Suwannee Hulaween Review
Oct 31-Nov 2, 2014
Live Oak, FL
written by Bryan Bailey
photos by Roger Gupta
Imagine Spanish moss and palm trees all around you as you walk through the Suwannee grounds, letting entertaining and wild things to catch your eye everywhere you look. At night laying out by the Spirit lake, you watch it turn alive with lasers and moving trees with portals wrapping in and around, while seeing fire dancers light up the night in the distance. The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park where Hulaween is held is located just north of Live Oak, Florida right off the Suwannee River. As you walk throughout the vast attractions and activities inside the venue, you nestle deeper and deeper into the intoxicating landscape that surrounds you.
If weren’t already sold by hearing or knowing about the venue, this year’s lineup was definitely one for the books, especially with some of the collaboration jams that ended up happening this year. With acts such as The String Cheese Incident, Big Gigantic, Thievery Corporation, Beats Antique, The New Deal, Shpongle, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead just to name some, Hulaween was a jam fan’s dream. Of course everyone gets hyped and intrigued by the headliners, but there were a lot of amazing other acts that blew me away like Rising Appalachia, Keller William and Friends, Particle, Future Rock, Kung Fu, The Heavy Pets and many more. These bands brought diverse genres with diverse energies from all different generations.
The music was amazing with those acts but the art was just as exciting. They had all kinds of art gallery/ installation displays to walk through and check out as you got lost in the mix of things. There was a giant mural as you walked to enter into spirit lake featuring the work of a variety of artists, as well as a forest art gallery with carved wood pieces suspended from the trees that you could walk through on your way to the fire displays and Spirit Lake late night stage. The fire installations as well as performers were amazingly captivating and captured your imagination and focus for hours each night. They also had some of the carved wooden suspended pieces encompassing the right side of the amphitheater stage, and you could watch the progression of some of the artists still in the midst of their creations and visions while you were down there for different sets. Not to mention they had some booth type galleries as well along the shakedown that could suck you in and have you lost for hours in their amazing art and minds.
Some came and had the pleasure of catching the Thursday pre-party festivities and sets, which was really fun and brought you in for an early embrace of the festival and surroundings. Particle and Electron really did a great job of starting the festival right. The first official day of the festival, which happened to be on Halloween, was incredible. As I went around seeing how everyone was adjusting in and watching the venue fill up I could tell by the energy and feel it was going to be an amazing night. There were so many people fully decked out in their Halloween attire ready to get down in the festivities. The String Cheese Incident had a three set day and they were definitely ready to get down. The second two sets were my favorite, because they played the covers “Ghost Busters” and “Thriller” in celebration of the holiday. I enjoyed seeing everyone get up and get down and dance when those came on. They followed this up in the next set with “Hollywood Swinging”, mixed with the pyrotechnics and the ferris wheel as the behind backdrop amidst the Spanish moss trees and amazing tree house glowing to the left. Beats Antique’s amazing sounds always feels so cool in the Suwannee environment and then Thievery Corporation closed out the night songs like “Lebanese Blonde” and “Warning Shots”. As the music ended we all went for a last walk through the night through the art and lights on the way to the campsites and fires to talk and laugh and finish off the night right.
The Second day everyone was glad for the sun to be back out in the sky to warm us up. You could see so many putting blankets out to soak up as much warmth as they could before they were setting back out on their journeys and day. The feeling was so nice, I saw so many people helping one another and everyone in high spirit. As I made my way back toward the music I came down just in time for The Heavy Pets set, as always they came to play to an enthusiastic crowd. Nahko and Medicine for the People and Keller William and Friends sets were great as usual with high energy and uplifting tunes. The String Cheese Incident had another great night with two sets back to back, and they came out hot with an amazing “Alligator Alley” and “Black Clouds”. I really enjoyed them closing out the encore with “Bollymunster”. The New Deal and Big Gigantic were especially amazing sets. As I looked down from the tree house during Big Gigantic set you really could see the crowd alive. I don’t think there was one person in the festival not dancing, even on the ferris wheel. After the music that night people went straight for the campfires to huddle up to keep the festivities going, there were so many insanely amazing campsites and one of my favorites was called Home Team. I stopped by and got lost in the Spirit Lake lights and trees as I made my way home for the night.
The third and last day people were still in great energy and spirit. I don’t know if it’s the venue or what, but it really brings people together. It was definitely a little colder but people weren’t going to let that stop them. Rising Appalachia’s sound always touches my soul, and their set this time did not disappoint. When they played “Filthy Dirty” and “Medicine” the crowd was moved deeply by the sultry and stirring sounds. . String Cheese came out with yet another amazing back-to-back set. “So Far from Home” and “This Must Be the Place” entranced us with their infectious rhythms. Future Rock and EOTO really was a nice switch up, after String Cheese and pumped the energy right back into the crowd. I had decided to finish up my painting I had started for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at the Amphitheater stage and I am so glad I did. They really surprised me with a spectacular set, which was great because I had never seen them before. It was a really special treat and great way to close out the festival.
I have so much thanks to everyone that was there especially staff and production. They do such an amazing job every year. I can’t wait to be back at Suwannee Hulaween 2015 to do it all again!