Looking Back on Hulaween: A Weekend in Review November 14, 2021 15:42
This year's Hulaween, nestled in the woods in northern Florida at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, was another one for the books. After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, Hulaween came back with a mighty roar. With headliners like The String Cheese Incident, Skrillex, Khruangbin, My Morning Jacket, Zed's Dead, and Umphrey’s McGee, there was no doubt this year would be special. After four days engrossed in the music and scene, I am here to tell you that my experience there was beyond magical.
Patrons from far and wide were ready to kick things off Thursday, October 28th. Many festival goers arrived the previous day so they would be properly set up for the four days of nonstop music, arts, and quality time with the Hula community. Four out of five stages were active on Day 1. Musical artists such as Kyle Hollingworth Band, Greensky Bluegrass, and Umphrey’s McGee helped warm up the Ampitheatre Stage. While the Deadbeats took over the Hallows Stage and had it moving and grooving all day long. Break Science, Sunsquabi, and Lotus brought their jamtronica style to the Spirit Lake Stage. The Campground Stage, which sat right on the edge of the luminated lake, pumped out soothing sounds to those close enough admiring the numerous art installations in the vicinity.
Spirit Lake pulsated with vibrant colors, good vibes, and constant beats bouncing through the trees wrapped in spanish moss. The lake, illuminating with holographic designs, proved to be another epic backdrop for all the hustle and bustle taking place on the festival grounds. There is always something new to experience around Spirit Lake. If you were feeling lucky, you could stop by the casino and wager some of your possessions. You could also walk by the complimentary bar and hear some random inspiring words from a stranger who wants nothing more than to make you smile.
Go sit on the see saw, while bursts of fire shoots out of the mouth of a metal sculpted rooster. Wonder through the mural maze, where you could get lost staring at amazing artwork; showcased the talent of the numerous artists on site. Or go see impromptu sets by djs at the mobile Fire Stage incendia. One collaboration by Chris Lake, Skrillex, and Bonobo was by far one of the biggest surprises of the weekend.
On day two, I hope everyone had their dancing shoes tied tight, because Daily Bread started off the Amphitheatre Stage with a set full of melodic funky soulful sounds. Throughout the day, fans were treated with performances from Dumpstaphunk, The Floozies, The String Cheese Incident, and The Magic City Hippies, to name a few. Taking us into the evening was Tank and The Bangas on the Hallows Stage, Manic Focus Live Band at the Ampitheatre.
On the walk up to Spirit Lake, you could find Eric Krasno & The Assembly serenading the audience with their unique sound. Lettuce helped close out the amphitheater with a special appearance from founding member, Krasno, for most of their set. Chris Lake brought the house at the Hallows and, Skrillex absolutely crushed it on the Meadows Stage. With the Hallows stage directly adjacent to the Meadows Stage (main stage), the crowd was gathered together unlike any other Hulaween. It was a beautiful site to see thousands of music goers gathered once again to dance the night away.
Saturday was a beautiful fall day in Live Oak, Florida. Bubbles and smiles bounced around the woods while there was a radiant glow percolating thru the trees. With music starting at 2:00 PM and not ending until 4:00 AM, Hulaween provided such a diverse selection of musical options. MZG had the crowd getting down during their day set. While Masego and Cautious Clay, on their different stages, brought the day into night. The String Cheese Incident performed three sets of music; ending their day with a stellar cover set dedicated to dancing.
Starting off with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance’ set the tone for this special set. With other hits like “I’m Your Boogie Man” (KC and The Sunshine Band), “Dancing in the Streets,” and closing with Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” the vibe was set from top to bottom. Not to mention, the giant T-Rex and magical Dragon that paraded around the Meadows crowd covered in confetti. My Morning Jacket and Claude VonStroke also closed things out Saturday night for their fans. And for those who were still looking for more, Jon Stickley Trio put on an out of this world, late night set.
The last day of the festival was nothing short of spectacular as well. Maggie Rose belted out her beautiful voice to get things popping on Day 4. This was followed up by some bluegrass from Sierra Hull, and one more set from String Cheese on the Meadows Stage. One of the big highlights for me on Sunday was the Turkuaz / Remain in Light set. Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew of Talkings Heads sat in with Turkuaz for the entire set and played top hits like “Psycho Killer," “Life During Wartime,” and "Once in a Lifetime."
Upon leaving the festival, I would find out that was Turkuaz’s last show as a whole, which made it that much more special. Jungle brought their unique sound over the pond and blessed the audience with a magical set full of upbeat pop. Khruangbin finished things off on the main stage on Sunday evening with their unique blend of psychedelic rock. And in classic Suwannee fashion, Roosevelt Collier Band had the honor of closing out the festival on the Spirit Lake Stage.
Looking back on this amazing experience certainly brings up a range of emotions. In a way, it feels like the weekend was actually a full week. Then again, it also feels like it passed us by in the blink of an eye. I think we can all agree that these experiences, such as Hulaween, can't be taken for granted. We've all seen what the world looks and feels like without music festivals, concerts, and live music in general. Having the ability to not only attend, but cover this year’s Hulaween celebration, was truly an honor. Festival organizers, as well as the amazing hosts of The String Cheese Incident, found a way to continue to raise the bar once again. The countdown has officially begun for the 2022 festival season!