Welcome to Suwannee Hullaween 2016. These photos and wrap-up will remind you that there are still strange forces at work in the universe. Along the banks of Spirit Lake the Dead Cats have arrived.
After two weeks of camping in the quiet woods of North Florida, the hottentots began descending upon us with increased regularity. It began with the extra porta-lets, then came the huge white tents and the new chain link fences. A week before the festival, the riggers and pre-prodcution trucks showed up, signifying that Suwannee Hulaween had truly arrived at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida and things would never be the same. It was Suwannee Hulaween. A bit of the other. The other people, the other music, and the other kind of crazy. When it was all said and done, it would certainly be a festival of new experiences. Hey, that’s our bag baby.
The Dead Cat Society had roped off its pleasure palace compound on the same space that had been occupied by Camp Happiness only two weeks earlier but things were beginning to look slightly different than the previous festival. Waves of hippies, rednecks, and girls dressed as butterflies slowly begin to fill the camping fields and forest nooks along the banks of the Suwannee River. This was definitely gearing up to be something of the “other”. From the Loop to the Bat house and Bird Sanctuary, glampers, campers, coaches, and hippies sleeping under tarps could be found everywhere. Brilliant tapestries of all manner were unfurled and dress was elevated from general festival fun to a whole nutha level of Halloween ridiculousness.
This was an eclectic mix of music that truly had something to offer everyone. Before it was over, bands like String Cheese Incident, My Morning Jacket, and Greensky Bluegrass mixed it up with the electric dance sounds of Big Gigantic and the grinding rock of Rebelution. If it’s any indication of what kind of party it was, Grass is Dead shredded it at one of the 4:00am shows. Even if you took the easy way out and went to bed early, the drums could still be heard thumping through the tent walls. I don’t know what time it was that I heard My Morning Jacket crushing Pink Floyd, but it just didn’t matter. The music never stopped.
New Experiences At 2016 Suwannee Hulaween
- Volunteering: The Nail Travels Team signed up with the WET (Work Exchange for Tickets) program since we were already camping prior to the event and that would give us a chance to see everything come together. Oh, and don’t forget the free tickets. We were teamed up with Libre and Bear on Monday and helped them prepare the yoga tent and dancers dressing rooms. Cozy work. As excellent as we were at stuffing pillows, we were moved over to the construction site of the new wooden figure being created around Spirit Lake. Thomas and the other artists allowed us to pick up screw drivers and jig saws and contribute to the effort. The figure grew into a fantastic row of tiered benches with trees growing out of its chest. If you find your way to the lake at SOSMP, be wary of sitting on the left wrist. I know exactly how qualified the builder was on that particular piece.
— Jason Nail (@NailTravels) October 24, 2016
- Spirit Lake: Every year for Hulaween the area around the lake is transformed into a glowing parade of stages, lights, demonstrations, and dancers. Everything from bubbles to lasers and smoke turns the usually dark cypress forest into a dazzling wonderland of colors and sounds. Check your reality at the door. It will always be waiting for you when you get back. We even got into the silent disco where all participants wear headphones and pound and dance together in goofy, virtual silence. You live long enough and you see some weird stuff. How about mountain rednecks walking around in the middle of the night wearing blinking red suspenders and bowties? Yes, lovely people, this too is a real thing and impossible to forget. You’re not going to see something like that sitting on your living room couch. Thanks Clay and Jen for silly late night walks around the lake. I’m glad I could pave the way for you. Although entertaining, you are both invited to consider serious counseling.
- String Cheese Sunday: On what is usually a mellow day at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, Hulaween rejected that idea with vigorous fervor. The party failed to slow as the String Cheese Incident took the meadow stage for two full sets of cheesy madness Sunday afternoon. I hooked up with Hawaii John and the other disk slingers for an afternoon of frisbee in the warm Florida sun. You heard right….throwing disks in one of the best fields in the world, while bouncing to String Cheese. It just writes itself sometimes.
- Wookie Reunion: The young hippies who follow the shows selling glass and art in search of love and fun once again dropped in on our campfire for an all-night acoustic concert of loud, mediocre music (a Dead Cat specialty). By that time, the dust, smoke, and general abuse had turned most singing voices into sounds of ripping cloth. Thanks to Alex, Louis and the boys for bringing over the crowd of music lovers and especially the lovely Emma, who lent her voice to the fire and learned that she loves Van Morrison. Welcome to the rest of your life and don’t ever stop singing, little bird.
— Jason Nail (@NailTravels) October 29, 2016
Of course, all of the new experiences can’t be discussed here. Some involved small animals illegally brought into this country and the others with food and drink not yet laboratory tested for human consumption. There can be no way that coffee and absinthe is a real thing. It just sounds silly. Remember, you’re the only one who can mess you up.
As always, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park proved to be one of the finest camping/festival venues in the country and Hulaween found a perfect place to spread its rainbow wings. The constant and diverse music slashed through the collective sanity and filled the North Florida swamps with delicious song. The campers were friendly and respectful and thick clouds of love and laughter hung low in the air. Thank you everyone who worked to make it a safe and deliriously fun atmosphere. Especially to Scott and Mary and the rest of the Live Oak crowd who worked the security and the beverage stands. Thanks for sharing and don’t forget to take your giraffe head home.
Thanks Again to Katie Egger for lending her photography expertise to the Nail Travels effort. Check out their website and follow their social media channels on Facebook and Twitter. Get in touch with them regarding photography, event/project management, promotions, graphic and web design, copy and editorial assistance.