The Splendor & Spectacle of Hulaween 2016

By  |  1 Comment

It almost goes without saying: Hulaween was the best festival we have seen this year. In its fourth year at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, the magic of Hulaween has grown, and the splendor and spectacle of this festival has exceeded any and all expectations.

While we are still riding that Hula high, and probably will be for quite some time, we’re taking a look at some highlights that make this esteemed festival top-notch.


Greensky Bluegrass Thursday Pre-Party Set

The party got started a day early, as it has in years past, with Hulaween’s not-to-miss Thursday Pre-Party. This year’s pre-party lineup was incomparable to previous Thursdays at Hulaween, as it boasted one of the best lineups to date. Umphrey’s McGee, Greensky Bluegrass, EOTO & Friends, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Marco Benevento, Fruition, and The Werks were among the artists who kicked off the weekend.

The Spirit Lake Stage was adorned with towering amethyst cathedrals and ornate wooden cutouts on each side. As the starburst lights began to shine and the visual effects started to transform the stage into a pirate ship, Greenksky took to the Spirit Lake Stage for the last slot of the night. The mournfully beautiful “Windshield” was the first song of the set, and the band’s performance seemed to send a wave of enchantment and emotion through the crowd. Also known for their outlandish covers, Greensky later delighted with Juvenile’s 1998 hit, “Back That Ass Up.”

Something was in the air that night while Greensky played on. You could feel the energy pulsating. The atmosphere was electric, and Greensky provided a soundtrack that matched the smiling crowd’s anticipation and excitement for the weekend ahead.

Photo: Jordan Leigh Jackson

The String Cheese Incident’s Halloween ’80s Cover Set

One of the most highly anticipated String Cheese Incident sets of the year happens every Hulaween. On Saturday, SCI played three sets, with the second set themed “Stringier Things” (a play on the recent Netflix hit Stranger Things) and was comprised of all ’80s covers. The String Cheese Incident was joined on stage by the Antibalas horns as well as vocalists Rhonda Thomas and Tony White.

Photo © Dave Vann 2016

When it comes to Cheese and their spectacle sets, it’s always a party and a unique experience you do not want to miss. From the Rubik’s Cube inflatables to the looming Stay Puft Marshmallow Man flying overhead, the ‘80s rocker acrobats swinging high above the crowd to the sensual grinder/spark dancers on stage, the confetti and heart shaped balloons during “Love Shack” to the fireworks display during “Burning Down The House,” this year’s special Hulaween set was no exception.

Stringier Things ‘80s Set:

Would I Lie To You?, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, Upside Down, She Blinded Me With Science, Let’s Groove Tonight, White Wedding, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Love Shack, MEDLEY: Another One Bites The Dust > White Lines > The Safety Dance > Come On Eileen > Relax > Thriller > Never Gonna Give You Up > Don’t You Want Me, Burning Down The House

Photo © Dave Vann 2016

Photo © Dave Vann 2016

Spirit Lake

Remember when the entrance to Spirit Lake looked like this?….We do.

Each year, mastermind Andy Carroll curates Spirit Lake working alongside artists and multi-media designers from around the globe to create a living, breathing space that is full of surprises and jaw-dropping interactive art. For 2016, Spirit Lake was bigger and better than ever before.

Around every corner of Spirit Lake there was something new to look at and installations that were enticing to play with. During the day, a plethora of workshops and yoga classes were available, but at night, Spirit Lake transformed into a mesmerizing playground.

When the sun went down, the trees, art, and lake were all illuminated by lighting designer John Hollingshead’s mind-blowing-and-bending projections. The light show that danced across the lake hypnotize audiences into the early morning hours with technology comparable to that found at, shall we say, Disney World.

Photo © Dave Vann 2016

Photo © Dave Vann 2016


“The thing that is unbelievably special about the Hulaween fan base, compared to other festivals, is that it is one of the most understanding, welcoming, and forgiving fan bases that we have ever been blessed with working with,” stated Michael Berg in an earlier interview with us. And we have to agree.

We have seen strong communities at other festivals, especially Electric Forest, but there is just something so incredibly unique and special about the Hula Fam/Hula Crew. This community is family. Attendee camaraderie is strongly rooted within and projected by the largely present String Cheese Incident fanbase at Hulaween. But beyond the droves of Cheese fans, it seems that all who enter The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park are touched by the magic and love of this festival.

“It is just unprecedented the amount of positivity and acceptance that is generated by this fan base. It is unheard of, compared to anything I have ever been a part of as an event producer promoter,” Berg concluded.

The Venue

Adorned with Spanish moss-draped oak trees and nestled on the shady banks of the black Suwannee River, The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) is naturally the ideal setting for a Halloween weekend extravaganza. For the past four years, the 800-acre venue transforms into a festive playground.

Spirit of Suwannee feels like home. Fortunately for the Hula Fam, Hulaween won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Confirmed by Berg in our pre-Hula chat, he reassured us that after the past successful years, Hulaween has found a permanent stable home at SOSMP and is here to stay (hopefully) for a really long time.


It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: VM Staff Picks: Favorite Festivals, Tours, Concerts of 2016 – Vinyl Mag

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply