Written by Charles “Bones” Frank, Photos by August J. Heisler
As I woke on Friday into the fertile and picturesque landscape of the Suwannee grounds, I felt the energy from Thursday’s pre party settle, and as campers and artists alike continued to arrive and join the midst, a new energy was brewing. Yes, the main stage would open, the installations would continue to take their form, and eyes would widen as Hulaween truly opened up. Throughout the rest of the weekend I took in sights and sounds that would tingle every sense, tickle curiosity and invade my mind with impressions to last a lifetime. Allow me to navigate you through more of my travels around the grounds and introduce you to some of the discoveries and features that the rest of the weekend would bring.
Too Many Zooz:
Too Many Zooz is a blasting horn and drums trio born of the New York City subway busking culture that makes the underground culture of the Big Apple so rich. Too Many Zooz found their Hulaween home on the Amphitheatre Stage early Friday afternoon and immediately blew listeners back. Looks of amazement circulated the crowd like a virus, passing swiftly and contagiously from one attendee to the next. Front man Leo Pellegrino’s bombastic belts into his huge baritone saxophone captivated my eyes and tractor beamed my ears. Not only is the trio’s urban circus style party sound large, their antics on stage are a beast all to themselves. Pellegrino danced to and fro, toe tapping and bobbing under his brightly colored Mohawk to a beat that had now undertaken the entirety of the crowd. Too Many Zooz conjured a celebratory energy that would not soon be forgotten, and permeated through the rest of the weekend.
Spirit Lake in the daytime:
From there, I mulled about a bit at the top of the amphitheater bowl, and before my first trip to the Meadow Stage I dipped my metaphorical toe in the famed Spirit Lake section of the park. Spirit Lake during the daytime is a pastel amalgamation of color and creativity. Like the actual lake in the area, the vibe is peaceful, the energy remains in its’ potential form before taking its’ true kinetic nature after sundown. Visual artists give tours through their sanctuaries of creativity, huge wooden structures depicting various beasts of the wood act as identifiable meeting points for groups, backdrops for photo opportunities, and great places simply to take a load off and take in the scene. After a few minuets spent on the outer edges of the mystical wooded wonderland I headed for the main stage, eager both for Medeski Martin & Wood, and also to return to Spirit Lake under the cloak of nightfall.
Medeski Martin & Wood, Dr. Dog:
MMW took the main stage under the hot fall Florida sun, and their silky, slinky grooves washed through the masses. This group has long been a turbine of dynamic free sound, clearly bolstered in classical music theory composition while allowing space for incredible exploration and interplay between bass, drum, and keyboards. They weave a very unconventional jazz avant-garde web that hypnotizes onlookers and their mid afternoon slot was perfectly placed by the Hulaween scheduling gods. Before returning to camp to rest, reload, and converse I drank in the soul serenade of Dr. Dog. This six piece utilized every member engaging in harmonies over sunken in rocky, Americana folk sounds. What is crucial to take a second to note of here is the aforementioned and critically precise process of scheduling and placement. Hulaween boasts talent on every inch of the lineup, and with multiple stages and opportunities for attendees to engage in both familiarity and discovery the art of scheduling comes to the forefront. This year’s edition of Hulaween defined genre spanning, and gave attendees the opportunity to get into a flow of energy conservation, expulsion, climax and regression. Bands like Dr. Dog play their parts masterfully, and their set found many listeners on the meadow sitting back and just taking in the ambiance. I really looked forward to this set when the schedule was released, and the transition from Medeski Martin & Wood into Dr. Dog allowed me to breath and rejuvenate, while still keeping the beat and enraptured in awe and captivation of both bands. Well done Hulaween, well done indeed!
I returned to my group to join August and review some of the wonderful reverberations that the afternoon had brought. A libation or two followed, as we kicked up our feet and braced for the explosion of vigor that evening brings to Hulaween. Everyone knew what was to come, as the hosts of the weekend were to take their place and deliver.
The String Cheese Incident:
The String Cheese Incident was on hand to deliver seven massive sets throughout the course of the weekend, and they played their role of player/coach of the festival to the tee. While describing each and every twist and turn of the boys from Colorado would be an inefficient use of word space, I want to touch on some astonishing high marks from their shows. Also, let me add my rub on this fun loving but down to business entity that is SCI. Simply put, I have always adored this band, and that feeling is evidently mutual between patrons at Hulaween. Though the festival itself covers a tremendous amount of ground on the genre spectrum, it is for sure an east coast homecoming to the String Cheese family. When these guys take the stage, love is always in the air. Cheese has always struck me as a band of inclusion, of fun, of accessibility to their fans. They both verbally and non verbally through their tunes acknowledge and appreciate their place on the stage and for their listeners place in the stands, or in Hulaween’s case the meadow field. They are talkative on stage, they provide colorful introductions to songs and guests, and engage in interplay amongst themselves that is simply unique only to them. Not a single note at Hulaween was to disappoint, and there are some specific peaks in each stanza of the weekend that I took specific note of, including of course their Halloween set from Saturday night!
Sets 1 & 2 (Friday):
Cheese opened their first set of the festival with a huge version of the fan favorite “Texas”, which they stretched out for fifteen minuets to really start things off with an exclamation point that would normally serve as a set closer. After which, not wasting any time to get their friends involved, singer songwriter Rayland Baxter emerged to lead the band on a pair of tunes which he wrote, “Gone Crooked,” and “Hey Larocco.” The set rolled along before “Let’s Go Outside” found its’ place this time as a set closer. Like the true tutors of timing that they are, String Cheese had packed a nice little punch to begin their reign at Hulaween 2018, not too explosive and perfectly contained.
Their second jaunt of Friday would find its’ way across probably the largest Cheese crowd of the weekend. The electronic duo ODESZA’s set followed this installation of Cheese and the Meadow Stage was packed to the absolute gills with seemingly all of the 20,000+ guests of the weekend assembling. Well aware of their audience String Cheese through out some huge anthems, including a “BollyMunster,” and a combo of “Rivertrance -> Drums -> Joyful Sound.” This is my favorite kind of Cheese, infused with lasers, middle eastern twang, and the patented trance jam sound that defines the scope and range of ability that the band has.
I: Texas, Manga, Gone Crooked, Hey Larocco, One Step Closer, Elizabeth Reed Jam, Turn This Around, Let’s Go Outside
II: Black And White, BollyMunster, Illegal, Rivertrance, Drums, Joyful Sound, Search, Colliding
To find the conclusion of our coverage, including the rest of the String Cheese sets, Spirit Lake at night time, and much more, keep trucking to the next part! We also will be rolling our Papadosio interview out to cap off a great weekend so stay with us!
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