Suwannee Hulaween: String Cheese Incident and Friends Up the Ante Once Again

Suwannee Hulaween has once again come — and gone — leaving the 20,000+ delirious attendees to share stories, photos, bruises, and love as we *patiently* await Hulaween 2019. The String Cheese Incident, Silver Wrapper, and Purple Hatter Productions, and Paul Levine managed to outdo themselves again this year with a spectacular weekend of magnificent music, mind-boggling art installations, awesome sound and lighting crews for the five stages, and responsive staff — with wonderful costumes and cooperative weather enhancing the vibe.

The party actually started Wednesday with Hula for a Cause, a Hurricane Michael relief party. Zach Deputy, CDBD, Catfish Alliance, and Beartoe all rocked the Music Hall, from all reports.

We had all been watching the weather, ever since Hurricane Michael blew by to the west, tearing up the Panhandle. As we continued to watch, it seemed we were staring at rain — maybe not first Hula rain, but wet nonetheless. Each day got us closer and closer, and the forecast continued to improve. Even as late as Thursday evening, when there was light rain, it looked like we would get drenched Friday morning, but even that was scaled back to morning showers.

[I fully anticipate running out of superlatives and hyperbole before we get anywhere NEAR Sunday. I saw all or part of 53 sets of music. Thesaurus, here I come!]


The pre-party began early Thursday with Ajeva, a great Florida quintet from Gulfport, and ended with Lettuce after midnight. Pre-party? Who you kiddin’? This was a full pull, a brilliant first day of music.

Over the course of four days, we “discovered” new bands, saw a rare few mediocre sets, heard some “best-ever” and “as good as it gets” sets, and witnessed several sets that can only be described as life-changing, or so it feels right this moment. There were first-time performers and regulars as well.

Ajeva blew out an incredible hour of music on the Amphitheater Stage, their positive vibes wafting out into the park. Nobody who came down to check them out left. The dance party was on! “Funky Green Men from Mars” tumbled out of their cover of “Ghostbusters,” with some amazing keyboard work from Mark Mayea. (And a set or two later, sitting at the Amphitheater near the Ajeva boys, who should walk by in early costume but — you guessed it — Mr. & Ms. Funky Green Man from Mars!)

[JOKE BREAK: As the music was going on, a woman pulled up to the hospitality building behind the Amphitheater with a golf cart loaded to the max with bags of ice, including covering the roof. She pulled forward, and then surely you know what she had to do: BACK THAT ICE ON UP! ]

Thank you. I’ll be here all week, writing.

Up at the Spirit Lake Stage, we all got our first glimpse — albeit during daylight — of the art installations all over the area as we listened to the enthusiastic performance by Just Chameleons (from Tallahassee). During the next round, Ghost Light played the Amphitheater, with Holly Bowling (piano) and Tom Hamilton (guitar) [Check out “Hulaween Embraces the Power of Women.”]. We paused briefly before heading to the Campground Stage to hear Side Hustle.

For the most part, the sound levels were good all weekend long. There were a few times it was too loud (on the Scott-o-meter), but generally it wasn’t ear-splitting, and the mixes were great. I confess I am prejudiced, because I know the individuals involved, and I am sure you might argue that running sound on a smaller stage is easier, but Receptor Sound and Lighting was again the paragon of Hulaween. Dillon Reeder in particular really stepped up into Andy Lytle’s shoes and killed it. Bravo/brava to all involved at every stage.

Side Hustle (Jacksonville) threw done a massive set of funk, fusion, and jam. They delighted the crowd at the end with a cover of “Foreplay/Long Time,” but their original compositions were the real core of this performance. In the process of jetting back and forth from stage to stage, I had not planned to stay for long to hear Marco Benevento, but he and his trio bandmates had a simply riveting set. Also great: dragging the “MC” back on stage to pronounce his name correctly. You had ONE job, Scarecrow! And trying to be cool wasn’t it.

Jamsters Papadosio were tearing up the Amphitheater with some great jamtronic funkiness that had the crowd undulating. Of special note was a very impassioned “get out and vote” speech. The packed Amp was undulating like mad, heads bobbing with the music. Mine was, anyway.

There was no music Thursday on the Meadow Stage (the big one). I had already missed sets over on The Patch Stage (the farthest of the five stages from our campsite) but determined I would make it over for STS9’s second set, missing their “Axe the Cables” set in order to check out a man who’s been receiving rave reviews: Cory Wong of Vulfpeck. Wong and band proceeded to blow out a tremendous dance party. More undulating.

STS9 “Axe the Cables” shot by Zach Sanders

I opted to split the next time slot between The Infamous Stringdusters and Locochino. The Stringdusters created a frenzy of a different sort with their superb bluegrass shimmering from the Amphitheater. The accompanying vibe was warm and embracing. Meanwhile, back at the Campground, Locochino (Gainesville) was raging a fabulous set of “progadelic funk” or something similar. They were really lit, and the crowd was loving it. Benny Cannon was a beast driving the train from his drum kit.

The Infamous Stringdusters shot by Zach Sanders

It was right about this time that the weather forecast was accurate, as the rain began to fall, lightly, but enough to deter some folks planning to be out late and not wanting to get wet. This happened at the beginning of Rayland Baxter’s set at Spirit Lake and the second set at the Patch from STS9. Given that I was planning to make it to silent disco, I stayed under cover until the sprinkles stopped.

We could hear Baxter from Short-Cut Camp, my home base. Then Joe Russo’s Almost Dead cranked it up, crystal-clear from our location. They blasted out with “The Eleven” and “New Speedway Boogie” and never looked back.

I had hoped to catch the dynamic Kaleigh Baker at the Campground but wimped out. When JRAD returned for set two, they opened with “The Music Never Stopped,” a great set that featured a fine “The Wheel” and a “Deal” encore.

Next, I sprinted (well, sort of) back to the Campground to see Asheville’s The Broadcast. This was a next-level set for the quintet fronted by vocalist Caitlin Krisko. Every member of the band had great solo space during “Out of My Mind,” on new material (“Fightin’ the Feeling”), and their superb cover of “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” (Nina Simone). John Ginty’s synth was very mosquito-y. Krisko’s powerful voice blasted out a massive “A Little Help from My Friends” to close.

The Broadcast

One of the weekend’s hosts — Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident — was back with his own band on the Spirit Lake Stage. The band was so solid, and the crowd was packed in, enjoying the vibe. Great originals, including tunes from his new solo album 50, were in the mix, as was Traffic’s “Glad” and a great sandwich with “Short Skirt Long Jacket” in the middle. The finale, “Baba O’Riley,” featured Paige Sandusky on dynamite vocals.

Lettuce was up with the last set of the night at the Amphitheater. However, CBDB had the Campground set, and sound engineer Dillon Reeder told me, “It’s going to be a rager.” He was 100% accurate. Paul Oliver sat at his drum kit dressed as Santa, while Glenn Dillard (keyboards, alto sax) wore a reindeer suit. The other two wore antlers as they knocked out a tremendous set of Tuscaloosa ‘joyfunk,’ including a nice cover of “Black Market” (Weather Report).

Jesus Coomes of Lettuce shot by Zach Sanders

Back to Lettuce, where the inimitable Lee Rissin was shredding and tossing heads of, well, iceberg as the band did what they always do best: funk your brains out. “Squadlive” was the perfect way to help send us off to sleep, or campground jams, or whatever recreation appealed.

Lee Rissin Lettuce throwing extravaganza….. He's famous for it around this park.

Posted by Patty Ashcraft on Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Aerial Dragons, a great troupe from St. Petersburg, had their huge rig set up atop the hill to the right of the Amphitheater. I made note of their 9 PM show the next night.

I wandered back to the Campground, hoping to check out a bit of Silent Disco (especially Vlad the Inhaler). Unfortunately, this was the one night where a band played until 1:45. Setup for Silent Disco began quickly, but logistically there was no way it could begin before 2:30. Bedtime. Sort of.

Pre-party? Nope. That was a full pull.


The morning forecast called for a second wave of showers to pass over Live Oak. It looked like it would be heavy for a time, but fortunately that abated to lighter showers until about 12:15, right when the first sets of the day were to begin. The pit at the Amphitheater was a bit muddy but really not bad at all as the sun popped out and the crowd gathered to hear St. Petersburg’s excellent collective Holey Miss Moley do their thing. As was the case the day before with Ajeva, everyone who came down to check out the music stayed… and danced. The set featured fine vocals, their superb instrumental opus “Afroshaft,” and a dandy “Red Hot Mama” with Jon Ditty adding his raps.

We could hear the excellent set by The Wood Brothers from the Meadow, but I needed to head back to camp. First stop, however, was Spirit Lake to check out Maddy O’Neal. Her Denver DJ mix was bouncy and dubby (that might not actually be a word).

The Wood Brothers shot by Zach Sanders

The aforementioned Lee Rissin was gushing pre-set about Too Many Zooz. Now I know why. They were brilliant, similar in concept to Moon Hooch, with Leo P. on baritone sax, Matt Doe on trumpet, and King of Sludge on marching bass drum and percussion. They call their music brasshouse, partly in honor of the time they spent in New York City subways honing their craft.

Too Many Zooz shot by Zach Sanders

Halfway through the set, I zipped back to the Campground to see JUke, a great harmonica-centric blues band from Miami. “I Don’t Want You” was blistering, and then they really upped the ante, inviting Isaac Corbitt, another brilliant harp player, to join Eric Garcia and inviting string-bender Savi Fernandez to match up with Sonny East. The result was a monstrous  “Burn in Hell.”

We passed by Spirit Lake on the way to the Meadow for a brief listen to MZG, the Weinert brothers, with their twin DJ set. These guys always have so much fun. But we could hear Medeski, Martin and Wood calling.

Thankfully, Chris Wood began the set on acoustic bass. Its sound was magnificent as it carried throughout the meadow and beyond. This was an absolutely perfect set of fusion jazz from MMW, just a delight to sit in the warm afternoon sun and hear them weave this magic. John Medeski was all over his keyboards: piano, synths, and Hammond B3 organ. And Billy Martin kept them all straight, mostly. Midway through the set they threw in the Doc Pomus classic “Lonely Avenue.”

Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin and Wood – Jess Phillips

Break Science Live Band and the Melody Trucks Band had the next slot. I was optimistic I would catch part of both. My luck was below average, however. Trying to locate a friend and get her situated took the entire hour. I was able to hear much of the excellent Break Science set with the Lettuce boys while moving around and while waiting, though.

Break Science shot by Zach Sanders

Future Rock had a rockin’ funk set at Spirit Lake, the crowd dancing and vibrating along with the Chicago trio. Except that, unless my eyes deceived me, bassist Felix Moreno was not there, and Mickey Kellerman was handling bass duties in addition to his keyboards. Also, there was a lady dancing. We missed Dr. Dog.

Now it was time once again to split an hour between the Amphitheater and the Campground. Trampled by Turtles were putting on a master class at the Amp. And I might not be so good at counting; I swear I saw six men on stage, but only five are listed in their bio. No matter — their bluegrass sounded wonderful.

The second half was spent checking out The Malah. They have been park regulars for a long time, and they were having a fine set of their more laid-back jamtronic music. When the trio invited Clark Smith and his tenor sax from DYNOHUNTER on stage, the set really skyrocketed.

The Malah – Jess Phillips

Our hosts SCI were ready for set one of the seven they would play before the wrap-up Sunday. After a dynamic beginning with “Texas,” they introduced a new tune written by Jason Hann (percussion) called “Manga.” Next they invited Rayland Baxter on stage to perform a song they co-wrote with him titled “Gone Crooked” and then one of his compositions, “Hey Larocco.” “One Step Closer” was superb. SCI had wasted no time shoving it into overdrive — in set one! They closed with a heavy version of “Let’s Go Outside.”

I stopped briefly to check out Emancipator Ensemble creating beautiful sounds at the Amp, but I was determined to check out Bustle in Your Hedgerow at the Campground, so, after a short time, I headed that way. Only to find no music, no band. That was when I learned — as apparently many others did who missed the notification from the fest — that Action Bronson had cancelled at The Patch and that they had moved Bustle in Your Hedgerow over there. By this time, it seemed counterproductive to hear them for so short a time.

Instead, I went back to Spirit Lake to hear Ardalan, the San Francisco purveyor of house, techno, and “RodeoFunk,” throwing down an excellent set. He is originally from Tehran, giving Hula an even more international feel.

Cheese was beginning set two, but the Aerial Dragons were performing at the Dragon’s Den. It was a wonderful performance with 10 (?12?) acrobatic ladies. There was always something to see, with ladies with hoops, fans, and other props walking around burlesque style and ladies in silks, on suspended hoops, on swings, climbing ropes. Their costumes were gorgeous, and they had some sort of body spray/makeup that made them appear glistening with sweat (or covered with ice).

Aerial Dragons – Jess Phillips

Their DJ was spinning some of the best music heard from DJs over the weekend. The problem was that it was ear-splittingly loud. The crowd was intimate, surrounding the rig on three sides; there was no reason to blast our ears out. It was one of the few times I resorted to earplugs. Keep the level appropriate to the situation!

I caught the end of the second SCI set, with them crushing “Colliding.”

Having missed both STS9 sets Thursday, I was determined to see them this night. I made it over to The Patch, slammed with bodies everywhere. Music began with Nina Simone’s rendition of “Feelin’ Good,” with the band then falling in. I made it 20 minutes or so. Technically it was solid, but the music was simply not compelling — for me. Most of the huge crowd would disagree.

So back to the Campground for Come Back Alice, the St. Petersburg sextet who meld Southern rock and gypsy voodoo into a great stew. Tony Tyler and Dani Jaye front the band, both triple threats, he on guitar, keyboards, and vocals and she on violin, guitar, and vocals. CBA offered up a fabulous set of originals, and all members of the band had opportunities to shine.

The overwhelming majority of folks were heading to the Meadow for the night’s final set there, Odesza. But Garaj Mahal was about to begin on Spirit Lake. I’ve written a good bit about this amazing band and why this was my must-see performance (other than Jamiroquai). The last time they played at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park was at Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival 2010. They played the Music Hall November 11th and then the big tent in the meadow the following day. And the band disbanded/went on hiatus early in 2011; they performed for the first time since the breakup last summer and then again in May in Colorado, so this was a truly significant event.

How did they open after saying hello? With “Never Give Up” and “Hindi Gumbo,” the first two songs from that final Bear Creek set. It was magical. Fareed Haque was brilliant on guitar, joined by equally amazing Kai Eckhardt on bass. With them were two new cats, and both of them helped blow this set sky-high. Keyboard wizard Osam Ezzeldin was astounding on electric piano (in addition to his organ and synths), and drummer Dana Hawkins was spot on.

Next they grabbed another tune from that Bear Creek setlist, “Semos.” I think Haque was playing his Moog guitar at least part of the time. AB FAB. Haque then dedicated “Breathe” to Roger Waters. This was a brooding take on the song; it was OK but no match for the band’s original music. They roared back with another original. Told they had a few minutes left, the quartet put heads together and came up with a terse reading of “Paladin,” not coincidentally the LAST song they had played at Bear Creek.

We’ll have to run at least a couple articles about all of the stunning costumes and brilliant art installations at Spirit Lake. Of note is Because of the Lotus, who use biofeedback to help create art and visuals. Very quickly, their band feud game show became a smash hit. They were situated directly opposite the Spirit Lake Stage, the first installation to your left as you entered from the entrance by Spirit Lake.

In addition to Ralph Roddenbery & the Jones and Dixon’s Violin, I missed the silent disco (again) and about 23 secret sets and not-so-secret sets throughout the park.


Guavatron (West Palm Beach) had the early start with an 11:30 AM kick-off but still gathered a sizable crowd at the Campground for their twisting, turning jamtronica magic. Conor Crookham had a beastly set on bass. They launched with a 20-minute version of “Awake” and then dedicated the remainder of the hour to this incredible sequence: “Here To Stay > Spring Roll > Day Man > Spring Roll.”

Steady Flow from Peoria were making their first appearance at SOSMP, and they truly made the most of it on Spirit Lake. The sextet were pouring out superb funk, gathering a large dance audience just after noon. Keyboard player Tay Johnson really stood out. Meanwhile, Toubab Krewe was weaving their Afrobeat/surf sounds out on the Meadow.

Trevor Hall was filling the Amphitheater up with his acoustic folk songs and beautiful voice. I hustled back to catch Leisure Chief (Orlando), who were having a great set full of jams, a rapper, a dynamite new tune (“All Time Champion”), smooth vocals from drummer Derek Engstrom, and the band’s magnum opus, “MasterBlaster.”

Trevor Hall shot by Zach Sanders

A truly legendary set emerged next on the Meadow, as master blasters Lettuce threw down the best and jazziest hour of funk I’ve ever heard from them. And it was Adam ‘Schmeeans’ Smirnoff’s birthday!!! Ryan Zoidis took off first with his tenor sax solo. The next song was really jazzy, with Benny Bloom (trumpet), Schmeeans, and Nigel Hall (electric piano) lighting it up. New tune “New Purple Cabbage” was truly trippy, and then they invoked Bootsie before Hall came up to testify. Then they blew out “Madison Square” before Hall came up one more time to lead us all through “Do It Like You Do.” Jesus Coomes on bass and Adam Deitch on drums were simply insane. So was Lee Rissin!

Lettuce Extravaganza 10/27/18

Posted by Patty Ashcraft on Sunday, October 28, 2018

Stephen Marley’s beautiful positive vibes were rolling over everyone at the Amphitheater. I split that set with The Groove Orient. Their funky rockin’ set featured some of their familiar tunes and some from their upcoming release, including “Sewer Rat” and “Bugs.” They invited Kaleigh Baker, with whom they have often performed, to join them on “Downtown Virgin.” Bassist Harry Ong was in fine vocal form, and Tommy Shugart killed on Hammond B3 and on guitar.

Stephen Marley – Jess Phillips

Australian electronic trio Crooked Colors made their first Hula appearance a truly international affair, sending out chill groove vibes from the Spirit Lake Stage to an appreciative audience gathered there. Meanwhile, SCI was beginning set one of the three they would play this day. Numerous favorites and a solid “Birdland” dotted the setlist, closing with “Colorado Bluebird Sky.”

Asheville funkmeisters The Fritz were primed and ready to tear the roof off the Campground Stage. The quintet are celebrating the release of their new EP The Echo, and they had a massive set, drawing a great crowd. “Oppenheim” gave keyboard wizard Jamar Woods plenty of opp-ortunity to work out on his bank of equipment, and Jamie Hendrickson shredded with abandon after some Star Wars quotes.

Highlighting their recent shows in tribute to Michael Jackson and Prince, they offered a great medley of “Black or White > Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and encored with “1999.” “Stuck in Between” was, as always, stellar, and there was a monster new tune, “Nothing to Find,” with Jake O’Connor’s best bass work of the show.

SCI Round two was more superb music from our hosts, opening with “Desert Dawn” and closing with a massive version of “Rosie”!

Manic Focus and band were having a blast at the Amp, while Roosevelt Collier and his bandmates from excellent fusion band Electric Kif kept the Campground rockin’ as people got to see Collier’s new lap steel that is actually a guitar!

Manic Focus shot by Zach Sanders

I made a choice to see the Aerial Dragons again — directly opposite String Cheese Incident’s themed set. In retrospect, that was a mistake. You can read about that astounding set in Dalia Jakubauskas’ outstanding article titled “Hulaween Embraces the Power of Women.” The Dragons’ performance was again delightful and riveting. We did make it to the meadow to hear Ann Wilson sing “Barracuda” and then everyone join in on “Get Up, Stand Up.” And that encore! “Rollover > Close Encounters Jam > Star Wars Title Jam > Cantina Jam > Imperial March > Star Trek Next Generation Jam > Original Star Trek Jam > 2001 > Rollover”!!!!! Here is a link to the video.

String Cheese Incident Theme Set shot by Zach Sanders

I had heard much about Tipper and was interested to see what it was all about. What I heard — admittedly a small sample — was a series of noises and tweaks accompanied by great visuals. It was obvious I had not taken the appropriate psychedelics. I’m willing to try again, but skepticism remains strong. We had some things to square away at the campsite; truly sorry to have missed Jon Stickley Trio, who put on a magical performance at Campground.

Meanwhile, Vulfpeck was blowing up The Patch, by all accounts. They had numerous sit-ins and tons of funk.

Jamiroquai. If you’ve been surfing the ’net, you’ve undoubtedly uncovered myriad remarks across the spectrum of reviews: garbage, best set of the weekend, boring, mind blown, etc. There’s not much middle ground. Either you like disco and dance music — or not. You may put me in the “legendary” category; I love this stuff. This was an astounding performance. For me, Jamiroquai is the logical extension of James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince, and I prefer Jay Kay to all except JB. That’s just me.

Jamiroquai shot by Zach Sanders

Jamiroquai drew from seven of the nine albums he’s presented in the past quarter-century, opening with “Streetfighter” before the only song performed from last year’s Automaton, “Shake It Out.” The luscious orchestrations were Chic-inspired and expanded gloriously. “Little L” and “Space Cowboy” were simply brilliant. Jamiroquai has a stage presence not often scene here in the states, announcing almost every tune: “This next track is…”

Jamiroquai shot by Zach Sanders

At various points, Benny Bloom and Ryan Zoidis came out for solos, including Zoidis on “Hey Floyd.” The title track to Travelling Without Moving was just WOW. And that exploded with the opening notes to “Canned Heat.” The final song was “Love Foolosophy” (they apparently ran out of time to play “Virtual Insanity”).


14 hours and done.


There were options Sunday morning (well, noon), of course. Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino were in perfect harmony at the Amp, gorgeous music from two wonderful voices plus her trumpet and his guitar. Dalia’s article has you covered. I went to get my head kicked in by Trial by Stone, the Tallahassee quintet who smashed and mashes together punk, reggae, metal, and ska. And this show was bittersweet, the last time with the band for longtime bassist John Calvert.

I swear I had the setlist, but it really doesn’t matter. This group’s joyous if raucous presentation is always over-the-top magnificent, and this one was every bit of that. Buck Lemons’ manic guitar and vocals flanked by twin trombone towers Chris Rothenberg and Zack Hall were the perfect Sunday pick-me-up. Never miss a Sunday show, and never miss Trial by Stone. Well, that’s my mantra, and I’m stuck with it!

The TBS set was only 45 minutes, scheduled that way because, immediately after they were done, a horde of costumed folks were prepared to march with Rebirth Brass Band from the Campground to Spirit Lake Stage for their NOLA-centric performance. It was a beautiful thing to see, as was their set.

Out at the Meadow, Yonder Mountain String Band got the day started with a  fabulous hour of rockin’ bluegrass. After opening with “On My Dime,” Allie Kral blew us away with her vocals and fiddle on Blind Melon’s “No Rain.” They played the most delightful version of Pure Prairie League’s “Amie,” bluegrass rather than country, with Jacob Jolliff blazing on mandolin and Kral on fiddle. Appropriate to the season, they also knocked out a monster “Frankenstein” (Edgar Winter, not The New York Dolls). Heading for their last tune, somebody up front must have requested a bass solo.

Bass solo? You been up all weekend on drugs, son? Nobody wants to hear that!

We got instead incredible bluegrass in the form of “Traffic Jam” to close out a wonderful set.

Yonder Mountain String Band shot by Zach Sanders

Mavis Staples.

Well, really, that’s all you need to know. Again, Dalia’s article lays it all out for you. Mavis is a goddess, and the atmosphere at the Amp was properly reverential. To paraphrase a song lyric, she took us there. Oh, yes, she did. There was also a wicked take on “Slippery People,” part of her message to get out and vote.

Mavis Staples shot by Zach Sanders

I sprinted (well, you know) to the Campground to see The Applebutter Express spreading their love and wonderful double-entendre songs over the adoring fans. In that brief burst, they played “My Poor Heart,” “Hot Pussy” and “Smile.” And baby Biss was in grandma’s arms in front of the stage the whole time! I made it back to Mavis just in time to hear the band begin my favorite Staples Singers song, “Respect Yourself,” never more relevant than right now.

SCI was playing their penultimate set on the Meadow, while Miami’s fusion blasters Fusik were at Spirit Lake. This was without a doubt the most powerful set from Fusik I’ve heard. They were locked and loaded. The funk was just so deep! “Hot Plate” was uplifting, and they honored Lettuce with “The Dump.”

Galactic was cranking it up at the Amp, Erica Falls’s powerful vocals and Ben Ellman’s tenor soaring into the trees as I booked it over to The Patch to check out SunSquabi, the Boulder trio. Their “electronic hydro funk” was washing over the packed crowd there. It was pure dynamite, lighting up the afternoon.

Finally, the last of seven SCI sets was under way. And it was perfect. “Beautiful,” in fact. Cassarino was invited up to belt “Superstition,” and the closing “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” (The Talking Heads) was simply ideal.

I missed The Polish Ambassador over at The Patch. I’d seen him once as just a DJ act and was underwhelmed. The videos I’ve seen of TPA and the Diplomatic Scandal, however, suggest that this was an entirely different experience. Opiuo was hosting a rave of his own at Spirit Lake with his DJ mix.

While The Revivalists were ripping it up at the Amp, one last time I made it to the Campground for one of my favorites, DYNOHUNTER. Let me be clear: my favorite set of the weekend (along with Jamiroquai). It also allowed to examine a conundrum that’s been swirling around in my brain for some time: when bands play in conjunction with recorded material — either their own or someone else’s.

I have often scoffed at such efforts, wishing bands I love such as The Malah and Zoogma wouldn’t incorporate that so much, except that those songs were great. DYNOHUNTER blasted the most jaw-dropping non-stop dance party and stretched their hour set out by another 20 minutes. I happened to be by Vlad the Inhaler (the curator of the Silent Disco experience), who was there not as a park ambassador but as a fan. Every time they dropped the beat he and I just looked at each other in amazement. Clark Smith is the most exciting tenor saxophone player I’ve seen in ages. He and his mates were perpetual motion machines! Brilliant live house music.

That left two closing sets, although I confess my brain was now officially DYNO-toast. Dave Brandwein and his Turkuaz juggernaut were capping off the great weekend at Spirit Lake. After I caught four or five great tunes (and don’t tell Pat), I went to check out Janelle Monáe.

Janelle Monae shot by Zach Sanders

My opinion is inadequate and underformed. My mind was already blown, and I was too far back to appreciate what was truly happening. Her performance didn’t translate to the back of the crowd; it was my mistake not to move up further. More competent critics have assured me it was an amazing — and unique, even for Hulaween — performance, huge on production values and costumes as well as the music. Once again, read Dalia’s account. She nailed it. So did Janelle Monáe.

Each of the four nights, there were dozens of campfire jams all over the park. I have been assured they were awesome. I never found a single one.

Blessings to Suwannee Hulaween, Paul Levine, Silver Wrapper, Purple Hat Productions, and all who made the incredible weekend possible. We are so fortunate to have such an event.

A special shoutout to all of the security personnel who streamlined our entrances to the music areas and were really great. Everybody was smiling!

Be sure again to check out “Hulaween Embraces the Power of Women,” and we have lots more coming!

Photographs courtesy of Zach Sanders, Jess Phillips, and Yvonne Gougelet
Videos courtesy of Roy Loeffler (!!),, and coolBrittania97

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