photos by Don Idio
The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park welcomed the attendees of Hulaween again for its 5th year with a stacked lineup that consisted of numerous artists that curated to my musical tastes. After a two year absence from Suwannee, the nostalgic feeling of being back with a smaller crowd, new art installations, and a plethora of friends I have met over the years. Hulaween did not disappoint!
Same Venue, New Artwork
An exciting feature at Hulaween is the art installations all around Spirit Lake. Every year there are always new features to explore, which can lead to getting yourself lost without a care in the world! The entrance this year to Spirit Lake had two demon-like creatures with water fountains spewing from their mouths. What lies within Spirit Lake is two stages that were fairly smaller than the Amphitheater and Meadow stages. Although the Spirit Lake and Campground stages were smaller, that didn’t take away from the great artists who played at these stages! Some of my favorite sets from the weekend were at the Spirit Lake stage (Russ Liquid Test, Dimond Saints).
Some more interesting artwork within Spirit Lake included a mural maze, numerous creatures made from wood, and even a light installation that was very similar to what Purity Ring has for their stage setup! Night time was the best time to explore Spirit Lake and experience all of it as a whole. Spirit Lake this year reminded me of Electric Forest this year with all of the lasers, lights, and the sense of becoming one with the forest.
Secret Sets, Sit Ins, and Back to Backs
A unique factor at festivals is the surprises artists bring along with them for the weekend. I am always one who loves surprises, so when some of my favorite artists make their sets and presence special, it only makes my experience more sentimental. The first night I was lucky enough to run into two old friends from middle school who just so happened to be playing at the Silent Disco, MZG. It was a perfect way to catch up briefly, but little did I know what they had in store for the entire weekend…
MZG and GRiZ played a pop up DJ set at Pine Fields on Sunday during Space Jesus and drew a decent crowd! What makes it so unique is that GRiZ always says that they do this for fun and the fans love it! But that isn’t it…
I can’t take away from the secret set that MZG played back to back with Space Jesus at Incendia in Spirit Lake to close out Sunday night. I was about to head back to my campsite to conclude a memorable Hulaween, but heard some familiar tracks being played and decided to check out what was going on at Incendia. Upon walking up, I saw that MZG was playing and eventually saw Space Jesus and made the decision to extend my experience. Incendia also hosted a few other secret sets throughout the weekend, one of which was Manic Focus.
After the Russ Liquid Test set was finished on Friday afternoon, it was quite a surprise to see him sit in during Manic Focus’s set at the Amphitheater Stage later that night. Another surprise was Dimond Saints having someone sit in and play the clarinet and saxophone during their set at the Spirit Lake Stage Saturday night. To cap off another surprise, ProbCause made an appearance during GRiZ’s set at the Meadow Stage on Sunday night. He came out and rapped his section of “My Friends And I”. Hulaween loves the collaborations!
During my first Hulaween in 2015, The Patch stage did not exist. Upon returning to Suwannee, the Patch stage had already been established back in 2016 and was back again for 2017. This stage featured a handful of artists who I was excited to see. Some familiar artists I have seen (RL Grime, Space Jesus, Lotus) and some new ones I looked forward to seeing live for the first time (Beats Antique, The Disco Biscuits). The stage was located close to my campsite, the Playground, and a few vendors.
The Meadow stage was where the headliners played their fantastic sets. If you had asked me if I were going to make all seven String Cheese Incident sets prior to the festival, I would have said no. Surprisingly, I found myself at all of the Cheese sets and enjoyed every one! The Meadow stage had a similar stage setup to what the String Cheese Incident had at Red Rocks earlier this year. The production of the main stage also consisted of countless lights, a plethora of lasers, and confetti cannons.
The other two headliners that I was completely satisfied with at the main stage were Bassnectar and GRiZ. Friday night Bassnectar closed the Meadow and my expectations were prepared for a trippy set. Instead, he opened with an audio sample from Zoolander into the “Loco Ono Bassnectar and Stylust Beats Remix” and came out swinging with a heavy drum and bass/trap track list. My favorite set of the weekend was Bassnectar and it was my favorite set I have seen him perform at a festival.
GRiZ is always going to be a favorite of mine regardless of how many times I have seen him. My festival squad usually consists of numerous GRiZ family friends I have met over the last two years. In 2015, GRiZ played an afternoon set at the Amphitheater Stage that was absolutely packed. This year, GRiZ closed the Meadow on Sunday night. It is a sweet moment to realize that your favorite artist went from playing an afternoon set to closing Hulaween on Sunday.
Overall, Suwannee Hulaween did not disappoint and lived up to the hype once again. A solid group of people like to say that it is the Electric Forest of the south. The crowd was not super packed and drew a diverse group of individuals. I would recommend this festival to anyone who is looking for a first camping festival to experience!
See the full photo album from Suwannee Hulaween 2017 here!