Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway: The Not-So-Secret Set at Suwannee Hulaween
I have been waiting since the end of October to share this story WITH the official video. Finally that has been published. Here is the setup from Saturday, October 29, at Suwannee Hulaween:
If there was only going to be one true bluegrass entry on this year’s lineup, then we got the right one. Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway have had a magical year, and their Hula experience was truly a sight to behold. Their brilliant Alice in Wonderland costumes were perfection (the Tim Burton version), beginning with Molly “The Red Queen” Tuttle. Their early set drew a huge crowd who were rewarded over and over again by the incredible artistry and costumes of each of the band members (from left to right in photos): Bronwyn “Alice” Keith-Hynes, fiddle; Kyle “Cheshire Cat” Tuttle, banjo; Molly Tuttle, guitar; Shelby “Mad Hatter” Means, upright bass; and Dominick “Blue Caterpillar” Leslie, mandolin.
The set included tunes from the band’s April release Crooked Tree. Molly turned Keith-Hynes loose on new tune “Dooley’s Farm,” and then, inexplicably and unnecessarily, the sound folks decided that the bass needed to be WAAAY louder. GRRRRR… Molly talked about cowgirls in hats, and they played another new one, “Side Saddle.” “Over the Line” gave Kyle and Means a chance to romp.
The quintet boogied with “Up On the Hill Where They Do the Boogie” before Kyle knocked out some wicked wah-wah banjo. They went to Bluegrass Wonderland in “Alice in the Bluegrass.” Meanwhile, toward the back of the stage, a six-foot White Rabbit was lurking. The Jefferson Airplane classic “White Rabbit” was… inevitable! Their version was spectacular, including a bass solo as White Rabbit danced with Means, and it featured a lovely banjo coda. (More about this soon.) MAGIC INDEED!
After that, I went to the adjacent stage to see The Polish Ambassador before winding my way back to the Campground stage for Caitlyn Krisko and The Broadcast. They were blowing up a fine set. After “I’m Counting On You,” they offered a true gem in Gil Scott-Heron’s “Lady Day and John Coltrane”! They played new single “You Got a Feeling,” other originals, and a killer take on “Rock and Roll,” Led Zep style!
There was a distraction, however, which led to a second distraction. From the production area behind the Campground stage, stage manager (and king) Pete Stitz was leading Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, all still in costume, over to the back entrance to Church of the Lost. My Spidey-sense was tingling (well, it would have if I had any). I went to the front entrance to Church of the Lost to work my way around… and stumbled into the end of a celebration of life! Respectfully, I went to the beginning of the pathway from inside the church toward the back entrance.
I was rewarded when I entered the “room” (no ceiling, of course) beyond the arched tunnel of vines, the focus of which was a huge banquet table looking not a little like the Mad Hatter’s! And above the table was a second table suspended from branches above, with appropriate tableware also suspended from the table!
Veteran photographer and videographer Jay Strausser was with the band, and they were working out the blocking so that they could record “White Rabbit” in such a magical setting. People passed through, came, went, stayed, and were respectful. Tuttle and band were so accommodating for people who wanted to have their pictures taken with them. Rather than try to close the area off, they seemed to welcome the respectful attention by those passing through and those who stopped to enjoy the performance.
They actually did a second take on the song, trying to improve the blocking; both were stunningly beautiful up close and personal. I will post an article with all of my photos once the official video has been released. [THAT’S NOW!] What great fortune to be in the right place at the right time with the right people!
Strausser’s video on YouTube also includes these notes from Molly Tuttle:
“I have loved the story of Alice in Wonderland since I read the book as a kid and played the Queen of Hearts in my school play. I chose to cover ‘White Rabbit’ back in the fall of 2020 for a live stream of songs by San Francisco Bay Area artists. Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane is from Palo Alto, CA, just like me, and this song gives me the nostalgic feeling of growing up, but recording it also pushed my band forward into new territory musically. This is the first song I have arranged, produced and recorded from the ground up with the band members that I’ve been on the road with all year. Golden Highway—aka Shelby Means, Dominick Leslie, Kyle Tuttle, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes—and I have formed a strong musical bond after playing almost 100 shows together this year. Each band member brought ideas to the table, making this a truly collaborative effort.”
But wait! There’s more! Leftover Salmon had the late-night Spirit Lake set (2:30-4:00 a.m.), and they were throwing a wild party. I was beginning to fade about 3:30 and was ready to pack it in when Kyle Tuttle, still in full Cheshire Cat regalia, jumped on stage and banjoed it out with Andy Thorn! YES, INDEED!