Hulaween, held in Live Oak, Florida at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is one of the biggest, most magical and musically diverse fall festivals in the Eastern U.S. The heavy hitting lineup is always headlined by String Cheese Incident and a rotating group of additional headliners leaning toward jam band and electronic music.
Prior to 2015, Bear Creek was a funk festival held at the same location a few weeks later in the fall and was a favorite of that fan base. ‘Hula’ took the baton from Bear Creek starting in 2015 and I’ve attended every Hulaween since as the middle to bottom of the lineup is always stacked with a many of my favorite artists. I gravitate toward the smaller stages, Spirit Lake, Campground and a sentimental favorite, The Amphitheater and wander enough to catch some of the big names.
Nevertheless, my focus is always on some key musical targets each year and I try to capture as much visual memories as possible. In this two-part series with each part covering two days, I’ll preview the the bands I’m most looking forward to trying to stick with my schedule. Here comes the Thursday-Friday group!
lespecial is a band I don’t know much about but I’ve heard great things. I know my friend Bee Getz from Upful Life had their album Ancient Homies on his top albums of 2020 list and that I enjoyed what I heard listening to it. Bee calls it “cataclysmic, post-rock ambitions are all that jazz, expertly embedded within emotive songcraft” and that’s more than enough for me. I’ll plan to roll up to the festival in the early afternoon and figure that these guys will be the first target for me, a great kickoff set.
Break Science is the dynamic duo of Borahm Lee on keys and electronics wizardry and Adam Deitch of Lettuce on drums and all things beats. I’m not typically into drum and electronic music but these guys hooked me a few years back and I try to never miss a Break Science set – they are so much more than the sum of the two parts and play some super energetic, funky, danceable tunes that will definitely get my heart rate up and keep me going strong. Break Science Live Band video from Hula ’19 is up on the right.
Sunsquabi is another group that has worked their way onto my must-see list. Their 2018 album Instinct (read review here) is a favorite of mine. I most recently saw them on the rooftop of our newest Atlanta venue The Eastern and their spacey, electronic jams are so well suited for the Spirit Lake stage at Hula. Sunsquabi live video from Sweetwater 420 Fest ’19 on the right.
Joe Marcinek Band is another sort of under the radar group. Joe is a premier axe player and recruits a rotating cast of musicians to always keep his sounds and his shows special. His 2021 album JMB4 is one of my top selections for the year (read review here). Definitely interested to see what he’s cooking up on the Campground stage.
Lotus is one of my all-time favorite bands with their jamtronic mix of jazz, funk and electronic spacey trance music. They recently had a major personnel change with Mike Rempel bowing out on lead guitar after 23 years but they’ve not missed a beat as Tim Palmieri from Kung Fu has stepped in and amped them up. Tim’s been on board since September and each show since has been a powerhouse. This will be my first look at the new look Lotus.
Friday’s lineup is a shining example of how and why the Hula team, headed by Paul Levine put me in an ecstatic frenzy. This schedule will have me running around from 2 in the afternoon until 2 in the morning, no-stop, no breaks trying to catch no less than 10 bands…and only one is on the Meadows stage. Wish me luck as this day is gonna be a music marathon!
West End Blend is a classic surprise to be found at Hula. I never heard of them before seeing them on the schedule and now their a can’t miss act that is one that I’m most looking forward to. Their mix of funky great vocals, horns (of course a neccessity) and tight grooves has me pumped to get out early Friday
Dumpstaphunk is a perennial favorite at Suwannee festivals and always go hard with that dual bass combo of Tony Hall and Nick Daniels and of course Ivan Neville (keys) and Ian Neville (guitar). Check out the great video from my bud Randy Bayers of FunkItBlog.com to get a taste of what’s to come.
The Floozies are one of the best electronic duos out there and often feature some guest sit ins at festivals. Here’s a vid again from FunkItBlog.com with the group + a Jesus Coomes (bass) and Ryan Zoidis (sax) from Lettuce sitting in. I’m hoping we get a repeat of this or more since Lettuce is on the program later Friday night.
Magic City Hippies are another band I’ve heard about but never seen. Their catchy licks and groovy sounds are sure to a great interlude and table setter for a wild night.
The Fritz is a long time favorite of mine having first seen them at Bear Creek 2010. They’ve just recently had a major personnel change with holdovers songwriter/music director/guitarist Jamie Hendrickson, and drummer Michael Tillis being joined by Datrian Johnson on vocals and funk machine Thomson Knoles and longtime Fritz collaborator Matt Schueler on keyboards. Hopefully I’ll catch some video of this new incarnation to go with the old one (shown) for you to latch on to.
Tank and the Bangas is a moving funk party out of New Orleans and always a fun stage show on top of great music. Here’s a little taste of their 2017 Hula show with a call up of Snarky Puppy’s Shofukan at the beginning of the song. I also was able to catch them at the GroundUP Music Festival in 2019 and love their energy.
Greenhouse Lounge is headed up by my good friend Dave McSweeney. After being on hiatus for a minute they’re back with a vengeance and I’m pumped for their funky, psychedelia. Dave’s got the chops and impeccable music taste so looking forward to getting down with GHL.
Krasno and The Assembly is of course Eric Krasno, one of the original members of Lettuce and his funky, bluesy assembly of talent. Most recently I saw him with another of his bands Chapter 2 at Suwannee Rising back in April and I’ll looking forward to this incarnation. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops into a sit in with Lettuce since they immediately follow him on the schedule. Check out the group’s show at Red Rocks that starts around the 5:30 mark and see what’s in store.
Lettuce is this generation’s greatest funk band. They’re always at the absolute top of my list and the highlight of every festival they’re at. It’s a long-time Suwannee tradition that they take the midnight Amphitheater slot and if the stars align, I’ll be at my usual front center spot gettin’ down just for the funk of it!
Kamani is a new supergroup of Kat Dyson “Ka” (guitar & vocals), Matt Lapham “Ma” (bass) and Nikki Glaspie “Ni” (drums, vocals) playing that old school in your face funk. They’ll likely be joined by a few more funk superstars and I know there’ll be a few surprises. Such a strong way to end the night!