Purple Hatter’s Ball Review
May 8-10, 2015, Live Oak, FL
written by Amanda Morgan
photos by Jamie Corsini
The 8th Annual Purple Hatter’s Ball was a music and arts festival held in celebration of the life of a well loved community member Rachel Morningstar Hoffman and benefits the Morningstar Foundation in her honor. The festival was held from May 8 – 10 at the ever magical Spirit of the Suwannee music park in Live Oak, FL and featured more than 50 artists on 4 states. For those who have yet to make it to this incredible venue – it’s one of the best in the country and I suggest making plans for next years Purple Hatter’s Ball as soon as possible. The Spirit of the Suwannee music park lies alongside the beautiful Suwannee River and is forested with immense trees that drip with magical spanish moss, providing shade from the sunshiny warmth of North Florida.
The Purple Hatter’s Ball offered plenty of room for car camping and delightfully decorated camps were spread out throughout the spacious forest and around the lake. Attendees also had the option of staying in on site cabins complete with kitchens, bathrooms, and showers for a more glamorous and comfortable festival experience.
Those who arrived on Thursday had the opportunity to attend a pre party with musical acts like Dubconscious and Elephant Revival. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it on Thursday, but the rest of the weekend was so jam packed with amazing music that my regrets for missing Thursday soon paled in comparison with my excitement at the musical adventures to come.
Upon arrival we were greeted by friendly staff and quickly directed onto the festival grounds. Purple Hat Amphitheater, the main stage, was already packed with people and hammocks were hung high in the big trees surrounding the natural bowl shaped amphitheater in front of the stage. I explored the vendors nearby the stage while listening to the funky sounds of Mingo Fishtrap. even ran into one of my all time favorite painters – Miss Emily Kell from Savannah, GA. Vendors lined the pathways with various of lovely clothes, jewelry, and crafts to suit every taste. For our first meal we stopped by the Free Lovin’ Foodery. I decided on the vegan burrito and it was super filling and full of curried potato deliciousness.
The rest of the night was full of music and dancing and fun. I caught a little bit of Alex and Alison Grey who gave a speech on the main stage. They seemed so in love and inspired by the community that is Purple Hatter’s Ball.
“One of the things I love most about our community” Grey said with a beaming smile, “is our purpleness.” Alison couldn’t help chiming in, “And our hattedness!” The very purpley hatted audience erupted in applause.
After the Grey’s spoke Random Rab took the stage with his spacey mellow grooves and the sun began to lower beneath the tree line. Nahko and Medicine for the People was uplifting and joyous and a total crowd pleaser per usual. With his inspirational lyrics and energetic stage presence Nahko had the whole audience singing and dancing along.
As midnight began to slink up on us the Spirit of the Suwannee glided over me and I couldn’t wait for The Werks, one of my all time favorite bands, to take the stage. I was happy to hear them warmly welcomed and introduced by the festival curator. Oh goodness, how I love those guys. It was awesome to see the Suwannee people dance and jive to their jamtastic instrumentals. Highlights for me included Galactic Passport>Finding Destiny>Galactic Passport and of course the Duck Farm encore.
The Werks set had me so fired up that after a brief chill session at camp I meandered around the venue, checking out the Silent Disco and various camps along the way. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and by the time I made it back to my camp the weather had cooled off to the perfect temperature for a few hours of hammock sleep. Hammocks were definitely the right choice for Purple Hatter’s Ball. They were everywhere, between every tree, even high up into the big tree’s surrounding the main stage, where some people just continued to party after the music stopped until they fell asleep.
I woke up early to a dazzling sunshiny dawn and ventured down to the Suwannee River for a mystical and stimulating morning. Saturday’s workshop schedule was fantastic. Purple Hatter’s Ball places a huge emphasis on the healing and transformational aspect of our community and offered a wonderfully curated Yoga and Arts Village with hands on activities happening all day. Starting at around 10 a.m Saturday morning early risers like myself could enjoy healing sound and Reiki, acroyoga, flow arts, and even a DIY tincture making class.
The rest of my day was spent soaking up the sun at the beach where I could swim in the tea-colored river while enjoying the music coming from Rachel’s Beach Stage. People were kayaking, playing frisbee, dancing, sunbathing naked, and floating on a blissful wave that was midday at Purple Hatter’s Ball. Afterwords, I showered in a shockingly clean shower house – the facilities at Suwannee are nothing short of incredible – and caught a little bit of Dubconcious before wandering around the various camps. I stumbled across the 12 ft Tee Pee – a community art project painted throughout the weekend and dedicated to Rachel Morningstar. Eventually it was auctioned off to benefit the Morningstar Foundation. I even found the notorious bat house, but missed the moments at dusk when the bats would pour out because TAUK was about to hit the Uncle Charles Porch stage. Their heavy instrumentals were perfect for the Suwanee sunset. TAUK is definitely on the rise, and I can’t wait to see more from these talented musicians over the next few years. After Tauk I had to take a little hammock time but luckily dear friends aroused me in time to catch the end of Greenhouse Lounge who’s beats were awesome. ’Twas my first time checking them out, and I hope to hear them again soon.
Lotus hit the amphitheater just before midnight and everyone was dancing well into the night. The sound and lights for Lotus were top notch, as always, and literally every face I saw had a smile from ear to ear. They encored with a Talking Head cover “Once in A Lifetime” which was fantastically serendipitous for me as I’d been singing it to myself since my morning adventures.
After Lotus we ventured with new friends to some of the awesome on site cabins and had lots of laughs and great conversations before spending the rest of the evening at the giant bonfire near the silent disco. I galavanted until the wee hours of the morning, energized from awesome music, dear friends, and the killer community that creates the amazing event that is Purple Hatter’s Ball. By morning it was time for us to head back to Ohio. I always say this, but I wish I could have stayed for another week. I’ll certainly head back to Purple Hatter’s Ball next year, and I definitely recommend you join me.