Shhhhh! Quiet. It’s coming! You can run, you can hide, but Suwannee Hulaween will find you. I can see the art everywhere, I can feel the bass in my soul. You know things are most mysterious when the moon is full. Whether you’re in camp, Spirit Lake, or at a stage, the fun and excitement of this gigantic festival will simply creep in like Michael (Myers). Just give up now. Resistance is futile from the String Cheese Incident and the tenth edition of their massive four-day music and art festival.
Hula features monster acts like Pretty Lights, Trey Anastasio Band (Phish), Goose, Smino, John Summit, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and so much more! Hulaween brings scary good music with five haunted stages inside of the venue. In addition, witches, ghosts, and trolls loom large as you enter the mysterious Spirit Lake. The artistic center of the festival is home to two stages and five additional places to enjoy amplified music as well as so much art. So come on this adventure, as we camp and party for a week under the Live Oaks and Spanish Moss of The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL for Suwannee Hulaween 2023!
I arrive late Wednesday, and when I wake up on Thursday it is time to get going! Meeting new people is one of the best parts of a festival and this place doesn’t disappoint. I have the chance to meet a ton of new people, one of which gave me my first FestiCard (a festival trading card styled after Pokemon or Magic the Gathering). Hell yeah! It’s reppin’ Pretty Lights who wields “Pyramid Laser” powers! I am already off to a fantastic start! After some food and prepping I am off to see my first band of Hulaween 2023, Tand!
Tand is a 5-piece rock band from South Florida known for their deep catalog of originals, covers and high energy live shows. The band’s first official studio release, Puzzle Piece, was released in 2022 and was followed by their first full length album ‘Tripp’ and the ‘New Dinosaurs’ in late 2023. As I walk to the Hallows I can hear them enthusiastically chanting “drugs” with the crowd. Seems like everyone is ready to party. I can see the giant H-U-L-A letter painting with a giant rising blood moon. The boys of Tand are entertaining the eager crowd with a cover of Beck’s “My Cloud” with a creamy “Sweet Dreams” jam in the center. Next guitarist Taylor Godsey shreds and taps his way through “No One’s In Control.” Tand is blooming right before our eyes! Make sure you check these guys out on tour supporting lespecial and at JamBurg in Leesburg, FL on Nov. 18th.
Over at the Amphitheater, the home for electronic music this weekend, AK RENNY spins her signature bass house music. AK RENNY is a DJ and rapper from Jacksonville, Florida. She’s making waves in the house scene by incorporating rap vocals into house in her own unique way. The name stands for “Always Knew Renny” rooting from a Kid Cudi quote, “always know who you are to progress in life.” It’s my first time in the Amp since hurricane Idalia ran through here. So many trees are missing, improving sightlines and maneuverability. In addition to a fire ban, Hula has also restricted the use of hammocks in the natural bowl. The result is amazing, freedom of movement and sightlines have drastically been improved. Boppin’ to the house tunes next to me is a group of 6 Spider-people all shooting their web and posing. The music is so good it causes everyone to start shuffling during “See the Light.” She finishes out the set with an unnamed and unreleased track that has me out of breath when it ends.
Back at the Hallows is Altın Gün, a psychedelic Turkish folk band that really rocks. This crew is Grammy Nominated and brings a new style and flavor to Suwannee Hulaween. They certainly understood the assignment as their winding songs jam their way into my heart. Thijs Elzinga is so impressive on the saz (a turkish guitar with a thick rounded body) while Daniel Smienk (drums), Chris Bruining (percussion) are in sync the entire show. They turn the party up to eleven with a bouncing baseline and sizzling synth over top. The guitar is screaming “wah” as they drop into the meat of the song. It’s here that they take time to teach everyone a bit of Turkish culture, having us raise our hands in the air and twist them to the beat of the song. It is awesome to see so many people embracing their music and vibes. Make sure you check out their hit song, “Goca Dünya!” What a treat!
At the Spirit Lake Stage So Down has a huge crowd. I stand next to the Aerial Dragons metal pyramid that supports their suspended aerial arts. So cool to watch performance art while the music is bumpin’. The Spirit Lake Stage is a giant haunted house with a ton of projector mapping different graphics onto its face. From stacked skulls to abstract visuals, this stage stays fresh all weekend long. So Down touches on Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and others as he dazzles the crowd with drum and bass and so much more.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead is Thursday’s headliner. Housed at the Hallows, JRAD is a Grateful Dead cover band with teeth. Constantly pushing the envelope, they stretch these half century old songs to their breaking point. I arrive at the Hallows with them playing Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.” The meadow is a kaleidoscope of light as it bounces off the surrounding trees. The Meadow is packed with color changing poi, and hula hoops, and boogiing bodies. It feels like the songs will never end as they squeeze as many solos as possible in each one. “Feels like a Stranger” has a clean quiet jam with Tom Hamilton (American Babies) putting out the sustained distorted guitar licks while Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) takes the crowd for a walk around the park on the bass. The rumble of the keys feels like we are being swallowed up by an avalanche of sound with no chance of escape. Like crashing waves, Hamilton recedes and returns again to splash us with more and more great music. Soaked, we dry off by climbing to the top of “Fire on the Mountain.” It’s not hard to see that Russo is one of the best drummers in the world. He does the work of two men for this band, making sure there is never a dull moment. No need for a percussionist as the Shpongle drummer can handle it all himself. They finish out with “Good Lovin’,” a song first released by The Olympics in March of ‘65.
Back at the haunted house, Inzo brings his eclectic bass style to Spirit Lake. The ground is literally shaking as his beats permeate the park. Some strangers chose my crew to give us a bunch of tiny glow in the dark ducks which we will cherish forever! I don’t stay for long because John Summit is blasting his house music in the Amp. “I Think I’m Losing Control” vibrates my entire being. A slice of pizza and a hotdog shuffle dance near me as he sample’s Pretty Light’s “Finally Movin’.” The song builds and builds before dropping into a drum and bass banger. Miles’ “Children” is also on the menu before we head out for some more JRAD at the Hallows. All of a sudden we hear yelling from the nearby police. Just then a naked man bursts through their ranks and sprints through the crowd. The cops spring into action, tasing and tackling the streaker before he could get away. It’s only Thursday…
The first epic day of Hula ends with the bluegrass stylings of Montana’s Kitchen Dwellers. I love their intricate flat pickin’! They get gloomy and spooky with songs like “Drowning (…Again), “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” and “The Living Dread.” Shawn Swain is super impressive on the mandolin during their primetime set. I wish I could catch their Dazed and Confused themed Halloween show in Athens, GA. These guys slap!
Today is the biggest day of the festival. Not only do we have 5 headliners today (SCI, Trey, Goose, Les Claypool, and Channel Tres) but I have a buddy’s 40th birthday brunch to attend on the other side of the park. Dressing up like our buddy, 100 people descend on his campsite to eat, drink, and be merry.
Roosevelt Collier is up first on the Meadow’s main stage. He is a stellar steel guitarist who plays for Trouble No More, an ABB cover band. His backing band this time around is Miami’s Electric Kif! In addition to playing his own great music, he has Lettuce drummer Adam Deitch sit in for James Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky.” He and Electric Kif have a bunch of Florida dates this next week. Make sure you check him out!
Next at the Hallows, George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners hold it down for Hula. They are taking the place of Fernando Rosa and doing a great job of it. It’s hot as heck out here but they keep us cool with funky upbeat covers of the Dead’s “The Love Each Other,” and Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.”
Running the full stage circuit, I head over to the Amp for Bad Snacks. Donning a skeleton suit, she explains that her track, “Lucky” is about a crazy ex who was blocked on everything. So he messaged her on Cash App to tell her that the song “slaps.” She sings her lyrics through an old school, wired telephone before breaking out a violin to play over top of her track. This woman is dynamic and her violin-infused genre-bending electronic music is rich with lofi and dance influences. Her catalog boasts an expansive landscape featuring lush strings, driving basslines, and hard-hitting grooves that excite the dusty crowd.
Cruising by Spirit Lake Stage, I am stoked to catch a bit of Rohan Solo. His psychedelic, free form, electronic bass music project incorporates live drums to take things to the next level. He has Jonathan Grusauskas from lespecial sit-in on guitar before hosting keys wizard Jason Leech for a tune.
Finally I arrived at the Campground Stage in Spirit Lake for Steeln’ Peaches. A Central Florida Allman Brother Revue that has been blowing up. Led by Chuck Magid and Daniel Heitzhausen on guitar, this badass cover band is unreal. They dominate “Southbound Mama,” causing me to time travel back to the good ol’ days of Wanee Music Festival. It is so nice to have this music playing in the park, and it should be a mainstay at all festivals just like the Dead. They welcome Rosie to the stage for “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Magid takes the reins and whips up a great solo right on the spot. Rosie doesn’t stop with the end of this set. He pops up at Cheese’s first set of the day to play ABB’s “Les Bres in A Minor.”
After a break at camp I return to music to catch the funkiest band in the park, Lettuce. I love it when they blast “Hawk’s Claw” and it gets no cooler than when they “House of Lett” off of the 2020 album, Resonate. The sun is setting when they drop into “Trapezoid” while Benny Bloom escorts the song through the meadow with a killer trumpet solo. Next, they play “The Lock.” which includes “School Boy Crush” by Average White Band. Birthday boy and guitarist Adam Smirnoff leads the way with a big solo in the “Sounds Like a Party to Me” finale.
The mighty String Cheese Incident is up next. Their second set of the day begins with a bang as every member of Goose joins Cheese for the start of the show. “Animals,” a Goose song, is first on the docket as music fans stare with shock and awe. Goose remains on stage for SCI’s “Texas” before retreating to a loud ovation from the crowd. What a surprise! I overhear a guy behind me tell his friend: “the sun never sets on badass island, does it bro?” I couldn’t agree more. I love watching the giant jellyfish totem dance to “Sweet Spot,” it feels like they know every bit of the music. SCI does a gender reveal for some friends before getting alien weird on the next song, “You’ve Got the World.” Flexing our footwork, we dance to “Valley of the Jig” before finishing the set with a brilliant “Is What It Is > Rosie.”
Les Claypool has performed at Suwannee Hulaween three times now. Primus, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, and now his Fearless Flying Frog Brigade which features an All-Star cast. John Lennon’s son Sean hops right into my head playing guitar while saxophonist Skerik helps his band to leap to the top of the charts! This set is an unpredictable, weird, and wild ride. Bouncing baselines, xylophone solos, megaphone vocals, chanting, and foreboding horns all work together to make me uncomfortably happy. I feel like I’m tied up on a conveyor belt and I’m quickly being pushed to my doom. The furnace and teeth at the end of my path has me scrambling as they move into Pink Floyd’s “Pigs.” They make it their own, they add steampunk sprockets and gears to the already scary machine. Here Lennon leans into the song with a badass guitar solo while mirroring it on the talkbox. Then Claypool pulls out his original instrument, the Matterhorn to play on an original tune. The five stringed instrument is played and slapped with a giant bow while they give the crowd all they can handle in “One Better.” Oh, did I mention, Claypool also rocks a realistic pig mask for the moment.
The biggest headliner of the day is Trey Anastasio of Phish. This very large band is essentially adult contemporary Phish and allows Trey to explore what it’s like to have a rhythm riff (from the horn section) to solo on top of. Recently they lost their long time saxophone player, James Casey to cancer. The tragic loss has affected the entire jam community. Standing in Casey’s place for Hulaween is singer and actor, Jo Lampert. Her energy on stage is contagious as the band starts the set with “Ghost” and “Cayman Review.” “Set Your Soul Free” has me thinking about Casey again as their infectious grooves radiate into the Meadow.
The music is good, but there is so much to see so I break away to check out EPROM in Spirit Lake. His music is a blend of electronica, dubstep, halftime, drum & bass, techno, acid house, and hip-hop. This guy does it all. He tells the crowd about growing up on the East Coast of Florida, “breaks, acid, techno, electro, that’s me.” Like falling through a Twilight Zone time warp, EPROM zaps me into “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twins. EPROM fades in and out of his glitch heavy tracks turning the place into a sauna with his blistering basslines. The crowd cheers loudly, boiling and frothing for more. The music progresses to the hair metal guitar and plodding beats of 100 gecs’ “Dumbest girl alive.” He finishes with a glitch-tastic remix of Prodigy’s “No Good (Start the Dance).” My hair is blown back. Just wow, this is what it’s all about. I just found an artist I’ve never heard of and can’t wait to listen to when I get home. Make sure you check out his ‘23 album release, Syntheism.
I then sacrifice Goose to go back to my camp for the first time in hours. Their jams just weren’t hitting for me and their cover of “Fish in the Sea” by Fat Freddy’s Drop was just too slow.
I am so excited to see lespecial next. I was lucky enough to catch them twice on Jam Cruise earlier this year and they did not disappoint. The band’s signature blend of “heavy future groove” combines headbanging metal riffage and surgical rhythmic precision with bone shaking 808s, sub synths and ethereal vocal stylings. They greet the Spirit Lake crowd standing amongst the lights, fire and lasers, “Let’s get weird!” I am instantly impressed by the timing of the band and their drummer, Rory Dolan.
I can’t contain my happiness as they play “Welcome to the Homieverse” which sounds like a dark and stormy Frogger. Soon they launch into “Boundary Dissolution” off of their ‘Ancient Homies’ album. And suddenly I’m no longer at the park. I wake up to find I’m leaving the city on a bridge in an old car. It’s so dark and stormy I can’t see where I’m going as I take a long drag of my cigarette. I speed across the bridge in the pouring rain contemplating my next move. I have committed an awful crime earlier, but I swear I didn’t have a choice. The dark and ominous music has the creepiest vocals that chill you to your very core. The power trio keeps things scary with “Hulaween,” a remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme song. Dolan then sings on the Primus cover “Frizzle Fry” before they play their new tune, “They Live.” “Fruit Wolf Dance” keeps the momentum going with “Killing In The Name” teases. “No festival set is complete without a Grateful Dead cover” they muse over the mic “so here’s some Metallica!” The trio closes out their amazing set with a sick mashup of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets > Enter Sandman” and Darude’s “Sandstorm.” It even gets creepy and 8bit at the end. So good! So f*cking good!
Don’t miss these guys on tour this fall as they travel the country promoting their newest album, ‘Odd Times’.
Saturday begins with sleeping in. Holy crap am I tired at this point. So far I’ve walked 13 miles in two days. After recharging at camp and snagging some great vendor food, I make my way to the Hallows for Funk You!
Funk You first came into the scene with their upbeat funk music in 2011 with their album Funk You. Today’s show features the entire band dressed as SpongeBob Characters. Mr. Krabs, Squidward and Spongebob are all up there! Spongebob’s theme intro proceeds a SB sandwich, “My House>Dont Mess With Me (While I’m Jellyfishing)> My House.”. We dance and hang to the fun music as they transition to Luniz’ “I Got Five On It.” Must be intentional as they do it right at 4:20pm. The medley continues as they touch on Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A G Than”’ before rounding out the jam with a bass poppin’ groove. They finish the sunny funky set with “She’s So High” and “Funk You!” I love the horns and Gary the Snail aka Datrian Johnson (Lead Vocals) can really sing! Meow!
Up next, I get a pull of String Cheese as they start off with “Miss Brown’s Tea House” for their afternoon mainstage set. The sun is hot, but melty Cheese is the best! We swelter as they apply “Suntan” to the dancing, happy crowd. Their original bluegrass brings the set to a close and I head back to camp to recharge. On the way back to camp I bang my head to Empire Strikes Brass covering Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” radiating from Spirit Lake. It’s the little things!
Back in the Meadow Cheese starts their second Saturday set. As I approach, “Sirens” are calling me to dance and sing with my friends! The meadow is filled with joyful people hugging, grooving, and smiling from ear to ear. How could you not? This place is pure bliss. A utopian society where everyone (well almost everyone) treats their neighbor with love and respect. Sharing is actually caring and there is no such thing as being too silly. “Sirens” continues on its way before transforming into “Hi Ho No Show.” Suddenly a trap door opens below me and I’m shooting down a slide at hyperspeed. I can see I’m headed straight for some Cheesy electro-womp as percussionist Jason Hann accelerates the jam with his congas. Michael Kang is blindingly good on violin as I cruise to the center of a glowing jellyfish. Its colors and tentacles light up and pulse to the beat of the song. Just then I’m awoken from my travels by someone tapping me on the shoulder. “Cheese?” they say as they offer me a giant charcuterie board filled with a variety of meats and more. God, I love this festival!
The Hallows share the same field as The Meadow (Main Stage) and the crowd only needs to turn around to enjoy the next music of the night, Manic Focus (Live Band). Manic Focus is composed of the band’s original creator, John McCarten (JMac), as well as his drummer Colby Buckler (Emancipator). The full live band featured Russ Liquid on the trumpet, Pretty Light’s Borahm Lee on the keys, Nicholas Gerlach (formerly of Cosby Sweater/Turbo Suit, co host Andy Frasco’s World Saving podcast) on the sax, and Cory Wythe (Marvel Years) on guitar. Right off rip they play an unreleased collaboration with Ahee. Previously they have a song, “Bonkers” together and this one was no different! The drum and bass cuts to my core and I’m already a big fan of the set. JMac is controlling his decks while also playing a keytar strapped to his shoulder. Their blend of funk, rock, and hip hop has the whole crowd turning up. The drum and bass continues until they flood the field with good vibes. I am so happy to be here with all of my closest friends while Wythe leads us into MF’s well known collaboration with GRiZ, “Life Goes On.” The festival is in slow motion as I dance and vibe to one of my favorite songs with all of my favorite people. Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming! Can this weekend get any better? The answer is always “Yes!” Next, they incorporate the descending guitar riff from Phish’s “Tweezer” to help make this set so cold, cold, cold. RHCP’s “Dani California” makes a brief appearance before Rage’s “Testify!” The dance contest continues as they sample Madonna’s “Music.” Then, JMac shares a new collab with his homie Motifv before he appears from behind the table to rap/sing for the massive crowd. I have never see him do this before and he’s pretty good! Back behind the table, he finishes out the set with his own spin on Mase’s “Feel So Good.” You ain’t lyin’, I feel fantastic right now!
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The String Cheese Incident’s 2023 Hulaween Theme Set! The six-piece womp-grass band comes on stage dressed as werewolves. Donning red plaid shirts and painted faces with fur, this band really does transform under a full moon! The crowd around me is so eager they immediately start howling at the night sky. It’s not long before the whole meadow echoes their call. 20,000 like-minded individuals all howling their hearts out at the giant celestial rock above us. Round and round it goes as the super bright full moon shines down on the packed meadow. I can’t contain my excitement and join them. Howling for great music, howling for epic friends. We howl together to show our appreciation and howl even louder because we’re hungry for more! “Werewolves of Hula” by Warren Zevon hits our ears first as they begin the anticipated set. Continuing on the theme they play “Family Affair” by Sly and the Family Stone. Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” follows with Jen Hartswick on vocals. We “Dance in the Moonlight” to King Harvest’s tune and enjoy Talking Heads’ “Moon Rocks” before they belt out the first big song of the set, “Spanish Moon” (Little Feat). Kyle Hollingsworth styles up with song on keys while they use huge foggers to add smoke and mystery to The Meadow. All of a sudden a giant werewolf standing on its hind legs appears on stage. The green and yellow figure sits atop a performer who uses long poles to gesture with the arms. It dances slowly to the song with the help of a puppeteer. Jonathan Mones (Ghost-Note) delivers a beautiful solo on sax to round out the spectacle unfolding before our eyes. Me and all the other Millenials get down to Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” before SCI belts out a beautiful “Walking On the Moon.” Hartswick has her moment of the weekend with a gorgeous and lengthy trumpet solo here. Then they switch things up with Van Morrison’s “Moondance.” Jason Hann (percussion) impresses with a mysterious caped performance, roaming the stage half hidden behind his black cloak. I feel like I’m “Levitating” (Dua Lipa) and love all the fireworks as they launch into Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop This Feeling.” What a great set of music!
Werewolves of Hula (Warren Zevon), Family Affair (Sly And The Family Stone), Happy (Pharrell Williams, Jen on lead vocals), Dancing in the Moonlight (King Harvest), Moon Rocks (Talking Heads), Spanish Moon (Little Feat) > Revival (Allman Bros), Yellow Moon (Neville Bros), Family Affair (Mary J), Walking On The Moon (The Police), Moondance (Van Morrison, Jason on lead vocals), Levitating (Dua Lipa) > Can’t Stop The Feeling (Justin Timberlake) > Levitating
Cleveland P Jones and Rhonda Thomas on vocals
Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet
Natalie Cressman on trombone
Jonathan Mones on sax
We shuffle with baby steps over to Spirit Lake to enjoy a couple songs by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. They play originals sprinkled with covers of Daft Punk and Pink Floyd for a very large, dusty crowd. Everything is a slog as we fight through some of the thickest crowds I’ve been in since before the pandemic (shoutout Sweetwater 420 fest).
Back in The Meadow we position ourselves to enjoy the return of electro-soul producer, Pretty Lights. He has been on hiatus for 5 long years but he emerged earlier this year, announcing a brand-new tour, “Soundship Spacesystem.” Pretty Lights, whose real name is Derek Vincent Smith, officially returned to the stage on August 4th with a full band named The Fantastic Pretty Lights, featuring Michal Menert, Borahm Lee, Alvin Ford Jr. and Chris Karns. Tonight they are wearing matching long cloaks with hoods as they walk on stage. “You Get High” is the third song and so far the best of the set. “I Know the Truth” revs up the already raucous crowd with his single from 2011 before they drop into “After Midnight,” a mashup of ABB’s “Midnight Rider” and JJ Cale’s “After Midnight.” Of Course it’s riddled with enough wubs and synth to k-rock the whole meadow. A few songs later the whole place gets eerily quiet when they launch into “The Sound of Silence.” I’ve never seen such a large and engaged crowd before. They are hanging on every note, soaking up this long overdue performance. They sample Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” and Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” before delivering what the crowd really wants, “High School Art Class” and “Finally Moving!” A small goof on the decks speeds the track up, forcing them to start it over. But, that was just fine as we all got a chance to do our best Etta James impression and sing all together. “Ohhhhhhh, sometimes… I get a good feelin’, yeah.” This is definitely one of those times.
On the way back to camp we are still butts to nuts moving from place to place. Shuffling our steps as we slowly make it to our goal. But one man has a genius plan as he swiftly moves through the mass of flesh and costumes shouting one simple phrase, “Hot Trash!” Without hesitation a pathway opens in front of him and he quickly moves through the people, a trail of laughter and awe following behind him. We use this to make a break for Camp Reddit where we have heard lespecial guitarist Jonny G is throwing down a jungle style set at the dj stand. For about an hour he played a bunch of DnB, house, and breaks tracks including “Didn’t know you x Gorilla Zoe” (dnb – 175bpm), “At the hotel” (Eunice collins remix) as well as remix of a lespecial track.
I scoot back to Spirit Lake Stage in time to experience Ghost-Note’s frenetic jazzy funk. They are releasing a new single “Be Somebody,” dedicated to the memory of the late, great James Brown. Every move this band makes is directed by Snarky Puppy’s multi-grammy–winning percussion duo of Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth. Ghost-note is quiet one moment, and an explosion of sound the next. Their music comes in 3 varieties: the stanky, the nasty, and the funky!
I can do this. I can do this. Just one more day. So far I have had a total of 12 hours of sleep since arriving and I don’t expect that to change tonight! I mill about camp recharging before the swell to go see SCI’s last set of the weekend: Church Cheese. The meadow is filled with colorful poi and happy people enjoying the sunshine. Bluegrass guitarist and his fiddle player Lindsay Pruitt stay on stage for one more song as they saddle up for the Dead’s “I Know You Rider.” Kyle Hollingsworth leads on keys as they show off a single from their new album, “One More Time.” People are having fun with a parachute in the middle of the crowd while others around me lounge on inflatable couches. However you like to receive the gospel is okay with me. Just never miss Sunday Cheese.
A short break later and I’m back at The Meadow for The Pretty Lights second set of Suwannee Hulaween 2023. They have me groovin’ and movin’ from the word go. He spins a new track about togetherness and friendship, inspiring group hugs and huddles around me. “Are you ready to scale the highest heights?” he shouts as they drop into “Rainbows and Butterflies.” The Brothers Johnson reworked tune still has most of the elements of the original “Strawberry 23” but has been bedazzled to fit his style. They jam the song out with deep revving noises and blasting basslines. The hypnotic sound of the bells warps me to another planet where everything is perfect and this feeling will never end. The stellar set finishes with Floyd’s “Time” into “Hot Like Sauce” and finishes with the Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” But I wasn’t there anymore.
I had skipped town, back to Spirit Lake Stage to immerse myself in the crazy intense sounds of Apashe with a live brass ensemble. John Apashe is a Montreal-based electronic music producer from Brussels, known for aggressive dubstep, neurofunk, electro and trap. So glad I took the chance to come check this out as everyone kicks up the dust to this hyper-dynamic collaboration. The crowd shows their patience as they stick around through electronic failure from the massive amount of dust in the air. Hiccups aside, the set is still a huge success! He finishes out strong playing well known bangers like, “Baddadan” a song by Chase & Status; “Woo Boost” by Rusko and “Tell Me” by RL Grime and Whatsonot.
The final set of the weekend belongs to the one and only Eddie Roberts. He and the Lucky Strokes (a band from Tampa) are here to close things down in style! The band consists of bassist and drummer siblings, Ashley and Taylor Galbraith. In addition, they have Honey Island Swamp Band’s Chris Spies on keys. This new funk outfit pierced through the haze of the Campground Stage with so many brilliant originals and a few well placed covers. “Whiskey Makes Me Stronger” is a LS original that has me tapping into my 10th wind as I intend to finish this Hulaween out strong. “Sweet Dreams” has such a beautiful harmony over the top of a classic sounding Roberts riff. Then they sweeten the deal with “Strawberry Letter 23” (Shuggie Otis).” Their love song, “Good Morning Lady” written by guitarist Shelby Kemp creates my favorite moment of the festival. Slow dancing with my girlfriend, we are the only people at the show. Everyone else drops away as we embrace and move to the stunning love song. So awesome to be fully consumed by the love I have with my lady. I can only swoon as Kemp sings the words that are in my heart. I am pulled away to check out W00fer and the spectacle that is the House of the Lost but not before I hear them cover “Supernaut” by Black Sabbath and “That Lady” by the Isley Brothers! Wow! I love this band!
I am so thankful to be a part of a decade of magic where I have seen so many outstanding musical acts. I have met my best friends and girlfriend in this park and I am so happy to have been at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park for this wonderful event. Once again, it has surpassed my every expectation and I simply can’t wait to do Suwannee Hulaween all over again next year! Thanks for reading and make sure you follow Shows I Go To for giveaways, reviews, photos and so much more!!
Suwannee Hulaween Review 2023 by Spencer Storch.
Suwannee Hulaween Photos 2023 by Courtney Scout.
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