Returning to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park after two years away, I’m convinced Halloween is the greatest holiday, and that there’s no better place to celebrate it than Suwannee Hulaween. The String Cheese Incident’s four-day music festival creates an atmosphere of enthusiastic exploration, supremely silly shenanigans, the coolest costumes and authentic expression of the self – connecting attendees in a life-affirming, communal celebration. It’s both family friendly and wide appeal to all ages and music tastes, truly making this an awe-inspiring wonderland where anyone can adventure down the rabbit hole and emerge transformed by the experience.
With that in mind, I brought my dad along for his first music festival and witnessed it give him a new lease on life as we had the most fun together since my childhood. Nostalgia thrived with cartoon characters running rampant and kids’ toys turned into betting treasures at the Frick Frack Blackjack Casino. Hippies of the ‘70s shared their wisdom with the young generation of wistful wooks. Spirit Lake once again became one of the most astounding art showcases in the Festival Realm, from the breathtakingly mysterious projections over the water to the dazzlingly trippy Mural Maze, towering sculptures and the macabre majesty of the House of Lost church.
Thursday’s DeadBeats takeover went dark and hard with the enigmatic Deathpact, vibed high with the hallucinatory waves of LSDREAM, and got down and dirty with Zeds Dead. On Friday, Bonobo cooked up ethereal and sumptuous melodies, Chris Lake spun the most energizing grooves of the weekend, then Skrillex threw down with an enthralling evolution from his classic dubstep that absolutely SMACKED thanks to a healthy mix of g-house and devious drum and bass. Late-night at the fires of the Incendia stage, the three of them surprised everyone with a scorching b2b2b.
Bouncing house music dominated the Spirit Lake stage all day Saturday with the likes of MZG, Nala, Mark Farina and Claude VonStroke, while the String Cheese Incident jammed out with three sets culminating in their big Shebang spectacle. They switched out the “Monster Mash” theme for a straight dance party theme set that covered classics from David Bowie, ABBA, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk and Elton John, finishing with massive inflatables of a T-Rex and dragon floating over the crowd. I still found my ultimate monster mash satisfaction upon encountering my favorite costume of the weekend, a homemade Godzilla fit with an impressive tail, illuminated dorsal fins and all.
Sunday fell on actual Halloween and had a relaxing and breezy feel that put everyone in a soaring mood. The beauty of the Spirit of the Suwannee park was on full display and friends made throughout the weekend would synchronistically reappear at just the right times. Mersiv immersed the Spirit Lake stage in quaking deep bass while Lane 8 closed out the Amphitheatre in upbeat progressive tunes that spoke directly to the frequencies of the soul. Costumes were on point, and the masks people wear in society came off to let their true selves shine.