Ready to Hula? Over the last several years, I have heard some wonderful stories from friends who have attended various festivals at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (SSMP) in Live Oak, FL. Sadly, I have yet to attend a festival on these otherwise magical grounds. This year, I will break my SSMP festival cherry with the fourth annual Suwannee Hulaween taking place over Halloween weekend (Oct. 28-30) and featuring: The String Cheese Incident (3 nights/ 7 sets which will include a themed Halloween set, featuring cover debuts, costumes, and other unexpected surprises), My Morning Jacket, Disclosure (DJ set), Umphrey’s McGee, STS9, Big Gigantic (featuring The Motet), The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Gramatik, and Lettuce to name a few. I wholeheartedly believe that this lineup is possibly one of the best lineups for a North American festival this year-to-date. And to make this an even better weekend, my good friend Todd and his soon to be bride, Erin, will spend the weekend here with a V.I.P. package for their honeymoon. I am really excited for them and cannot wait to get to the end of October so we can all enjoy so many great musicians gathering in such a lovely venue during the fall.

In other good Hulaween related news, it was recently announced that the addition of a brand new stage will be added near the horse stable camping area. This stage was added to help ease the congestion at the Amphitheater Stage (AS) and incidentally will mirror the AS in size and capacity. So if you are attending Hulaween this October, join us as we discuss some artists/acts that I am most excited to see this weekend. Unlike most of my previous festival articles, this one I am going into totally blind. I will be relying on my friends who have been to the grounds before for assistance. So consider this a part introduction to SSMP and who I am excited to see at this year’s event. We can first discuss the latest wave of artists and then the artists that I am most excited for on this year’s lineup.

Hulaween announced their highly anticipated Wave 2 of artists during a scorching mid-July. So now Claude VonStroke, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Washed Out, Brodinski, Louis the Child, The Travelin’ McCourys, Bondax, Larry Keel & Drew Emmitt, Twiddle, Quixotic, Too Many Zooz, Thriftworks, SunSquabi, and Louis Futon were joining this year’s event. In addition, they also announced a jam packed Thursday Pre-Party that would feature an impressive lineup just in itself: Umphrey’s McGee (two sets), Greensky Bluegrass, EOTO & Friends, Kyle Hollingsworth Band (SCI keyboardist side project), Marco Benevento, Fruition, The Werks, Ganja White Night, Late Night Radio, The Heavy Pets, Con Brio, and much more. Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of the festival and we still have three more days of music to enjoy!

Now this festival is packed full of big names from across the board and some of these names have graced some of my previous articles this year such as; Charles Bradley, Gramatik, Lettuce, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Umphrey’s McGee, The Revivalists, Big Gigantic, and My Morning Jacket. We can add these names to the list based on prior excitement. But just know that these names are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to do not miss acts on this year’s jam packed Hulaween lineup. Now let us get to the actual artists that we are going to discuss openly: Thriftworks, The Motet, The Travelin’ McCourys, Washed Out, and Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals.

Jake Atlas, a.k.a. Thriftworks, is best known for his experimental, sonic electro sound mixed with dubstep and hip hop beats. Originally, a native Pennsylvanian but now based out of Berkeley, California, Thriftworks has toured with both Bassnectar and STS9. Plus, he has also played such major festivals as Electric Forest, Coachella, Lightning in a Bottle, and Wakarusa in the past. Thriftworks is best known for his unique and creative sound that may not sit well with some die-hard EDM fans. But I think this is the exact reason why Thriftwork is worth experiencing at this year’s Hulaween; to experience something apart from the status quo of EDM. Check out his track, Swamp Gods, off his LP entitled Rainmaker (2012) and judge for yourself.

Fresh off their amazing Red Rocks performance with Medeski, Martin & Wood and Vulfpeck, The Motet is very high on my must see list. Best known for their combination of funk, afrobeat, and jazz, The Motet always delivers a spirited and enthusiastic performance no matter where they are performing. Their latest LP, entitled Totem, was produced by Eric Krasno (of Soulive and Lettuce fame) and was written jointly by all seven members of the band. If you have not listened to this new album from The Motet or any of their material, then do yourself a favor and get acquainted with their signature funk sound before Hulaween.

Now to switch it up a bit, let us talk about a bluegrass jam band named The Travelin’ McCourys and why you should not miss them at Hulaween. If the last name McCoury rings a bell, it might be because of the Del McCoury Band. The McCoury family has been active in the music scene since 1967 and there are no signs to let off the gas anytime soon. Unfortunately, The Travelin’ McCourys will not feature Del as he is replaced with Cody Kilby (guitar) for touring purposes. But Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob McCoury (banjo) will make their father Del proud with each lively performance. They are also joined onstage with fellow musicians Jason Carter (fiddler) and Alan Bartram (bass). So change it up some at Hulaween and catch The Travelin’ McCourys for a great, dynamic bluegrass band that loves to jam!

Next up we have Georgia native Ernest Greene a.k.a. Washed Out (WO) who is bringing his inimitable dreamy, synthpop sound mixed with trip hop beats and chillwave electronica to Hulaween. I am very excited that WO made Hulaween’s wave 2 of artists and also very eager to add him to my article of must see artists. You might be thinking to yourself… ‘Why does the name WO seem familiar?’ Well if you are a fan of IFC’s Portlandia, then you hear WO’s track “Feel it All Around” as the opening theme for this hilarious show staring SNL alum Fred Armisten and Carrie Brownstein. WO’s blend of music will definitely be something to witness at Hulaween and I employ you all to at least try to make half of his set if scheduling produces a conflict.

Finally on my list, there is Brandon Paak Anderson a.k.a. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (APATFN) who will impress the crowds this October with their eclectic blend of soul/hip hop/funk mix. Throwing a little good vibes and some dance music into an otherwise perfect weekend does not hurt anything at all. So why not choose Anderson .Paak? In such a short time .Paak has worked with Dr. Dre, The Game, Schoolboy Q, 9th Wonder, Flying Lotus, and T.I. on some incredible collaborations. This performance will definitely be a non-stop dance party full of some great people enjoying APATFN throw down a killer set all the way to the last note.

Thank you for letting me into your Hulaween planning and I hope that you enjoy everyone you see this year. Still need to get your ticket to Hulaween? Pre-sale tickets were moderately priced at $189.00 when they announced the Early Bird sale. Tickets are currently priced at $259.00 (at the time of publishing) and are available on their website. Keep in mind that the price will increase soon ($279.00 for Tier 3), so act fast when you start planning your festival weekend. Tickets at the gate will rise to $295.00, so you better get on the ball and secure your tickets now! General admission includes admission to the festival and ‘Primitive Camping’ during your weekend at SSMP. Pre-Party tickets ($89.00) are available for a separate purchase. If you plan on arriving earlier than Friday to the festival, you will need one of these for admission. Even VIP tickers holders and those in cabins/hotels will need to purchase something in order to join in the festivities. Speaking of VIP tickets, guess what? They are all sold out! Better luck next year!

Single day tickets ($105.00 tax included) will be available but only to purchase at the gate, and will not include any camping. SSMP offers RV hook ups (power and water) for those who want to take their personal camper to the event. To bring your RV to the festival, you will need to purchase a Car Camping pass. The Car Camping pass is priced at $20.00 per vehicle, but is not required because you can always park for free in the outer lots and ride an extensive shuttle service system to the campgrounds.

The exact physical address for SSMP is 9379 Co Rd. 132 Live Oak, FL 32060 and can be used for all GPS purposes. The festival will officially open Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM. If you plan to arrive uber early to set up camp, know that will also need to purchase additional tickets on their page. This extra fee is for those arriving as early as Sunday, October 23, Monday, October 24, and/or Tuesday, October 25, 2016. Still have some unanswered questions? Check out their FAQ page and see if it helps you out.

All this talk about Hulaween makes me wonder if I can make it all the way until the end of October? This is definitely a weekend that you do not want to miss. We hope you can join us down at SSMP for Hulaween this October and bring a friend or three with you. This unbelievable lineup is on pace to create one of the most memorable weekends this year with some extraordinary sets that will make the history books for sure.

Stay tuned for our coverage of Hulaween and other festivals (including Project PBR, Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival, and Music Midtown)  in the coming months by following us on all social media formats: Concerthopper on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  And follow my personal concert hopping on Instagram also. Remember don’t think about it, just buy the damn ticket! As always, hope to see you at a show or festival soon!