Hulaween 2013: Review + Photo Gallery

hulaweenWhen I initially heard about Suwannee Hulaween, I knew I had to go without a doubt. But there were plenty of reasons: the opportunity to go to an inaugural festival, finally making it down to Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, seven sets of String Cheese Incident, and what could be better than a music fest during Halloween weekend? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Hulaween has to be one of my favorite festivals and I applaud everyone involved for making it a success. Right when I thought I was done with festivals for the year, two of my festival-loving girl friends ventured to Live Oak with me for the most unforgettable Halloween ever.

Thursday

Upon arriving in Live Oak, we stopped by a close convenience store to pick up two festival necessities – ice and two gallons of water. The venue was located not even two miles away from that store, but my friends and I were starting to worry because the skies began to look threatening. No storms occurred (yet) and we pulled up to the friendly workers who greeted us and simply told us to park. Beyond the gate was the small entrance to roll into the park. We found them, reunited, parked, and began to set up camp…now in complete darkness. Before we knew it, String Cheese was about to begin their second set and we were ready to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve with fellow Hulaweeners.

And it is a good thing we did not miss that second set. During this set, these extremely gargantuan (I cannot stress how large they were) Jack-O-Lantern balls were thrown into the crowd, while Cheese played an entire set of Voodoo-themed covers, such as AC/DC’s “Hells Bells”, Kanye West’s “Monster”, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”, and Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman”.  They even snuck in a quick tease of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, which got the crowd, my friend, and me way too excited. After a short break, the night continued to get cheesy with a stacked set, including “Spirit of Suwannee Jam” and an encore beginning with a much-loved “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” to end the night.

We had not even adventured and seen a lot of Spirit Lake, but the trees were all lit up with bright pinks, greens, and blues, which reflected off the lake. These lights and multiple art installations, especially the ones near the Silent Disco stage, definitely reminded me of the nighttime in the Forest. Back at camp, a bonfire and friends were awaiting a couple friends and I who drifted off. We all got into our hammocks and tents to get one last good sleep before the music and Spirit encapsulated the next two days fully.

Friday

photo by Katie LeVan

photo by Katie LeVan

Waking up all around the same time, my campmates and I got ready for the day by listening to two great sets from our site. Come Back Alice and Catfish Alliance played as my friends cooked veggies and meat over the fire. Then some of us decided to dress up since we did not get to the night before, but we all made sure to be ready to ride the Moon Taxi. The Nashville natives played a few tunes off their latest album Mountains Beaches Cities, such as “Morocco”, “River Water”, and my personal favorite, “Suspicious”. I have mentioned this group in past festival reviews and if you have not caught them live yet, I urge you to make an effort to. These young men are going somewhere.

After breaking in our dancing shoes at Moon Taxi, it was time to see SCI for the first time that day. They may not have been dressed in elaborate voodoo costumes, but they kept up the hype by bringing a superb group of additional talents on stage. Steve Kimock and Bernie Worrell joined SCI for their interpretation of “Freedom Jazz Dance”. Then for their second set of the night, Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic made an appearance to sax it up for “Bumpin’ Reel”. It began to rain towards the end of that set ending with “BollyMunster” for a stormy encore.

The blustery weather caused Big Gigantic, Conspirator, and the remaining acts to be canceled. Three Silent Disco artists were moved to Saturday, while Satoru and Manic Focus were unfortunately canceled as well. Although the storms continued into the wee hours of the morning, Friday sets were still beyond enjoyable and the vibes were positive, proving that the show must go on.

Saturday

When the sun rose Saturday morning, the festival grounds were shimmering since they were still wet. My crew and I cleaned up our campsite from the storms the night before and listened to Brock Butler from our site. The reason we did this two mornings in a row is because our campsite was in a perfect place to hear the music from a distance, right by the Silent Disco but farther away from the other two stages. But luckily the sun stayed out the remainder of the day; we made it to the main stage in time for Leftover Salmon. Half of my crew chilled and drank fresh, cold brews as the other half played Frisbee while “Aquatic Hitchhiker”, “Gulf of Mexico”, and “High Country” could be heard from upon the hill. Next up was Eliot Lipp, who featured a live band on stage as well. This seems to be a new trend in the electronic music circuit and I am not complaining one bit.

Soon enough, it was time to catch SCI’s first set of the day. Just because it was the last day does not mean the covers and surprise guests ended. To keep up with the Voodoo theme, String Cheese had Leftover Salmon come and join them for “Zombie Jamboree”. Closing out the set, Jeffree Lerner from STS9 and Luke Quaranta from Toubab Krewe jammed out on their drums.

SCI’s final set of the weekend really set the mood for the last night of the festival. They began their set with “Best Feeling” and played tunes such as the danceable “Rivertrance” and classic “Outside and Inside”. Their encore could not have been better – their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” closed out their shows for the weekend and made the crowd go wild.

Most of my crew are pretty intense STS9 fans, so we got to the railing to be front row and waited for the electronic-jam band to take the stage. They played an inspiring set, which included twists and jams on fan favorites like “EHM”,  “Golden Gate”, “Circus”, and “Vapors”. This 14-song set just further proves that Sound Tribe can still jam out, and their show was definitely a high point in the festival.

And the amazing music did anything but stop – Emancipator could be heard while walking from just seeing Tribe. Douglas Appling, the producer known as Emancipator, is a gem among electronic music. Along with violinist Ilya Goldberg, the two put on a live show unlike any other. Older tunes such as “Elephant Survival”, “Greenland”, and “When I Go” were certain highlights of the duo’s set, but the two remixed Appling’s own creations “Eve II” and “Anthem” to shock and satisfy the crowd even more. I had somehow completely wandered off from being with anyone in my crew, which is also reminisce of Electric Forest, and decided to had back to camp before indulging in some early morning Silent Disco action.

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photo by Katie LeVan

Although the storms canceled the Spirit Lake Silent Disco the night before, the updated lineup caused many audience members to dance almost all morning. For those unaware of how a Silent Disco is set up, the idea is pure genius – two acts are performing at the same time and each person in the crowd has headphones with the ability to change channels between the two artists on stage. Eliot Lipp and Prophet Massive were the first two start the chilly night off by keeping our feet moving. Up Until Now, which is Jay Murphy’s stage name, had Leo Kulishevskiy join him on stage to add some violin to his beats. Meanwhile, Elliott Mess had Savi Fernandez sit in on guitar. Again, the power of collaborating live instruments with electronic acts is a crowd-pleaser, so this set was a pleasant surprise. The last two talented men to take the stage were Sir Charles and Vlad the Inhaler; it was apparent that both could’ve kept going until the sun had risen but the music had to end at 5 a.m., much to the dismay of every headphone-wearing guy or gal.

Despite some rough weather conditions, Suwannee Hulaween was an absolute success. Not only was the lineup what every festivalgoer wanted to relive festival season, but also Spirit Lake made the venue reflect beautiful light and art installations. For instance, the jellyfish dome was appropriately placed right between the Silent Disco and the lake, while multiple Voodoo-themed paintings slightly hid between the trees. Including festival favorites like a Ferris wheel and Starship seemed like the cherry on top of the perfect recipe for an inaugural festival.

The String Cheese Incident was of course the number one can’t-miss group, with the second, fourth, and last sets being the most crucial sets to have caught. Moon Taxi, STS9, and Emancipator are my top three sets after SCI, with Up Until Now and Sir Charles winning my heart at the Silent Disco.

Everyone who pulled the festival off, especially with the show cancellations, did an impressive job. I cannot wait to see what surprises will unveil next year at Suwannee Hulaween 2014! You might want to start working and planning out your costumes now.

photos by Katie LeVan

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