic continues thriving inside your inspired heart long after you leave. Throughout the year as little polaroid photos & sparkly feathers with love messages found inside pockets uncover memories from this supreme weekend in the sand, it reminds us to take what we feel here and share it with the rest of the world.
Artists and festival goers alike feel free to participate through entertaining and amusing costumes in full Halloween spirit. Looking like they just got released from a mad house, Big Something delivered in an all around big way opening up Saturday on the Amphitheater Stage in straight jackets. Amidst the seven luscious sets String Cheese delivered throughout the weekend, their Saturday “Night of the Loving Dead” theme was the best set of the weekend. Transitioning from Sublime “Love is what I got” > Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” > Black Eyed Peas “Where Is The Love” > Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” > Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and back to“Crazy in Love” while confetti cannons exploded into the atmosphere, a multitude of rose colored hearts & giant spider webs opened up above people’s heads. Energetic pyrotechnics sewn amidst the firework lit backdrop with giant, bouncy, inflatable boogie men holding hearts jumped around above everyone’s heads. String Cheese ultimately delivered the best sets of the weekend while inviting their friends from Beats Antique, members of Jerry Douglas Band, Rhonda Thomas on vocals among others to join them on stage. Hulaween isn’t just a festival, it’s a yearly celebration of friends and musical collaborations throughout the unforgettable weekend.