Festival Review Hulaween

Hulaween Delivers an Intimate Yet Spectacular Weekend [Festival Review]

Despite its growing popularity, Hulaween delivered a spectacular event while maintaining its intimate vibes this year. Here’s a look back at some of our favorite aspects of 2017.

We recently wrote an article on how Hulaween would maintain its identity given its growing popularity.  The feeling you find at Suwannee Hulaween is unlike other large festivals, which can feel a bit commercialized at times.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the large production, amazing costumes, actors, and endless merchandise at large festivals. However, when I go to something like Hula, I expect that boutique feeling of being somewhere new and undiscovered.

Seeing the momentum of the festival build over the years and the increased attention this year, it was a legitimate concern. However, this concern became merely a question once we stepped onto the grounds at Suwannee Hulaween. The production crew at Purple Hat and Silver Wrapper not only threw one hell of a Halloween party, they kept that intimate and relaxed vibe while doing so. With giant names like Griz, Bassnectar, RL Grime, Ween, and more; new crowds of people flocked to this annual festival more so than ever before. It would have been easy to lose a bit of that Hula vibe we’ve all come to love.

`At first, my experience was not so great.

When I arrived to park for camping, I was greeted by a man who called himself Red. Red has been helping with parking at Hulaween for the past 5 years.  I was forced to park in overflow camping, which was understandable given my Friday arrival. The issue? This was the first time the volunteers have had to use this lot and had no idea where to put us. So, after moving our car three times, Red shows up, tells us that he’s sorry for the inconvenience and lets us set up camp wherever we want. Having been to other festivals where parking attendants can accidentally cram you into wrong spots and not care when addressed, Red went a long way to remedy the situation.

Despite Red’s amazing efforts, it still gave me that first impression that Hulaween wasn’t ready to handle the amount of people attending this year. I’ll be the first to say it though, I was absolutely wrong. That was the only bad experience I had and in all fairness, Red corrected that situation. When I entered the festival grounds and found myself in awe of Spirit Lake, I forgot about everything else.

The amount of artwork and installations found at Hula is profound.

Having been to Electric Forest this year, I felt more encompassed by Spirit Lake than I did at Sherwood Forest.  They both have a very similar feeling and I’m sure some people will disagree with me. Spirit Lake has this very low-key relaxed vibe where I really felt the artist’s inspiration in each piece. Every piece of artwork had a story to tell and the artist was right there to give you that story.  Pine trees and palms surrounded the area to give you an intimate feeling of being a part of the whole experience. At the center of the whole environment was Spirit Lake itself, surrounded by old growth cypress trees covered in moss.  Every night it would greet you with a projection on the lake and a crowd of people relaxing in front of the lake to take in its beauty. 

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I really can’t say enough about Spirit Lake. The first time you see it at night when it’s most alive takes you to another world.

I don’t know how long it took to get through Spirit Lake the first time, but each time I went back through, I continued to find things I had not yet discovered. The other factor that makes it feel otherworldly is that it’s Halloween weekend. Everyone is dressed in costumes (more so than usual at festivals) and the Halloween vibe definitely plays a part in the overall experience.  All I can say is if you’ve been to Electric Forest and enjoyed the vibe, then you can’t miss Hula.

As for the music aspect of Hula, this year the festival organizers went out on a limb bringing in Bassnectar. Doing so generated controversy among fans about him playing at Hulaween, as seen all over Reddit and Facebook. Saturday afternoon, the guys at Silver Wrapper and Purple Hat productions held a media event. They acknowledged that having Bassnectar on the lineup brought some heat on social media from fans. They were glad to see that once everyone got to Hula, the social media bickering played no part in the atmosphere Friday night.

Personally, I am a huge Bassnectar fan and I was excited to have him at an event like Hula. Disagree with me or not, but Hula is meant to entice a perfect atmosphere for his music. Not to mention, the set he played was phenomenal. He’s keeping us on our toes for that Reflective EP Part 2

String Cheese Incident ends their Saturday night set with an unforgettable performance.

Of course, we can’t forget the festival hosts String Cheese Incident. All of their sets were everything you could want and expect from such a legendary group. Saturday’s show was one to remember. It capped off with fireworks, copious amounts of confetti, Halloween themed stage decorations, and that community feeling in the air that makes these events so special.

RL Grime was another spectacular show. Fans of Grime know that every year he puts out a Halloween mixtape. This year was no different, on October 27th Grime released Volume VI of his Halloween mix. This was the same day he was meant to take the stage at Hulaween. Fans attending the show would be the first to hear him possibly perform new songs from his upcoming Nova album. This made him one set you couldn’t miss.

Headliners delivered, but it was the less talked about artists that made Hula so special!

Other notable performances from the weekend included Run the Jewels, Space Jesus, Keys N Krates, Liquid Stranger, Lotus, Portugal the Man, and so many others. I think you can tell from this review that I heavily lean towards electronic and bass music. However, I have so much appreciation for all genres of music and the talent these people possess. Hulaween combines these genres and their associated fans in an amazingly unforgettable way. In all the conversations I had with the beautiful crowd at Hula, I didn’t hear any disappointments from the performances this year. In fact, some of the best times I had occurred when randomly stumbling onto smaller acts performing on the small stages of Spirit Lake. Okeechobee OG’s will be familiar with the Incendia stage. I definitely got distracted here at least three or four times and couldn’t walk away.

You won’t see me question the direction of this event again. If the guys at Silver Wrapper and Purple Hat productions keep running this event, guarantee I’ll be there. I recently attended Lost Lands as well, and the communication by Jeff “Excision” Abel was top notch. It was one of the most organized festivals I’ve ever been too. Hulaween is right up there with it though with it’s dedicated staff. I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for us next year!

We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences at Hulaween this year. Leave a comment below or check out our Facebook page and tell us what you think.

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