This was my first festival at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground.
Previous writers on this blog had been there before, but I hadn’t had the fortune, until Hulaween 2015. Upon arrival, I was impressed with the fluidity of the check in process…there really wasn’t much going on except people getting their wrist bands and moving through to the campground. Apparently, for the first time ever at Suwannee, there was a little of a back up at the line getting in on Friday morning. The most I heard anyone had to wait was about an hour. Although that sounds like a long time to sit in line, at peak arrival times for most festivals of 15,000 or more attendees, it can easily take 3 or more hours to move all the way through a line. There was a little bit of a mad dash for camp site spots all day Thursday. It was clear that there were many more attendees than had been in the past. Many had the same idea-go with a huge group of friends and have a few go early on Thursday to save space. So, that’s what happened and by Friday there were tents and cars EVERYWHERE throughout the campsite! I’m not sure if Suwannee has an actual capacity but that weekend was definitely close to reaching it.
The campground at Suwannee is definitely a step up from your typical music festival, set on farm land with giant fields. Some were lucky enough to be camped in the RV circle (although it can be difficult to figure out car space in the RV-reserved areas) where there are permanent bath houses. It’s a luxury to be able to wash your hands more than twice a day at any festival-it’s possible to stay clean at Hulaween if you’re camped by the RV area! Other than the RV area, almost all of the available car camping is in the woods, shaded. Another popular area during Hulaween, was the space around the lake. Shakedown street was in that direction, so I’m sure it’s a fun place to be at night after the main stages are done! Hulaween is a festival that has prime camp spots for everyone (and you really can’t say that for every festival with this many people).
Ok, now…let’s talk about Spirit Lake! Inside the venue, the area around the lake was transformed into a magical, swirling alternate reality. It’s one of those realities that is hard to explain unless you not only see it but experience it. There were 10-20 life sized art pieces sprinkled throughout the area. Most of them were probably stationary but they really twisted your mind into thinking they were alive. Oh, and then when you look a little further through the trees, you realize there’s actually another universe just behind the tree line. Or at least that’s the most logical explanation for what you see-the stillness of the lake water juxtaposed with the electrified motion of lasers through the space above it. So yeah, Spirit Lake is a good place to walk around during the middle of a Primus set because Primus sucks.
It is very easy to be entertained at Suwannee…you can really just sit in one spot or wander around aimlessly and have the time of your life. Obviously, Spirit Lake is incredibly entertaining. The crowd at Hulaween was one of the most friendly, genuinely happy crowds I’ve ever been part of. I attribute a lot of the quality of the crowd to the String Cheese Incident. Of course they have the nicest, happiest fans…their music is so freaking joyful!!! It was easy to walk through at most sets to get where ever you needed to go. Pretty Lights was a pretty tight crowd up around the sound tent, as was Griz during the day on Sunday. But with each of those, the less intense fans could still rage in the back. It was also easy to be entertained back at camp! Suwannee really had the best camp life of almost any festival I’ve been to. Hammocks, tapestries, and rope lights made camp sites look like intricate spider webs. Camp fires were permitted and were a great way to unwind after a long day of festivities. Suwannee really is a special place. It’s no surprise to me now that they have so many festivals all year long! I definitely plan on going back at the first chance I get.
The music at Hulaween was just as high of quality as almost everything else at the festival. The String Cheese sets were all unique and made me dance, which I was very happy about. The Goul Train set on Halloween was definitely a highlight. I was very impressed by the details the team took to make it a memorable evening. During the bands’ cover of “Car Wash”, bubbles filled the air from the sky! It was like we were IN a car wash!!! Pretty Lights went pretty crazy during his set. He has a new toy that he played with making the crowd feel extra wobbly. Chance The Rapper with The Social Experiment were a personal favorite of mine. I’m a big fan and was excited to see the full band. They played a great set featuring some of Chance’s solo singles, along with a couple of features he’s on, and some of the hits from The Social Experiment’s debut album, Surf. I really loved how diverse the lineup was, even though we did see one band 4 times! I look forward to heading back to Suwannee and making Hulaween a tradition!