Suwannee Hulaween always has one of the deepest lineups of any major jam festival. I’ve attended every year since 2015 always enjoy its main headliner The String Cheese Incident who typically perform six sets over the festival duration. Here’s the organizers description –
Since its inception in 2013, the Halloween-themed music, arts and camping festival has evolved into one of the country’s most coveted cross-genre affairs. Curating dynamic lineups that range from electronic, jam, and indie to bluegrass, funk, soul and hip-hop, Suwannee Hulaween’s ability to abolish genre confines is evident year after year.
For four days, across five stages, it’s a nonstop aural awakening with so much for any music lover to explore. I prefer spending my time under the trees at the Amphitheater, Spirit Lake or Campground stages but definitely hit some of the bigger stages and acts along the way. This is the second article on the lineup that I’m aiming to hear across a spectrum of genres. Once the daily schedule is posted, I’ll put out my full itinerary.
Hula Rising Stars
Toubab Krewe is a great Mali West African band and a personal favorite. They are the first band I saw in Suwannee at Bear Creek Festival 2010 and I’ve been hooked ever since. Justin Perkins is a maestro on kora, kamelngoni, guitar, and percussion and his partner Luke Quaranta on percussion form a dynamic duo along with the rest of the Krewe. The pulsating rhythms and beautiful melodies will suck you in if you are anywhere near their stage.
Butcher Brown featuring Nigel Hall is sure to be a killer set. I first saw Butcher Brown open for Lettuce at The Caverns in Pelham, TN and have been a fan ever since. Their blend of jazz, funk, hip-hop will have an extra jolt of caffeine with Nigel Hall, the keyboardist and vocalist from Lettuce. Their recent album #King Butch, reviewed here is top notch.
LPT is a 10-piece orchestra delivering salsa and Afro-Cuban music with their high-energy live shows. Formed in 2015, the crew realized that playing salsa music was a way to share the diversity of the area with a new, young audience, while still giving the seasoned salsa veterans a taste of that old school. I first caught the band at Suwannee Rising 2019 and have been looking forward to seeing them again ever since.
Isaiah Sharkey is a musicians musician – a guitar phenom recognized by his peers as a stellar performer. I know that he’s a favorite of members of Snarky Puppy and Lettuce and he’s another ‘sleeper’ that is gonna turn on a lot of new ears at Hula.
Wednesday Night Titans is probably the most unique set you can see all weekend and will alter your already altered state. It’s the brainchild of drummer Zach Danziger and bassist Kevin Scott. I’ve caught WNT a few times and it’s a multimedia, Championship Wrestling-fueled extravaganza that’s one-part NASA-like brain challenge (Google “Zach Danziger TED Talk”), two parts interactive video shock treatment, and three parts future-music language lesson.
Utilizing the zany antics of such 1980s-era wrestling icons as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage as their video-projected inspirations, Wednesday Night Titans create a unique, proto-cosmic barrage, manipulating speech, video, music, and lights from their instruments in real time. It’s an over-the-top mind-gasm of roid-warrior madness, and performance art profundity.
Ajeva is a local Florida prog-funk band making a return appearance to Hula. I caught them by chance running into their lead vocalist Reed Skahill back at Hula 2015 and have enjoyed every set I’ve seen of theirs. They spread their message of peace, unity and higher consciousness through music with infectious grooves and driving energy.
Karina Rykman first came to my attention as the bass player for Marco Benevento –now she’s clearly established a reputation for her own standout band. I’d seen her a couple of times but she caught me head on at this past 420 Fest in Atlanta where I’d put her set among the top five of the weekend. She’s a badass player, a fine singer and most of all, her sets are tons of fun. Looking forward to this one.
Blaque Dynamite is the moniker for drummer, Mike Mitchell. I’ve caught him several times touring with Shaun Martin from Snarky Puppy and he has amazing chops. I’m looking forward to seeing his skills with his own band and no doubt he’s gonna make a lot of new fans at this festival.
The Main Squeeze out of Los Angeles, are a soul-funk band bringing a high energy mix of original music and covers to the Hula stages. Their set is a guaranteed dance party and I’m excited to see them for the first time since the pandemic. Every time I see them, they take the energy to another level.
Joslyn & The Sweet Compression is one of the latest additions to the Hula lineup. Joslyn has one of the sweetest soul voices around and the band is rock solid. Plus, I always love a sax + trombone horn section. This group is a throwback soul group and it was great to catch them last year in my own hometown and it’ll be great to see them at their first Hula set.
Cimafunk will be a new act for me — although I might catch them at a show in Atlanta immediately preceding Hula. Cimafunk actual refers to the lead singer and the name refers to his heritage as a ‘cimarrón,’ Cubans of African descent who resisted and escaped slavery, as well as to the essence of his music that aims to subvert conventional sounds with rhythmic innovation. This will be another high energy, very funky set combining Cuban music with afro-funk.