photos taken by Don Idio
For the third time, I made my way to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park for Hulaween this year. The anticipation for this festival got bigger and bigger as the weeks started going by quicker. Not only was the lineup of artists a huge contributor to the weekend’s success, but I always find myself getting lost inside my own thoughts and Spirit Lake with the newest art installations. They say third time is the charm for everything, right?
This is the best part of Hulaween in my opinion! Not only is the lake covered by trees and numerous lights and lasers, but it includes numerous art installations from wooden creatures and 3D water holograms to sacred geometry, the mural maze, and two stages.
Spirit Lake Stage and the Campground Stage
These two stages are magical in their own ways. They had smaller name artists perform throughout the weekend. Once ODESZA and Jamiroquai played their sets on Friday and Saturday, the Campground Stage turned into the silent disco that featured a handful of talented artists including Derrick McKenzie from Jamiroquai, Chris Karns, Prophet Massive, and Marvel Years. At times, the Spirit Lake Stage was so packed that you couldn’t even see the stage! CloZee on Saturday night was wild with the huge crowd and new music she played!
The Spirit Lake Stage also featured Kasbo, MZG, and OPIUO. MZG was the first set I saw at the Spirit Lake Stage on Friday afternoon and it featured the duo playing their two new songs off of their Twin Pack 2. Who is MZG you ask? They are two brothers who are twins and have been producing and mixing music for years. Not only are they gaining more fans, it was also a highlight to see them play a bigger stage than they did in 2015 and 2017. I was sad to hear I missed out on their secret DJ set somewhere in the campgrounds, but heard it was a hell of a party!
More and more surprises kept occurring throughout the week in Spirit Lake. There was a casino that popped up and featured some games for those who wanted to test their luck and gamble with their unique items they had to bring to the table. Incendia made another appearance again this year and it was a great spot to meet up with friends if you wandered off and were exploring Spirit Lake. If you were lucky enough to check out the mural maze right next to Incendia, you may have found yourself in a little village that had a small building with a grandfather clock. Although the clock was a unique decoration, it had a twist to it…if you found the secret handle, you could open the clock door and find yourself in a secret ball pit! By the time I had made it around to check it out myself, it wasn’t quite the “secret” anymore.
I always find myself wandering around Spirit Lake in hopes that I stumble upon something new that I had not seen in the past two times I was attending Hulaween. From all the new art installations and new layouts, Spirit Lake never disappoints and is made for you to get lost and explore!
Same Artist, Different Year
When I first attended Hulaween three years ago, there were some artists on the lineup who were not quite a popular name on the lineup or ended up performing on a smaller stage. To be more specific, ODESZA was an artist that absolutely stole the festival back in 2015 at the Amphitheater Stage for their late night set. After their set had concluded in 2015, I told my friends that I would 100% be back when ODESZA was playing again at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. This year, we were graced with another ODESZA set, headlining at the Meadow Stage. Since that 2015 set, ODESZA has gone on to headline numerous music festivals around the world, been nominated for a few Grammy’s, improved their stage production and visuals, and added a permanent drum line to their live performance.
Another band that made their first appearance at the Meadow Stage was Lettuce. In 2015, they had a night set at the Amphitheater Stage. This year, they had their set early in the afternoon to kick off the day on Saturday. The Floozies also went from playing at the Amphitheater Stage in 2015 during the day to having a primetime set at the Patch Stage for the Thursday pre party. Other artists who performed at Hulaween in 2015 or this year include STS9, The Polish Ambassador, MZG, and (of course) the String Cheese Incident.
What Makes Suwannee Special?
I ask myself every year that I have been at Hulaween, what makes Suwannee so special? Aside from the primitive camping set up and the great musical lineup, I believe the new memories that I create each year is what makes this festival so unique. Yes, the setup may be the same, but the crowd and vibes have been different each of the three years I have attended. Each year, Suwannee has something up its sleeve to serve to the attendees and it creates a unique aura that radiates all forms of positivity throughout the weekend.
Each new person I encountered over the weekend has some relevance to my experience and that to me is what makes Hulaween a must attend festival!