In The Forest: Hulaween Music and Arts Festival 2016 Review
In a forest along the Suwannee River, there are a precious few days when freedom, peace and equality all come together under the power of music. It’s an environment where inhibitions do not exist, where nobody is a stranger.
Communities like this didn’t disappear with the flower generation some fifty years ago. Instead, they live on, surviving for a few music-filled fleeting days at the Suwannee Hulaween Music and Arts Festival. The festival took place in Live Oak, Florida from Oct. 28-30.
The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park lies among a forest of cypress and oak hammock and contains 800 acres of primitive camping on the banks of the river. The park’s lack of light pollution made for a clear, beautiful night sky, abundant with stars to camp under.
The Hulaween lineup featured an eclectic mix of electronic, jam, grass, deep house, reggae, funk and more.
The theme of this year’s Hulaween was “Stringier Things,” a play on the popular Netflix original series, “Stranger Things.” The String Cheese Incident, or “Cheese” to its fans, is a bluegrass, country and neo-psychedelia–infused jam band that has headlined the festival for the past three years, performing multiple sets each night.
My Morning Jacket, a psychedelic, alternative rock jam band, stood out as a notable headliner on Friday. They closed out their incredible performance with “One Big Holiday.”
Earlier in the night Gramatik, a hip-hop and electronic producer, played to a pumped crowd. Using filthy drops and bass that pumped directly through the bloodstream, Gramatik’s style felt dirtier than normal, in the best sense of the word.
Saturday night headliners included STS9, a livetronica band also known as Tribe, and Disclosure, an electronic duo that got too trappy towards the end of their set, which felt like a turnoff for this specific crowd.
Sunday’s headliners, besides the two Cheese sets, were Rebelution, a well-known reggae band, whose set time strategically began at 4:20. Big Gigantic, a funky electronic duo from Colorado, followed by Twiddle, a jam band, were the final two sets of the festival.
For many, it seemed like a bummer that two big names played their sets at the same time, but both of the separate crowds watched the performances in awe. Despite having to make a tough decision, Hulaween couldn’t have possibly ended in a less stellar fashion.
Hulaween was a very psychedelic experience. From the location to the light shows, to the interactive art installations, the event is specifically designed to make the experience as enjoyably trippy as possible.
Every artist, both visual and musical, committed themselves to spreading a message of love, equality and enlightenment. The open-mindedness of Hulaween’s environment makes it possible to enjoy dancing during a set, or even topless swimming in the river, without so much as a second thought.
This free-spirited music movement is more than just a good time; it’s a move toward something more authentic.