Suwannee Hulaween 10th Anniversary Recap

Hulaween is a much-hyped festival for good reason – it’s almost impossible to chronicle the experience for anyone uninitiated to the event. This year’s 10th anniversary edition was no exception and I was thrilled to be there as a fan and music video journalist. 

There are multiple reasons why the festival is so special – the music is spread across five stages and spans genres from massive EDM light shows and String Cheese Incident extravaganzas to medium and smaller rock, jam, funk, pop, and world musiuc stars.  I’ve come to learn and appreciate that every attendee is going to have their own singularly unique, unrepeatable, unimaginable experience. I know that because every year, I appreciate it from a different perspective and vantage point.

This year, for instance, I recorded fewer sets (nine is still a lot but down from a high of around 16), but probably saw more individual sets and definitely took more pictures of the fest and my fest family.  Here, I’ll document my 4-day journey

Thursday October 26th

I arrived at the park around 1 pm on a beautiful, sunny day and excitement in the air was palpable. In the earlier Hula years, Thursday was a preparty but it’s now part of the full festival experience. I wasn’t planning a lot of video for the day but ended up with three sets starting with TAND. They launched me into Hula vibes right away and their mix with the visuals was a great dose of playfulness to start the day.

I immediately started running into friends and as fate would have it the Hula organizer and grand master, Paul Levine, was among them. I knew the fest was gonna be incredible.

I worked my way over to the Campground Stage and caught the last 1/4 of the Tru Phonic set and was glad I did. The crowd was deep into it and apparently was comprised of a bunch of Florida loyalists as well as new fans like me. The last tune ‘Things Are Lookin’ Up” is a new release from them. 

Next up was Altın Gün, a Turkish psychedelic rock band out of Amsterdam that I had marked to see based on recommendations from my buddies Matt and Charles who saw them in Atlanta one month prior. They lived up to the hype and then some as they scorched the Hallows Stage with a sunset set.  Their set was full of musicianship and catchy melodies, even if we didn’t understand the words. It was a great way to close my video record for the day.

Finally, just chilled between the Spirit Lake with a little Sodown and the Amp stage with  John Summit. I’m typically not an EDM fan but Summit was suprisingly catchy and a great way to relax and enjoy from a distance. Definitely used the time to recharge and gear up for what was sure to be the two longest days of my Hula life, with both Friday and Saturday running from early afternoon to 4 am late nights!

Friday October 27th

Friday was another blazing hot day, on and off the stages. It was gonna test my endurance to go from Roosevelt Collier at 3:15 pm to Lespecial wrapping up at 4:00 am. But first I made a quick stop to see my brother Bee Getz introduce his friend and artist Maria También open up the Amp stage.

As Paul Levine says in his intro, Roosevelt Collier is a SOSMP veteran and he brings the heat every time he hits the stage. It was worth standing out at the Meadows for his set and I think the full screen photo of the “The Dr.” was a great effect. As a bonus, we got Adam Deitch of Lettuce to sit in for the final song.

After overheating during Roosevelt, I stay put for George Porter Jr., a  late add to the Hallows stage and SCI on back on the Meadows I chilled out in the shade. I was saving energy for my main event, the recording of the greatest funk band on the scene today — Lettuce!

The set kicked off with a birthday chorus to Shmeeans organized by word-of-mouth started by Bee. They kicked ass from start to finish. Check out the set with a great mix of old stuff like Mt. Crushmore and the Flu to the killer new stuff like Hawk’s Claw, Trapezoid  and The Lock with a sweet AWB Schoolboy Crush jam. I’m always thrilled to get Phyllis, my late mom’s name — it always triggers something deep. It took me a lil’ longer to write this day up because I kept rewatching this set. There are fire solos from everyone and the sound came out pretty damn good!

They played a little longer and exceptionally strong for their verge of darkness time slot setting the stage for a two-stage party with Trey Anastasio Band and Goose. My next planned video-venture was with lespecial starting at 2 am hung mostly by the food trucks under the trees. TAB is always super enjoyable but that night I was really grooving on their funky side and the horns were incredibly on point.

At the beginning of Goose I sat on the ‘grass’ for the first time this Hula and that’s when it BIT me – a first little sting which I came to feel, see, learn later was an encounter with fire ants that savaged my right arm. Youch – that would flare up over the next few days! I went back to the benches for the duration.

I’d seen Goose a few times starting back at Suwannee Rising 2021 but wasn’t fully onboard the train at fest time.  At the behest of some friends, especially Ryan Storm, I hung out side stage.  I started getting into it more and more and Ryan was giving me the real time commentary and set list feed. By the time I left I had new appreciation for how far the band had come. It was then time to work my way over to the night cap of lespecial. But of course, not before connecting with some more friends!

lespecial was the apex of the Friday schedule securing the closeout set from 230-400 am and were guaranteed to bring the dark side of prog/funk/metal/jam. I’ve recorded their 2019 Hula set so I knew this one would be wild  having  just released their latest album ‘Odd Times’ which really goes deep and dank. This one included the rarity Boundary Dissolution at the request of Bee Getz, friend of mine and lespecial’s so enjoy this and watch for more from their official video archives.

Saturday October 28th

Saturday’s schedule was probably the most stacked end-to-end lineup I’ve ever experienced. My plan was to catch as much musicc as possible going from Electric Kif > Jennifer Hartswick Band > Funk You > Cadillac Jones > Empire Strikes Brass > The Dip > Cosmic Collective > Couch/Yam Yam > {Rest with SCI} > Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (video) > Ghost-Note.! That’s a whopping 10 sets in 1 day. After taking video during the day on Thursday and Friday, I knew I’d have to wait till after dark to make it work and I’m proud to say I caught all or most of all of those sets with regrets not seeing Cadillac, Empire or Yam Yam. But holy shit that was a helluva Hula experience.

Electric Kif is always high on my list of must-sees and they drew the opening time-slot on the Hallows stage. They were kind enough to let me visit with them pre-set and listen to their planning sesh. I caught the first part of the set side-stage before watching the sweltering second half from out front.  If you love funk-fusion, these are the cats that will fire up your neurons.

Saturday afternoon was a whirlwind tour bouncing between the Meadow and Jennifer Hartswick and then watching my boys from the ATL, Funk You lighting up the Hallows as I knew they would. I had to pass up Empire and Cadillac to conserve strength for the evening-late night run, so I caught the afternoon Cheese set as well. As usual, I don’t plan for Cheese sets but always catch them a bunch and totally enjoy them every single time. I dragged my ass up front to the Hallows stage for my homes from Seattle, The Dip and got my douple Dip picture taken :). There were quite a few people seeing them for the first time and all were duly impressed.

Saturday evening was an amazing run and had the most logistical overlap for so I took as much in as possible from the back of the crowds. I caught Cosmic Collective on the Spirit Lake stage and they were wildly good, and for me an absolute must see when they for a hometown visit in Atlanta. They’re another funky fusion, jazz groove band and they had their song “Nothing Matters in the End” absolutely floored me.

Couch is another band that I had earmarked to see based on their recent show in Atlanta at Aisle 5 that got great reviews. Their infectious pop-funk with funky horn licks catchy lyrics and great vocals was a super add at the Amp stage. This is another that I would like to have recorded but good on them – the set was pretty well packed. There was a beautiful full moon and I took in all of Hula’s glorious vibes that night.

After Couch, I started my prep for some heavy video over on the Spirit Lake Stage – PPPP + Ghost-Note from 11pm to 4am. Pigeons played a “Daft Side of the Moon” set and it was as spacey, jammy, wild and crazy as you’d expect for a late night set for them. The set list was

01. Melting Lights ~ Pigs (Three Different Ones) ~ Have a Cigar ~ Poseidon ~ One More Time ~
Poseidon
02. Alright Tonight ~ Comfortably Numb ~ Alright Tonight
03. Porcupine ~ Get Lucky ~ Around the World ~ Run Like Hell ~ Crescendolls ~ Porcupine
04. Fun in Funk ~ Young Lust ~ Fun in Funk
05. Schwanthem ~ Harder, Better, Stronger, Faster ~ Schwanthem

A few people were torn between PPPP and Pretty Lights understandably.  Hopefully, we’ll get approval to release part or all of the video soon so people who caught it can relive and those who missed can catch up. Definitely the most impressive Pigeons set I’ve seen.

The Saturday marathon concluded with Ghost-Note, one of my favorite funk bands on the scene and they did not disappoint.  After a delay due to technical issues and then a brief health scare from one of the fans, the boys hit the gas and never let up. Each member took a turn as a flamethrower with the exhortation of Robert “Sput” Searight on the kit and those who made it to the end were well rewarded.

Sunday October 29th

Sunday was expected to be a low-key day as it was a slightly shorter schedule but it packed a wallop overal. Again, the plan was to video after sundown and capture the sights and sounds during the day.

I got out to the main field and hung out for Dispatch and the final SCI set, both of which were great for the party atmosphere.

 

For the evening festivities, I migrated over to the Spirit Lake area. First up was Apashe with Live Brass Ensemble. As mentioned previously, I’m not an EDM fan but I figured this would be special and man was I right. When I walked up the set was underway and the entire crowd was jumping in unison to the electronica + marching band vibe. It was one of the most electric moments I’ve witnessed at Hula. If there’s ever an opportunity to be up front for this set in the future, I’ll be there.

Next up was Sneezy over on the Campground stage and it was another “sleeper” that was super high powered and entertaining. Another funk-filled, horn trilling set that I’ll need to catch in full when they’re headlining in my area and I can give them my full attention.

I ended up conserving energy for the grand finale acts by immersing myself in the Spirit Lake vibes, first on the chaise lounge and then on the sculpture facing the lake. I ended up having my most ‘spiritual’ unforgettable Hula experience ever and the most time I ever spent absorbing the full healing vibes. The music was so relaxing, the light show was incredibly mesmerizing and I ended up sharing some deep thoughts with my brother in charms, Phil. I won’t elaborate too much (I can’t for one thing) but it’s definitely an experience that I’d love to relive.

Rejuvenated by Spirit Lake, I maneuvered into position for The Nth Power Presents: JeNth Power, a superpower collab between Jennifer Hartswick and the forces of Nikki Glaspie, Nick Cassarino, and Nate Edgar with special guest Robert “Sput” Searight on keys. The forces that be enabled me to record from a seated position, just totally focused on my senses and the sensors of my camera. It was a total ride from silky smooth to hard, jagged edges and everything in between. The visuals were powerful and the music took me for a great ride. It was everything I needed to be in the moment and enjoy the full power of Hulaween.

If you know me for any length of time, you know The New Mastersounds are one of my favorite bands ever and I’m fortunate to have them as friends as well. I’d been listening to the new album from Eddie Roberts & The Lucky Strokes in the week it had been released including a couple of spins on the drive down to SOSMP. The dripping fonky blues and rock n’ roll was sure to be a rollickin’ way to end the festival. I worked my way over the jam-packed Campground stage and managed to squeeze in at the rail for the second half of the set. Hot damn that was a blistering festive closer. I was familiar with all the songs and the energy and enjoyment the band was having, with full fan interaction was absolutely a joy to behold. I managed to catch a few clips of the set (below) but really just soaked in the pleasure of listening and watching.

I’m sure that everyone that was there figured out “Who The Funk Is Eddie Roberts?” by the end of the set. It was an absolutely spectacular way to end Hulaween, a “best-ever” experience for me and I can hardly wait for 2024. Hope you enjoyed  hearing about my journey and ’till next time I see you at a show, be safe, be happy and enjoy life! Peace!

Eddie Roberts & The Lucky Strokes