10 Thoughts on Suwannee Hulaween by Veterans & First-Timers

November 12, 2016admin

Entering the lush campgrounds at Spirit of The Suwannee, the nerves and excitement, the sense of relief all dance together as one in your gut. Even days before Suwannee Hulaween, the anticipation is too heavy to bear, so you let it out by planning incessantly–on costumes, campsite flare, and even music schedule. Of course, I’m speaking as a veteran of both the festival and the venue, but I can say this: each year, no matter the headliners and emerging acts or the soul-quenching installations strewn across the grounds, it’s something oddly familiar. It’s home.


Smiles are impossible to brush off your face and your arms open wide in the wind skipping down the main stage hill, all as if by magic. Because that’s exactly what it is. Anything that can make people feel so happy and free, amidst the stress of life and the current situation our country might be in, has to be some kind of sorcery. At Suwannee Hulaween that sorcery is human nature. It’s empathy and a complete and utter love for music. It’s the tickling spark that overcomes you when bonding with a new friend and the brief moment of silence in between two of your favorite songs being played live by some of the world’s most talented musicians.


This year, Suwannee Hulaween was at its best possible form. Smooth lineup transitions, a perfect mixture of electronic and live music with a little hip hop thrown in, even the people were flawless. Of course, I can rant on and on about the wonder of The String Cheese Incident or how I want to marry Anderson .Paak, but I thought you should hear it from those who experienced it for the first time backed by words of veterans who plan on coming back well, forever. Check it out:

First-timer: “I don’t think I’ve ever been to a festival where people were so nice. Everyone is helpful here, it’s like we all have a pact to make sure that everyone’s experience is perfect because no one like a bad time. It feels like family.”


Veteran: “Every time I come back to Suwannee, it’s like coming home for break at school. All my friends are here, my best memories are here, the place is so welcoming. These trees, man, their vibe is what makes this place so home-y. It’s connecting to Mother Nature. It’s our roots.”

First-timer: “I really love the mix of genres on the lineup. They really know how to ease people into any sort of genre if you’re not fully into it. I wasn’t the biggest jam fan, but because the other acts like Manic Focus or Big Gigantic had more live elements attached to their sets, it felt like a smooth transition for me. Now I don’t want to miss any String Cheese next time!”


Veteran: “Honestly, it makes me so happy to see something I love so much grow so well. I remember the Spirit Lake the first year and it was great…but this is something else. The light projections on the water through the haze were insane, and to see how much its grown in size…I’m just so happy for all the people behind the festival.”

First-timer: “I got so wrapped up in how awesome the music was that I forgot that I’m in a friggin’ forest. Like, these trees and the moss, the lake, it’s real nature. It isn’t a set or a staged experience. It’s like the forest allowed us to be here and not the other way around.”


Veteran: “Anderson .Paak was easily one of my favorite acts I’ve ever seen play at Suwannee, Hulaween or otherwise. His stage presence is bar-none and the mix of live drumming while rapping was insane. It was awesome to see him at my favorite stage, The Amphitheater, surrounded by trees and lights bouncing off the leaves.”

First-timer: “I think one of my favorite things wasn’t just the music so much as the fact that in every set I saw, tons of musicians would jump on stage and jam. It was awesome to see people like Roosevelt Collier come out on almost every set I saw and kill it, whether people expected it or not. Definitely makes you understand the level of musicianship is higher than most other festivals.”


Veteran: “My favorite thing about this place, whether it’s a big festival like this one or a smaller festival like the ‘ol Bear Creak [RIP], is that everything feels so close and intimate. It’s easy to get around, you’re free-flowing everywhere, no hassles, it just happens the way you want it to when you want it to.”

Veteran: “Honestly, the light installations have never been this good! Bouncing off the lake, towering over you at a set, I felt like Burning Man took a vacation and popped up here. Pyrotechnics, aerialists, the Spirit Lake had it all and was like a Neverland for me. It’s become my favorite part of the festival over the years.”


First-timer: “Hell yeah I’d come back. This is the sort of experience you have once and you need for years to come. The stress level is lower than most of the other big festivals I’ve been to, you’re surrounded by incredible energy, the people are sweet and helpful, and the music is just…man…I can’t even put it into words.”

Whether your soul has experienced Suwannee or not, the inspiration and comfort at the festival is immediate. The friends are lasting and the joy is eternal. If you missed this year’s dose of awesome, make sure to jump on board for next year’s Halloween jam…we can’t wait to see what The String Cheese Incident has up their sleeved.


All photos by: Jason Rubel
Full photo album here.