The first annual Suwannee Hulaween at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida united several very different kinds of people and art in unexpected ways. Detachable hoodies with chain ties, logo pins, college kids, thumping Apple controlled bass tangoed with tie dye hippies, weed, classic rock, bluegrass and, yes, real wooden instruments all twirled together drenched in bold color and sound in a mystical forest setting. Princesses on unicorn bikes, giant m&ms, ballerinas, zombies, voodoo rodeo clowns, gnomes, mummies, teddy bears, men in tights, sea captains, belly dancers, fire-eaters and stilt walkers were a small sample of the costumed fans and artists parading in front of our tent and bouncing in the crowd throughout the Hulaween weekend.
This voodoo themed Hulaween inspired The String Cheese Incident to play the following covers on Halloween: ACDC’s Hells Bells, Voodoo (Neville Bros), Zombie (Fela Kuti), Spirits in the Material World (The Police), Monster (Kanye Rap by Jason), Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix) > Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac), and Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel). String Cheese played 7 sets over 3 days. After Thursday’s insane electric bash, some fans were disappointed in the band’s energy during Friday’s show. However, on Friday, Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic did join SCI for Bumpin Reel. Lalli’s saxophone paired with Michael Kang’s electric fiddle really brought the rhythmic song to life. That was the only chance to see Lalli play at the festival since the rain completely washed out Big Gigantic’s scheduled set later that night. Cheese’s Saturday night set brought back that insane high energy everyone was jonesing for after Thursday’s explosive show.
Conspirator, Main Squeeze, Catfish Alliance, Emancipator, Apple Butter Express, Leftover Salmon, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and several other bands all played great sets in the before and after hours between SCI sets. Trevor Terndrup of Moon Taxi, said they had seen a lot of bands play the amphitheater but this was their first time playing on that stage. They were clearly stoked to be up there. Though Friday night’s Silent Disco was rained out, Saturday made up for it including dueling D.J.s and dancing until 5am. An added bonus at Hulaween was all main stage shows could be viewed from up front or up on a ferris wheel.
Of the varied 7,500 fans and their different tastes, all of the ones I spoke with loved Hulaween and loved SOSMP. Those frequent festival goers that had not been there before said that though they’ve enjoyed festivals in other beautiful settings, the shade, trees, space, river, and the lay of the land trumps all others. People came from all over. We spoke with people from Chicago, Montana, Colorado, California, New York, Virginia, Georgia and of course Florida. While speaking with Drew Emmit briefly while warming up at the Spirit Lake’s massive steel bull fire pit he told me he felt the SOSMP was “magical”. This means something coming from a musician who has played many amazing venues and lives in the Colorado mountains, one of the most scenic places in the country. Spirit Lake, a visual arts extravaganza set in the forest on the lake was a hit. Though a lot of people had just been to Tomorrow World which is heavy on production, they were still turned on by the lights and arts created at Spirit Lake, so much closer to nature.
So much of the festival experience is about the people there to enjoy the music. The crowd was filled with really happy, really friendly fans which made a positive pleasant very positive vibe for the whole weekend…and this is from someone, one of the few, who did not partake in any mind altering trip candy during Hulaween.
The day after Halloween, a guy with a white captain’s hat on the ground next to him, his hand around a half empty handle of vodka, wearing a hot dog costume remained passed out on our neighbor’s picnic table for hours, occasionally mumbling nonsense. When he woke around 2 pm, our kind neighbor gave him a golf cart ride back to wherever. We ran into him the next day in the same costume and found out he was supposed to be the captain of the Costa Concordia. He and his friends were the happiest guys in the world when we saw him.
During SCI’s Friday night set we realized it was time to batten down the hatches. The wind picked up, the overcast sky darkened quickly. Stake your tents down people!
The heavy all night rain forced friends and strangers to share tents and swap stories. The crazy music festival instantly morphed into more of a summer camp with the new kids hunkered down trying to stay dry. We were so lucky that as our tent flooded, a fun trio from Chattanooga sought shelter under our tailgating tent and then our neighbor with the RV invited us all over to dry out and hang out. It ended up being a lot of fun and much better than sitting in leaky tent. Mark Roth & his black lab Max were our most gracious RV hosts while the rain came down.
We wished the rain away but hey though it doused the music for the night it brought people together and good times still prevailed.
The String Cheese Incident’s Suwannee Hulaween was such a hit they’ve committed to Suwannee Hulaween 2014!
***In case you are wondering for next year, take note, Ramen noodles are NOT accepted in exchange for the free festival poster for the food drive hosted by Conscious Alliance. Kind of sad they had to specifically write that in the program!