This blog was written by our good friend Ryan Tinney! Let us know your thoughts and experiences at Suwannee Hulaween in the comments!
The String Cheese Incident brought their Hulaween event to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park this past weekend. People from around the country flocked to the picturesque setting in the North Florida wilderness. The band brought in an all-star line-up for their Halloween extravaganza in addition to showing fans some of the best lighting and production that SOSMP has had the pleasure of hosting.
The festival kicked off on Halloween night giving the eagar attendees something to immediately swoon over. Voodoo priestesses, jellyfish, and astronauts alike joined Larry and Jenny Keel for the kick-off set that soon lead into a raucous 3-set party lead by String Cheese. The first set featured a number of SCI classics including Desert Dawn, Valley of the Jig, and a version of Texas that gave way to multiple teases of the theme to the Halloween movies.
The guys ran with the spooky theme in the second set that featured a number of covers including ACDC’s “Hell’s Bells”, The Neville Brothers’ “Voodoo”, and closing it out, “Black Magic Women” by Fleetwood Mac as well as a stunning pyrotechnic show with fire balls, flaming scarecrows, and fire performers.
The third set saw a return to SCI favorites including a “Rosie” with the Antibalas horn section, “Black Clouds”, “It Is What It Is”, and a special “Spirit of the Suwannee Jam”. For the first encore of the weekend, the Anitbalas horn section returned for an amazing version of “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” before the guys brought back the covers with Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light” and concluding with an all-out rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” that wrapped up the first night.
While some were still wiping the paint of their faces from the night before, most headed to the main field for a special set from Steve Kimock and Friends that featured a number of aptly chosen covers like “Come Together” featuring Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet. Kimock also treated the audience to renditions of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and a special Suwannee River version of “Take Me To The River”. Before long though, it was time to welcome our hosts for the weekend back to the stage for two more sets.
Set one highlights included “Black and White”, an extra large “Big Shoes” and Miles Davis’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” that welcomed Steve Kimock and friends back to the stage for a mid-tempo, jazz-fusion jam exploration.
The set break saw the clouds rolling in, hinting that the night may be heading in a debaucherous direction. As the set kicked off, an incredibly high-energy “Sirens” left many forgetting about the weather all together. Other stand-outs included an extra-crazy “Piece of Mine”, “Bumpin’ Reel” featuring Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic and a very fitting “BollyMunster” encore.
The weather stayed iffy but The Main Squeeze kept the energy so high that it felt as if they were pushing the rain away with their funkified versions of “Shakedown Street” and “Whipping Post”. Following the Allman Brothers’ tune, the clouds finally gave way though. Many hurried for their camps and those that didn’t, were quickly scattering as the rain came down harder and harder. Many were holding out hope that the late night festivities featuring Big Gigantic and Conspirator would continue on as planned but as the thunder clapped, everyone knew the music was over, officially, until the next day.
The clouds broke for the final day of the festival and the weather could not have been more perfect. Brock Butler of Perpetual Groove treated the crowd to the always beloved “Brockfest” jams featuring a healthy dose of covers and playful banter. Before long, the day was in full swing and Leftover Salmon took the stage and gave the crowd the perfect soundtrack to the day featuring a name-swap jam with Bill Nershi that cued a field-wide slam-grass hoedown. Elliot Lipp transitioned people into the final night with his trio playing his usually solo tracks that were expertly rearranged for the added members.
String Cheese took the stage for their last two sets of the weekend. Set one included a sit-in from the entire Leftover Salmon crew on tunes “One After 909” and “Zombie Jamboree”. A very spacey “Windy Mountain” lead into a beautiful “Colliding” that culminated in a percussion section featuring Jeffery Lerner of STS9 and Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe laying down some serious rhythms and closing out one the best sets of the weekend.
The final SCI set of the festival started with crowd favorites “Best Feeling”, “Howard” and “Pack It Up” that lead into the disco-jam of The Jackson’s “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” with Jennifer Hartsick and Natalie Cressman adding a cut-rate horn section. The set wrapped up with “Rivertrance”, the Talking Heads favorite “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody), and finally with “Outside and Inside”. The rain the previous night left many itching for some electronics and the guys delivered with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” that peaked in an all-out electronica burst that left many speechless and dazed following the guys’ 7th and final set.
The electronics continued with a set from Chicago’s Future Rock that lead right into STS9’s highly anticipated set. The first part of the set from the Athens, Georgia quintet featured the rarely seen “Blu Mood” that went into an extremely tight “Move My Peeps”. “When The Dust Settles” > “Wika Chikana” > “EHM” may have been the best block of music all weekend. The guys then eased the crowd back down with “Golden Gate” and “Circus”. Other standouts included a vicious “Rent” and a “Baraka” encore that was talked out the rest of the night. The aptly chosen set list lead right into the perfectly scheduled Emancipator set at the beautiful Amphitheater stage.
Doug Appling and Ilya Goldberg of Emancipator quickly took control of the audience, serenading them through the beautiful oak tress that surround the stage. The duo never seems to struggle with blending the “chill” and the “rage” and tonight was a perfect example. Keeping up with the cover theme for the weekend, Emancipator effortlessly snuck in samples from Aaliyah’s “Try Again”, The Fugees’ “Ready or Not”, as well as a myriad of Beastie Boy’s lyrics over the quintessentially downtempo beats these Oregon residents are known for.
As the Emancipator set, and thus the weekend, came to a close, a friendly voice on the PA seemed to almost read the crowd’s minds… “Who’s ready for Suwannee Hulaween 2?! We’ll see you guys next year!” …and a new tradition was born.