Uncovering Hulaween’s Undercard Discoveries: The Must-See Up-and-Comers

Just as it has been for seven years running, music was the beating heart of this year’s stupendous Suwannee Hulaween held October 24-27 in the always magical Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. There are the big draws like Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals, Umphrey’s McGee, Bassnectar, Greensky Bluegrass, Clozee, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Tom Morello, Billy Strings, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, STS9, host band The String Cheese Incident, and more who rocked the fest’s bigger stages.

The String Cheese Incident shot by Zach Sanders

For a near-complete rundown of Hula’s highlights, check out Scott Hopkins’ superb recap here along with MFN photographer’s Zach Sander’s gallery documenting fan shenanigans here.

Shot by Zach Sanders

But what was particularly impressive this year was the gripping quality of the diverse supporting acts and an undercard that dove deep into “greatest-bands-you’ve-never-heard-of-but will never forget” territory. Producers and talent buyers Michael Berg and Paul Levine more than succeeded in satisfying the sonic appetites of Hula’s ravenous, multi-generational music fans, whom they have said approach the festival with open hearts and open ears. While acts were enlisted from all over the nation, the roster was notably heavy with incredible artists from Florida, Levine’s home state and hunting ground for talent. Who would have guessed that the Sunshine State is a bubbling, wellspring of mind-boggling artistry?!

Clozee shot by Zach Sanders

So here’s the short list of some of my favorites enjoyed and discovered at Hula. These are the artists that you need to run out and see for yourselves while you can still enjoy them at smaller venues before their upward trajectories land them in the big time.

 

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24

MAGIC CITY HIPPIES

Magic City Hippies shot by Zach Sanders

First out of the gate on Thursday afternoon opening The Patch Stage was Miami’s indie-funk, psych-pop ensemble Magic City Hippies, a dynamic genre-bending troupe that I’d been hearing great buzz about for a few years but never had the opportunity to see live. Made up of core members Robby Hunter (guitar and vocals), John Coughlin (guitar) and Pat Howard (drums) joined by brothers Ferny (keyboard) and Guillermo Belisario (bass) for live shows, the band did not disappoint.

John Coughlin of Magic City Hippies shot by Zach Sanders

These guys were birthed on the streets of Miami, where the music scene is overflowing with dance music and its practitioners and where getting the city’s notoriously fickle fans to pay attention is a monumental task. So they wasted no time on warm-ups. Their infectious dance grooves dosed with hip hop and funk immediately seized all the bodies present and didn’t let go until the last beat escaped into the atmosphere.

Another epic Hulaween in the books along with some mind-blowing new discoveries. Got to catch some indie funk with Magic City Hippies on Thursday.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Monday, October 28, 2019

Playing selections off their dynamite debut album Modern Animal released in August and earlier EPs, the band filled up the surrounding empty space with high-energy rhythms, including superb guitar work from Coughlin and grin-inducing, head-bobbing raps from Hunter. To drive the gospel of funk home, the last few songs of their set featured Jason Ehizokhale, the excellent saxophonist for Audiodacity, a superb funk/pop/rock outfit from Indianapolis.

Magic City Hippies will be touring the U.S. this winter in support of Modern Animals. Go to their website for more information. Then do your spirit and feet a favor and catch them when they come to your town.

 

JADEN CARLSON BAND

Jaden Carlson of The Jaden Carlson Band shot by Zach Sanders

Jaden Carlson is not yet out of her teens, but she’s already an old pro as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and bandleader whose genius is best expressed with a guitar in hand. She and her Colorado-based band, consisting this day of Eric Imbrosciano (drums), Fred Reisen (DYNOHUNTER, bass), and AJ Salas (filling in on keys for regular band member Chris Beck, who was absent for the birth of his new baby boy) are undisputed heirs to modern jazz fusion. Carlson and her bandmates gave a masterclass in how to crush the walls separating jazz, R&B, electronic and soul and make it sound completely fresh. This was heady stuff but utterly accessible.

Fred Reisen – Jaden Carlson Band shot by Zach Sanders

Playing selections off of 2018’s excellent Keep Movin’, this was the band’s second appearance at Hulaween; they first appeared in 2017 on the Campground Stage. Now graduated to the larger Amphitheater Stage, Carlson and the band soared through glorious instrumental jams. From the opening strains of “Far Horizon” to the rollicking joyride “Last Chair,” Carlson and company floored the uninitiated and delighted those of us already in love with their work.

One of my fave young artists – Jaden Carlson from last weekend’s Hulaween.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Monday, October 28, 2019

It’s a joy to watch Carlson, already a raging young talent, grow into a confident bandleader and commanding stage presence. The potential for greatness here is only limited by geography, and we look forward to Carlson and the band stretching their wings beyond Colorado and neighboring states. With Hulaween, Summer Camp, ARISE Festival and more under her belt, Carlson’s burgeoning fan base (me and Scott Hopkins included) are chomping at the bit for more. I’m talking to you, talent buyers around the U.S. – overlook the Jaden Carlson Band at your own peril! This much brilliance can’t be contained. To learn more about JCB and sample some of their terrific work,  head to the band’s website. 

 

ELECTRIC KIF

Electric Kif Shot By Dalia Jakubauskas

Miami’s own Electric Kif closed down The Campground Stage on Spirit Lake with audacious flare. Consisting of bassist Rodrigo Zambrano, keyboardist Jason Matthews, drummer Armando Lopez, and guitarist Eric Escanes, the power quartet served up a mashup of instrumental splendor with jazz fusion, synth rock and drum & bass electronica as key ingredients to their appeal. Their ferocious set was a display of focus and fearlessness that drew in dozens of revelers who could not resist the muscular, psychedelic grooves pouring off the stage.

Jason Matthews of Electric Kif shot by Dalia Jakubauskas

No strangers to Hulaween, the band triggered a raging dance party where their performance was a

demonstration of the kind of call and response shared by musicians and fans deep into symbiotic grooves. Dozens of curious revelers were irresistibly and happily drawn into Kif’s cosmic, “post-nuclear” vortex where they played a catalog of dance-inducing tunes including selections off Jefe, their latest stellar album released in September.

Video at FunkCity.net

From the opener “Three Body Problem,” a magnificent dream ride of drums and synth-laden beats, and ending with “National Anthem,” an eerie climb through time and space, Electric Kif never took their foot off the gas. If you’re in Florida, you can catch them at Dunedin Brewery on November 16 and at The North Beach Band Shell in Miami Beach on November 21. Look for more dates to be announced, and click here to keep up with the band.

 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25

BELLS AND ROBES

Bells and Robes.

Friday’s find was the excellent live electronic duo Bells and Robes who blanketed the Campground Stage and Spirit Lake with lush synth soundscapes and primal beats. Hailing from Atlanta, Bells and Robes feature Luke Spika on synths and keys and Dean Spaniol on drums and percussion. Known for their use of self-produced backing tracks and live improvisation, the pair brought the heat and hypnotic, danceable rhythms to a stage they set alight for the rager to come.

New find: Bells and Robes from Hulaween. Crazy good.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Monday, October 28, 2019

Drawing from a solid catalog of tunes, including tracks from House of Mirrors, their first full-length album released in May, and even some yet-to-be-titled works, the pair flared into life on “Roses,” the opening number featuring synth bass beats and a truly divine piano. That hooked me, and from there it was a wild joyride into livetronica, acid jazz, and deep house that landed us in the dreamscapes of “Ecstasis,” “Drak” and untitled works that were simply sublime. You can keep up with Bells and Robes and stay in the loop when more tour dates are announced by going to their facebook page.

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26

SHEVONNE

Shevonne shot by Zach Sanders

Saturday began with an unanticipated surprise discovery, which is always the best kind. I was headed past The  Patch Stage to catch another act to start the day when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a young artist and her band who brought me to my knees. The first act of the day at The Patch, Shevonne and her band of out-of-this-world musicians were holding dozens (and soon to be hundreds) of enthusiastic Hulagans in thrall with a set that blew a hole in the upper atmosphere.

Shevonne shot by Zach Sanders

From Tampa, Shevonne (a.k.a. “Shevizzle,” a.k.a. Shevonne Philidor) is a force to be reckoned with whose super-sized stage presence belies her diminutive figure. She’s what happens if you took DNA from Prince, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz, and Whitney Houston, threw it in a boiling cauldron of funk, rock, pop, R&B, reggae, and soul with a splash of Living Colour and The Runaways thrown in.  She’s about as uniquely and gorgeously fierce an animal as I’ve seen in a while.

This young woman and her band stopped me in my tracks on the way to see another band at Hula. Never made it to see the other band but Shevonne’s performance will stick with me always.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Monday, October 28, 2019

With her equally ferocious band (Julian Christian on keys, Andrew Warren on guitar, Devon Gilbert on bass, and Davon Emanuel on drums) backing her, Shevonne obliterated lines separating genres in a jaw-dropping performance that included tunes off her 2016 killer debut album Shevizzle including “All My Days,” “Just Right” and “Sell Out.” She also broke out a brand-spanking-new song, the achingly beautiful “Strange Love” that tore our hearts to pieces. Shevonne performs regularly in the Tampa area; look for her at more festivals to come. Check out her website for a full list of dates and to learn more about this astonishing singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, actress, and performance artist. 

 

LPT

LPT shot by Dalia Jakubauskas

MFN editor-in-chief Scott Hopkins described LPT as “a dance party with a band on the side.” Got that right. Dressed as characters from Disney’s “Toy Story” the ten members of he Jacksonville-based band hosted a salsa revival from the Campground Stage that was positively infectious. Fans well familiar with the band’s Afro-Cuban rhythms and high-energy antics gleefully rumba-ed, tango-ed and twirled complete strangers in their midst. And youngsters not yet acquainted with these art forms dove headfirst into the melee and came away with an education in Latin music. 

Josué Cruz of LPT shot by Dalia Jakubauskas

No one knows what LPT stands for but there is no mystery to what makes this band so much fun live. Made up of Milan Algood (timbales & vocals), Jonah Pierre (bongo & bell), Josué Cruz (lead vocals), Stan Piper (bass), Angel Garcia (keys & vocals), Juan Rollan (tenor sax & vocals), Eric Kennedy (baritone sax), JP Salvat (Congas), Bryant Patterson (trombone) and  Steve Strawley (trumpet), they are a relentless rhythm machine bearing a simple cure for all that ails ya: the unbridled joy of dancing like nobody’s watching. The fact that they are experts at their craft and an incredibly tight band doesn’t hurt either.

A friend of mine described these guys as “a dance party with a band on the side.” Yup. Here’s LPT with a little crowd action at Hula.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Monday, October 28, 2019

They are starting to grow past their northeast Florida borders, but until they reach your town, you can check out some of their live and studio releases here. 

 

MANIC FOCUS

Manic Focus shot by Zach Sanders

Manic Focus (producer and DJ John McCarten) can hardly be described as an undercard act, having graduated long ago to a forceful presence on the electronic music and festival scene. But I have to give him a shout-out here for a mesmerizing performance that was one of my favorites ever featured at Hula’s Amphitheater. The Amp was already packed to the gills when I arrived to claim a spot with the throngs of fans raging as one undulating organism. Every bit of the crowd’s unbridled joy was matched by the cosmic energy pulsating from the stage and coursing through the moss-covered oaks to paint a scene straight out of some other dimension.  

Manic Focus shot by Zach Sanders

When Hula Fam loves you, they love you hard. And they were loving what Manic Focus was laying down — scintillating beats and stratospheric synth rhythms that were punctuated by a live band that included Jacob Barinholtz on drums, Cory Wythe (Marvel Years) on guitar, and Kat Vi playing an incendiary, face-melting electric violin. 

This particular lineup was assembled just for Hula, and we are grateful to have witnessed their magic. But there are plenty of opportunities to catch Manic Focus, who is touring the country in support of his new full-length masterpiece Lost in a Digital World. Check out the remaining dates here and go to the Manic Focus website for more information.  

 

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27

ELLA JET & FUTURE SOUL

Ella Jet and Future Soul shot by Zach Sanders

Sunday’s picks include Ella Jet & Future Soul, a young quintet out of St. Petersburg, Florida, with old soul appeal and a modern edge, were pouring their hearts out on The Campground Stage. Jet, a dynamic and riveting singer/songwriter/guitarist whose golden pipes wrap themselves around heartfelt personal stories about the human condition, and Future Soul, made up of Kevin Mendel (lead guitar), Zach West (keys), Vinny Svoboda (bass), Levi Foe (keys, synth, guitar, vox) and Dillon Reeder (drums) were dishing up heaps of soul-saturated rock and roll.

Lordy there’s a ton of great young talent out there including Elia Jet & Future Soul from Hulaween.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Monday, October 28, 2019

Dressed in tracksuits befitting the ’90s theme adopted by this year’s Hula, Jet and Future Soul kept the beat uptempo and gave us the perfect reason to move our festival-worn bodies. There are lots of opportunities to catch this terrific young band at venues around Florida while they work seemingly nonstop to build a growing fanbase. Check out their tour schedule here and be one of the thousands to like them on facebook.

 

ERICA FALLS

Erica Falls shot by Zach Sanders

Singer, songwriter, bandleader, entertainer, and goddess Erica Falls is one of my favorite artists to take in underneath the dripping moss of SOSMP’s magical live oaks, where she’s performed frequently over the last four years with Galactic. Now on her own as a solo artist with the Erica Falls Band, she is one of the undisputed successors in a long line of legendary female vocalists (Irma Thomas and Mahalia Jackon come to mind) to carry the torch of New Orleans R&B and neo-soul into the future.

Erica Falls, Shot by Dalia Jakubauskas

A gifted singer/songwriter with a spellbinding stage presence put together a fantastic band for Hulaween on the fly. Backed by her regular New Orleans-based bandmates Andrew Black (guitar) and Dorian Hodges (drums), they joined by Ron Williams (bass) and Julian Christian (keys) to ably fill in, Falls took us to church at The Campground Stage where she filled the empty airspace with the sweet strains of vintage soul.

ERICA Falls LIVE NOW!! Hulaween 2019

Posted by Erica Falls on Sunday, October 27, 2019

Blessed with a range that would challenge opera singers, she belted out a perfect and uplifting set that included original tunes off her marvelous debut album Homegrown released in 2017 along with a few New Orleans classics, including a heart-bursting rendition of The Meters’ classic “It Ain’t No Use.” The talented musicians whom she said she just threw together were superb laying a solid foundation for Fall’s powerful vocals, including New Orleans guitarist and producer Black, who scorched the stage with his performance. Expect to see a lot more of the Erica Falls Band, and run, don’t walk, to catch them when they come to your town. Go to Falls’ website to find out where and for more information about this amazing artist who is bound for stardom.

Shot by Zach Sanders

 

Kudos to all the artists who gave their absolute best to us at Hulaween this year. We’ll be yours forever. And kudos to the fans who gave the love back. Your energy is like no other, and the result is pure magic. Let us know your personal favorites and the discoveries that defined your experience. We’ll gather under the mossy oaks again next year. But until then, keep supporting live music. It’s everything.

 

SUWANNEE HULAWEEN 2019

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