Suwannee Hulaween 2018: A Galaxy Far Away
Another epic year for Suwannee Hulaween has gone down in the books and once again The String Cheese Incident along with Silver Wrapper and Purple Hatter Productions have proven they are the masters at crafting Halloween celebrations. From an eclectic lineup with a unique vibe to immersive art installations that comes to life at night, Suwannee Hulaween at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida is a one of a kind music festival. The four day festival is hosted by The String Cheese Incident with production companies Purple Hatter Productions and Silver Wrapper teaming up to coordinate one of the most out of this world festival experiences. This annual get-down takes place on Halloween weekend and hosts a wide variety of music genres, from bluegrass to EDM, as well as live painters, fire performers, craft food vendors and psychedelic lighting designers.
The festival began in 2013 with a rather small lineup featuring mostly jam-based bands with a few electronic acts sprinkled in for some late night sets. Since then, the festival has quickly expanded to feature roughly one hundred artists across five stages throughout a four day weekend. They have expanded so much in fact they have in recent years started to cap ticket sales around 20,000 tickets. Suwannee Hulaween has become a sought after festival over the years due to its unparalleled vibe crafted by the music, food, and beautiful Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. The curators behind the festival put so much thought into the design and layout of the festival grounds each and every year that attendees come back wondering what could possibly be better than the year before.
Upon entering Suwannee Hulaween 2018, attendees could feel the magic surging through the air. As the festival grounds allow for individuals to purchase early camping access, attendees for Suwannee Hulaween 2018 began arriving as early as Monday to stake out prime real estate camping areas. In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Suwannee Hulaween curators tacked on an extra day as a benefit concert for the victims of the storm. Attendees were given the option to arrive on Wednesday and donate twenty dollars at the door of the Suwannee Music Hall for a chance to see Zach Deputy, Beartoe, CBDB and Catfish Alliance. Over time, word has spread that Suwannee Hulaween allows for early entry camping and often adds on extra pre-party days, more attendees have started arriving as early as Monday rather than waiting for Friday to officially kick off the weekend. Between the extra days to boogie and the fact that you have to arrive early to snag a good camping spot, coming to Suwannee Hulaween early is always the right choice.
Suwannee Hulaween 2018 made some huge improvements to the layout of the festival as well as additions to the interactive art experience that is Spirit Lake. First, Suwannee Hulaween has begun to break up what used to be an overcrowded vendor area in the main venue to smaller, easier to digest pods of vendors sprinkled throughout the entirety of the festival including the campgrounds. Now, attendees don’t have an eight mile hike into the main festival venue to grab a quick bite to eat. Second, Suwannee has kicked Spirit Lake into overdrive with more projection mapping over the lake, a few more lake monsters designed by artist Thomas Dambo and a plethora of cirque performers wandering around the Lake. Spirit Lake has truly become the place in the festival where attendees can get lost in the magic that lies around every corner.
It has to be said that the curators behind Hulaween have outdone themselves yet again on coordination of the food vendors onsite. The wide variety of craft food and drinks onsite leaves attendees with their mouths watering as they meander towards the main venue daily. With vendors like Gouda Boys, Ma’s Irish Kitchen, Amish Doughnut and Deep Eddy, attendees are left trying to budget just enough food tickets so they can try it all. The festival has also made sure to highlight several vegan and vegetarian options, and to tell you the truth some of the vegan vendors throw down. Take FestiBowl for example, this vendor adopts the “Farm to Fest” mentality by bringing locally grown fruits and veggies to the festival to craft their deliciously healthy bowls and smoothies. The curators did a wonderful job this year breaking up the food vendors to make sure that similar food items were not placed together to insure that each vendor pod had its own personality. If you don’t budget at least $20 a day to dive into some of the most delicious festival food in the festival scene, you’re definitely doing Hulaween completely wrong.
As of recently, Suwannee Hulaween is becoming known for its unique lineup that features artists from a wide variety of genres. The festival has always been hosted by The String Cheese Incident with a bluegrass vibe, but within the past few years curators have started booking more progressive bluegrass, EDM, hip-hop, and even some alternative rock bands to really round out their festival experience as a cohesive representation of their attendees’ interests.
The Suwannee Hulaween 2018 lineup featured seven sets of The String Cheese Incident, Too Many Zooz, Lizzo, Maddy O’Neal and Kyle Hollingsworth band just to name a few. Seven sets of The String Cheese Incident alone is a good enough reason to buy your Suwannee Hulaween ticket every year, but then you tack on the opportunity to see several emerging artists from various genres and the experience becomes priceless.
The Thursday pre-party had everyone ready to rock with Papadosio, two sets of STS9 and a funky set by the Kyle Hollingsworth band. Though there was no official set by The String Cheese Incident, the night was nothing short of Cheesey as members from Cheese could be seen playing in the Kyle Hollingsworth Band and EOTO & Friends. Kyle Hollingsworth’s set brought attendees out of their camps in the rain to get down to covers of “Baba O’Riley” originally by The Who and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” originally by Cake. Kyle’s set at the Spirit Lake stage was then immediately followed by EOTO & Friends at the Patch stage, which kept attendees dancin’ through the rain with a smile.
Maddy O’Neal brought her funky, electronic vibes to the Spirit Lake stage on Friday as she swooned the crowd with the funky grooves from her new EP Dream State. Maddy has been touring non-stop with Cherub on the Free Form tour, but that didn’t stop her from bringing mad energy to the stage and getting down with everyone. The dancing didn’t stop there as Friday kept on moving with a jam-packed lineup including Lizzo, Ookay (LIVE), Too Many Zooz, and Odesza closing out the night on the main stage. Around mid-afternoon, The Patch stage was raging as the sun came out just in time for Ookay (LIVE) followed by Lizzo. Ookay is known to thrown down one nasty DJ set, but his live band performance lets his creativity soar to different heights as he wields drumsticks to craft his beats live while looping catchy keyboard melodies over the track. To switch things up to a funky flute laid over a hip-hop beat while radiating a body-positive attitude, Lizzo took the stage and conquered her debut Suwannee Hulaween performance. Attendees were feeling good as hell as she preached body-positivity, self-love and acceptance of all human beings. Moving on to later in the evening, attendees flocked to the Meadow stage as Odesza made their long awaited return to Suwannee Hulaween. Odesza made sure their return would be unforgettable as they stormed the stage with their drumline, all wearing Jason masks from the movie Friday the 13th. As the last piece of confetti fell from Odesza’s set on Friday night, campers either settled in for the night or got lost in the magic of Spirit Lake as they prepared themselves for two more days of endless excitement.
One special guest appearance at Lizzo on Friday that made our whole weekend brighter was Roochute stopping in to get down with their giant rainbow gym parachute. Roochute is a group that aims to promote preventive mental health while creating happiness and priceless memories in the lives that it touches. Roochute and their captain Ron stopped by Lizzo to boogie to her body positive, self-loving vibes and the Patch stage started pouring out love from every corner. As it was the official first day of the festival, Friday was buzzing with magic and possibilities as the attendees knew the weekend was just getting started.
Saturday’s schedule was so full of talent that attendees were left racing from one stage to the next to catch everyone on their schedules. The day kicked off with Guavatron on the Campground stage and ended with Jamiroquai slaying his headlining performance on the Meadow stage. Saturday featured a total of three sets by the String Cheese Incident, one of which was their infamous themed set. As the theme for Suwannee Hulaween 2018 was “Creatures of the Galaxy”, it was only fitting that their epic Space Jam session included the Star Wars theme song, The Imperial March, the Original Star Trek theme song and the Cantina song from Star Wars. As giant inflatable aliens popped up out of the crowd and soared across the Meadow, The String Cheese Incident took attendees for a trip all over the galaxy and back. Saturday night’s set also included a special moment celebrating Women of the Galaxy as special guests Ann Wilson (Heart), Lisa Fischer, Jennifer Hartswick, and Rhonda Thomas joined in.
After Cheese concluded their final set for the night, attendees raced over to Tipper at the Amphitheater to catch a little Tipper & Friends reunion party where they had the pleasure of hearing his song “Chrome Splat” live. After Tipper, it was time for the return of the infamous Space Cowboy. The Meadow stage packed in tight as people were reeling with excitement from the anticipated return of Jamiroquai. Jamiroquai’s performance was nothing short of perfection as he brought his “Canned Heat” straight to the stage to boogie with everyone at Suwannee Hulaween 2018. Jamiroquai’s appearances at two Silver Wrapper produced festivals this year has fans on the edge of their seats for what could possibly be in store for 2019. As Jamiroquai concluded his set that left everyone’s mind melted, the night moved on into late night happenings like Larry Keel & Friends followed by Dixson’s Violin on the Spirit Lake Stage.
When Sunday came, there was a sense of calm washing over the park as some attendees were packing up to head home and others were finding a spot in the Meadow to relax for the final day of fun. Sunday featured two final sets of the String Cheese Incident, the Polish Ambassador & The Diplomatic Scandal, The Revivalists, Gramatik & Janelle Monae. Many people lounged in the Meadow for the afternoon as they enjoyed the final moments of the String Cheese Incident and the wonderland they created known as Suwannee Hulaween. As their final set was nearing an end, people made their way over to The Patch stage to catch a little funky groove by The Polish Ambassador & The Diplomatic Scandal.
To keep the good vibes alive, attendees raced to the Amphitheater to get a good spot for The Revivalists and they annihilated their stage presence. Coming out in matching tracksuits and slaying a cover of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage had their crowd absolutely raging by the end of their set. After raging your face off at The Revivalists, there is no better way to end the night than with some hip-hop vibes from Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae closed out the Meadow stage and had a positive message of “Just go vote” as she urged attendees to take a political stand against hate and injustice this coming election day. Monae touched on her hit singles “Pynk” and “Make Me Feel” during her debut Hulaween performance. Her set closed Suwannee Hulaween on a positive and inspiring note to take a stand against the injustice in this world by making your voice count. As the house lights on the Meadow stage came on and the crowd began to clear, the feeling that another epic year of Suwannee Hulaween had concluded began to sink in as people made their way to Spirit Lake to soak in the art for just one last night.
Suwannee Hulaween is a priceless experience when you account for the beauty of the venue, the perfect coordination of delicious craft food vendors and the concoction of a one-of-a-kind artist lineup. Suwannee Hulaween tickets usually go on sale early in the summer and they are followed by the lineup release shortly after. Suwannee Hulaween offers various ticket options from General Admission to full on VIP Glamping packages. If you have never had the opportunity to enjoy one of Hulaween’s featured VIP Packages, it is definitely worth the extra fees as VIP grants you access to viewing areas at the Amphitheater and the Meadow stages, acccess to VIP lounges with discounted cocktails, and a free shuttle service throughout the park. However, if high-rolling isn’t your fancy and you just want General Admission, Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is one of the best places to camp hands down. They allow camp fires throughout the park, station pods of food vendors throughout the campgrounds and they also have a general store onsite should you need any last minute supplies. Any festival on the grounds of Spirit of Suwannee Music Park feels like home.
The other-worldly feelings brought by Suwannee Hulaween may feel like they are dwindling away, but you can keep the magic alive by following Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, Suwannee Hulaween, and Concert Hopper on social media. Suwannee Hulaween will be posting many pictures and an after movie of the event in the coming months so stay tuned to their socials to relive the magic. Hop over to our Facebook or our Instagram to see more photos we captured of all the beautiful happenings at Suwannee Hulaween 2018. Until we meet again in the far away galaxy of Suwannee Hulaween, we wish you all safe travels across time and space to your next festival.