Post festival depression is a real thing. The days immediately following our musical escapes are usually foggy, exhausting, and noticeably lacking in vibrancy. Coming back to real life is never easy after having spent four days in a wonderland of great vibes and impeccable tunes, yet we don’t mind the consequences as we come back year after year. For those lucky souls who have experienced the magic at Suwannee Hulaween, you’ll know that the come down is especially hard after experiencing the closest possible thing to pure bliss. This year’s Hulaween, their seventh so far, was as bright as ever, and we’ve set out some highlights for you…from what we can remember…
Okay, not the real K.I.S.S., but for a freak moment, many of us in the audience dared to dream. The Free Nationals were decked out in head to toe K.I.S.S. attire and .Paak himself was dressed as Rick James (b*tch) playing to this year’s overall theme of “Smells like Teen Spirit of the Suwannee: Tribute to the 90s”. The Saturday night headliner blew the crowd away with an array of hits from Malibu and his more recent albums, including his collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Kaytranada. It was a sweaty, smile-filled dance party, and a perfect way to round out the Meadow Stage for Day 3.
Yes, we all make the huge effort to go to a festival for the music, but we always relish in the friends we meet and make along the way. Whether they’re at your campsite or the result of a chance encounter, the empathy that pours out of people is electric. This year, festivalgoers were as creative as ever with their costumes, from decked-out Avatars and Mad Hatters, to beloved anime and 90s cartoon characters, and as many elves as Rivendell itself could hold. While nighttime is reserved for the endless adventures, daytime is a true conversation piece.
*Places hand on heart*: All cheese and nothing but the cheese so help me cheese. Not only are they the very reason this festival happens, but year after year, their theme sets are among my absolute favorite shows ever. This year was no different. Their first two sets featured some of their most popular hits like “Joyful Sound” and “Let’s Go Outside” followed by a theme set for the ages. The 90s-fueled performance featured everything from a Red Hot Chili Peppers opener followed by Sublime, to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Phish, Tupac, Alanis Morissette, and closing with Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” timed perfectly to a never-ending fireworks display. Oh yeah.
Aside from The String Cheese Incident’s epic theme set, many acts on the lineup got into the festivities as they let some memorable covers show. Umphrey’s McGee’s cover of “Africa” by Toto is still ringing in my ears. St. Pete’s own, The Hip Abduction, brought out Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” for a wonderful daytime get-down. Steel Pulse alone was a throwback. Straight from Miami, Electric Kif brought out some Herbie Hancock, and we know that Pigeons Playing Ping Pong had some pajama-donned covers up their sleeves (though we can’t remember much of it).
Topping it all off, music festivals are an amazing chance to bring some of the industry’s greatest legends together for a brief magical moment in time. This year, Lorin Ashton–Bassnectar–made his way back to Suwannee as his collaborations with the Cheese family are frequent and always unforgettable. He took over the main stage with an array of visuals, colossal screens, and his quintessential production. On the other side, Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave’s Tom Morello brought the forest to life at the Amphitheater, even bringing the crowd on stage for a dance party to blast us all off into another dimension.
Photos by VACO Studio.