Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

PURPLE HATTER’S BALL 2017: Live Review, Photos & Video | Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, FL | June 2-4, 2017

by • June 16, 2017

Purple Hatter’s Ball is a sweet little festival at the lovely Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. It’s a smaller festival you can depend on for a few things: a stellar lineup, a beautiful park, and an emphasis on friends and family. Purple Hatter’s Ball is a non-profit music festival now in it’s 10th year celebrating the life of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman (1984-2008). Rachel was a graduate from Florida State University who was murdered while acting as a police informant for the state. Her death is a constant reminder that nothing in life is guaranteed. Purple Hatter’s Ball is put on ever year in honor of Rachel and to raise awareness for Confidential Informant Law reform, as well as inspire a sense of togetherness as we help each other to live healthier, fuller lives.

For Rachel’s full timeline of events and foundation info, click the links below.
Rachel’s Timeline of Events  |  Rachel Morningstar Foundation

This year’s lineup is every bit as good as we could expect from the Suwannee Wolf, Paul Levine, and Purple Hat Productions — (PHB 2016 live review!) The 2017 lineup features headliner Emancipator as well as Russ Liquid Test, Perpetual Groove, Zach Deputy, The Malah, Dumpstaphunk, Zoogma, and many more.

Going to festivals never seems to get old. The more I go, the more I appreciate the little things. The perks of production from a big festival, down to the family feels of the smaller ones. This trip to the Spirit with The Sober Goat will be one of the latter. We arrive to the park after work on Friday evening. We make it in time to set up our tents in between small patches of rain around 5 pm. After a quick set up and a hug to familiar faces, we make our way to the historic Amphitheater Stage to catch DubConscious.

DubConscious at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

DubConscious at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

Rachel’s mother takes time to greet the crowd and thanks them for coming out. Her heartfelt words set the tone for a sentimental set.

DubConscious does reggae right. Since 2002, this Athens, GA band has always had one finger on the pulse of the music and the other on political and humanitarian debate. Lead singer/guitarist Adrian Zelski impresses with his political stance as much as his singing.

DubConscious at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

DubConscious at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

Watch the full DubConscious set below, thanks to The Sober Goat.

A short break back at camp for a shirt change because I’m so sweaty. It’s hot. Did I mention it’s hot? Well, it is … Okay, back to music! 😎

We return for The Russ Liquid Test. I have heard them a few times as Russ Liquid solo, but never as this new band. I have no idea what they will sound like and I’m glad. Coming in without expectations is ideal because I just would have been wrong anyways. Are you familiar with the game Never Have I Ever? Well, never have I ever heard a band that sounds like this!

The Russ Liquid Test at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

The Russ Liquid Test at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

The Russ Liquid Test at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

The Russ Liquid Test at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

Funky, trance-y, and electronic-y, this trio from New Orleans, led by Russ Scott, is redefining the possibilities of modern music. Guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair top off the vile in their quest to progress vintage sounds into the future. If you get a chance to see these guys in the upcoming months, don’t hesitate! Weird and wonderful simply doesn’t cut it when describing them. Check out some video below, thanks to The Sober Goat. 

The Malah, a Purple Hatter’s Ball veteran, is up next on the Uncle Charles Porch Stage. The 14-year old trio has made their new home in Denver, CO where they continue to evolve in the jamtronica scene. They bring it hard every year and are the perfect vibe for this festival. A down-tempo electronica band, The Malah has an emphasis on noodling and it feels like they are constantly soloing, which I love!

The Malah at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

The Malah at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

It’s also important to note The Malah are in attendance every year for this festival because they are one of Rachel’s favorite bands, and I have to agree with her. So happy to know they will be “Up On This” festival every time the lineup comes out. They have played every PHB except for one year due to uncontrollable circumstances. They are the embodiment of this festival.

The Malah at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

The Malah at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

The Malah at Purple Hatter's Ball 2017

The Malah at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017

The Malah is one of The Sober Goat’s favorite groups who he first saw Bear Creek Festival 2008 and then at the second PHB in 2009. Watch the full set video below. Thanks, Goat!!

Next on the docket is the fest headliner, and a producer I haven’t heard much about before seeing live: Emancipator. I know about what kind of music I should expect (ambient, trance, earth sounds) but I come in fresh without any expectations. Doug Appling, AKA Emancipator, is from Portland, Oregon and went to school at William and Mary, in Williamsburg, VA, where he released his first album in 2006: Soon It Will Be Cold Enough. The beats and samples of his set are beautiful. Patiently composed audio scenery has me floating above a beautiful landscape. Like being taken to each of the most beautiful places in the world to watch a sunset, track after track Emancipator impresses.

Noteworthy is his usage of a live violin player, Ilya Goldberg, whose strong but cool notes have me excited to hear each and every song. They dabble for a minute with music I know: “Ready or Not” by The Fugees, as well as a sample of a track by MGMT. At full tilt this party compares to a millipede: it moves with a bunch of tiny important parts. The swells of intense synth and classy violin are balanced by the relentless speed of the drum tracks and choice bass patterns. This artist is truly teleporting his audience to a far away land from all of their troubles. Check out some video below, thanks to The Sober Goat. 

We are pretty beat from the days activities and want to chillax back at camp, but our neighbors have different plans. I guess they know one of the DJs for the weekend and have speakers set up on tripods (you know, the ones meant for crowds in the hundreds?) as well as visual displays to entertain their friends late night. They struggle to keep the music at a decent volume and oh man did people come out of the woodwork to shut them down. Shortly after the music began, the park rangers arrive and quiet things down. I’m so happy to be able to enjoy another great night in the woods with my friends.

Saturday! Another beautiful day filled with roaming thunderstorms and rain that never quite makes it to the Spirit. A threatening sky and humid, hot temperatures make for a pretty cool vibe down at the beach where the music, headlined by Juanjumon Band, is on until the late afternoon. Our first band at the amphitheater is Dead Keys, from you guessed it: The Florida Keys. A full stage, this Grateful Dead cover band features 10 plus members and an amazing vocal section. They played a few of the usuals, but then caught me off guard with the cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” A song the Dead has covered more than 200 times, this version is both beautiful and sweet.

Later in the day we came back to catch Zach Deputy who is a headliner all on his own. The Loop Master General has been the hardest working man in the game since the early 2000’s performing close to 250 shows a year. The Island-Soul Ninja is an avid disc golfer and has hosted Disc Jams at the the Spirit in past years. His set is the funky looping bliss I’m looking for. I’ve got all three of my dance moves out ready to show them off to the world. Oh man, what a work out. I definitely put in the boogie. Check out some video below, thanks to The Sober Goat.

Perpetual Groove is a big time jam band that has been around the block. Struggles with keeping all of the band members focused on the music has kept them from their rightful spot in the upper echelon of the jam scene. This night was redeeming for them to say the least. I have personally seen them three times prior to this set, and none compare. Not even close. They come out strong, strobe lights at full blast with high intensity intro that led into heavy-hitter “Teakwood Betz.” A solid cover of Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” is a short breather in what is a very dramatic set.

It’s the fourth time I’ve seen them and I finally got the perpetual grooves I am looking for! Brock Butler is so extraordinary on lead guitar and I can’t say enough about the skills of the rest of the band as well; Matthew McDonald on keys and Adam Perry on bass. But, the glue is the drummer,  Albert Suttle, who is amazing. Keeping the time as well as filling all of the space between, this drummer brings his “A” game.

During “Walking In Place” Brock addressed the crowd:

I hope everybody is having a beautiful, beautiful night. I for one, I love Suwannee, all sorts of history here. We certainly are grateful that you are having us here and we hope you enjoy our contribution to the night. I want you to think to yourself for a moment, or this is what I’m gonna do … think about smiling when you sing, people that enjoy having a beautiful moment in time with music, getting carried out of yourself. Think about somebody else’s smile, might be someone that’s not still here, or a smile that you haven’t seen yet. Past, present, and future. So just keep it in mind for the people that can’t be here tonight to smile, smile for them. Show off those dentures from Dentist Santa Barbara! Smile for somebody, for yourself, and all the good things that you have yet to see.”

The set progressed nicely, and just when I think the set can’t get any better, they break out a perfect (and I mean perfect), cover of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. Holy Shit. Wow. Daaaaaaaaamn. Yeah I said it. These guys are back, and I mean big time! Watch the Goat’s full set video below.

Zoogma and Dumpstaphunk are the last two on the schedule. Both bands bring it to the max. But alas my fatigue catches up with me as my bed looks nicer and nicer as the night progresses. I’m sure the late night parties were bumpin’ (which they were according to The Sober Goat), but I couldn’t hear them in my tent with my ear plugs in. ZZZzzzZZZzzz. 

As Rachel’s mother, Mama Margie, said while introducing Dumpstaphunk, this band is the reason why Rachel is a Purple Hatter. They had a special treat for everyone as they were joined on stage by the horn section from New Orleans-based jazz-funk sextet Naughty Professor. The encore started with Ivan Neveliie on keys covering Cyndi Lauper‘s classic “Time After Time” which solemnly characterized what this fest is all about. The rest of the band and horns return to the stage to play Tower Of Power’s “Soul Vaccination” to send us off. Watch Dumpsta’s full set video, thanks to The Sober Goat!

Sunday is another beautiful day in North Florida and the heat keeps climbing as we keep packing. Unfortunately our own time constraints limit us from attending the music at the beach but I am confident Roosevelt Collier and friends are nothing short of exemplary. Another fantastic event at the Spirit in the books. I love this place and what it stands for. 

But alas it would be remiss of me to fail to mention that the Spirit of Suwannee Family lost another soul during the weekend as one of our own was found deceased in the lake on Monday.

Our hearts go out to the family of Scott Hausheer

As James Taylor would say: “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way you feel.”

Scott HausheerScott Harlan Hausheer 1

Rachel Morningstar Hoffman
#PHB2017 #PurpAllDay #RachelHoffman #Suwannee #SOSMP

Purple Hatter’s Ball Live Review 2017 by Spencer. Photos & Video by Richie.


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