This past Halloween, jam rock legend, the String Cheese Incident hosted the second annual Suwannee Hulaween, a four-day spooktacular festival in the woods of Suwannee Music Park.
The festival featured acts of all genres such as Big Gigantic, Conspirator, The New Deal, Thievery Corporation (live band), Greensky Bluegrass, Kung Fu, Shpongle, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and Ghost Owl, as well as a whopping seven sets of String Cheese. With so many incredible aspects to the festival, I chose to pick the Top Five facets that made Suwannee Hulaween stand out as one of the premire festivals of 2014
1. Cheese. Lots and lots of Cheese: Let’s just say there is a reason why SCI hosts so many festivals. Each of their seven sets encapsulated different aspects of the festival experience, showcasing their versatility and depth of their musical repertoire. They led a journey through time and space, fusing genres and melodies: spanning from classic funk and rock and roll to bluegrass and psychedelic bass music.
The highlight set of the weekend was the “costume set,” in which they performed a set of all covers related to the afterlife (the theme for the weekend). The set featured covers of classics such as “Sympathy for the Devil” (the Rolling Stones), “Live and Let Die” (Paul McCartney), “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin) and an absolutely incredible “Thriller” (Michael Jackson). Unbelievable theatrics including pyrotechnics, live dancers, wackey-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-men and a mind bending light rig made their performances a complete sensory overload… in the best of ways!
2. Spirit Lake, Mind=Blown: In honor of the festival, a portion of the grounds featured numerous live, interactive art installations. Inspired by Burning Man and other transformational festivals, Spirit Lake was a completely immersive mind-altering experience. An ode to all things weird, Spirit Lake featured circus performers, a pyrotechnic statue, a sound maze and many other wonderfully weird installations. The forest was transformed into a canvas, with the entire area rigged with psychedelic lights shining over the lake and through the trees. There was also a stage located in the heart of it all, which played music until the early hours of the morning. A trip through Spirit Lake literally felt like transcending this world and visiting another.
3. The Suwannee Family: I have been attending festivals at Suwannee since 2011 and have made lifelong friendships with people that I really only get to see when I am there. It is an incredible phenomenon to have such a close-knit family that all come together for events at Suwannee. Each time I return I meet new people and my family grows a little bit larger.
4. That Thursday Throw-down: Electron and Particle provided great late-night jams on Thursday to kick off the weekend. The turnout for the pre-party was fantastic and the energy and excitement was palpable. Led by keyboard virtuoso, Steve Molitz, Particle’s set featured extensive jamming and kept the crowd moving. The highlight of the set was when the band was joined by Aaron Magner (Conspirator, Electron, The Disco Biscuits) on keys and Jason Hann (String Cheese, EOTO) on drums for a weird and wild “Knee Knocker.” Electron’s set featured a quality selection of Disco Biscuit’s tunes such as “Home Again,” “And the Ladies Were There the Rest of the Night” and “Confrontation,” as well as covers of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” and “Brain Damage.”
5. All Genres Covered: The lineup featured an extensive diversity of genres. The afternoons were filled with beautiful acoustic and bluegrass sets, as well as a few downtempo DJ sets in Spirit Lake. Some daytime highlights included Greensky Bluegrass, Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation) DJ set, Emancipator and Keller Williams. The nights were filled with psychedelic rock, funk and experimental electronic music. Some of the nighttime highlights included The New Deal; a wild collaborative Conspirator set featuring Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken of Big Gigantic and an awesome late Kung Fu set at the Spirit Lake Stage.
After my second Hulaween, I can honestly say that it is one of the best Suwannee events. The unique vibe, emphasis on multisensory, live art installations, and incredible theatrics yield the perfect environment for an epic psychedelic Halloween soiree. After this year’s numerous improvements in production and organization, I am very excited to see what the future holds for Suwannee Hulaween.
*All photos by Jonny Scoblionko