After the terrential downpour that forced Suwannee Hulaween to cancel Big Gigantic and Conspirator, we were given one of the nicest days of the year. Clear skies, smooth breeze and that perfect Florida fall temperature made up Saturday at the Suwannee. And of course it didn’t hurt that we were given a stellar lineup including the String Cheese Incident, STS9, Emancipator and more.
Brock Butler’s set featured covers of Sublime, Tom Petty and DMX. It was just him up there, doing the Zach Deputy-type thing where he looped bass, drums, guitar and vocals. It was slow-moving and relaxing, perfect background music for throwin’ some frisbee and soaking up some sun.
Leftover Salmon’s cajun-grass got everyone real hyped for when, as Vince Herman said, “the sun goes down and things get weird.” The group played favorites like “High Country” and “Mama Boulet.” My favorite parts of the set were Andy Thorn’s performance on “Aquatic HitchHiker” and Billy Nershi joining the group for the final 3 tracks.
Eliot Lipp brought out a guitarist and drummer for his Suwannee Hulaween set. The electronic hip-hop vibe gave everyone some good energy as they prepped for the two cheese sets. There was some weird stuff going down there on the amphitheater stage that involved blowup dolls.
String Cheese Incident (set 1)
Damn that Vince Herman! He tricked us into thinking he was Nershi at the beginning of SCI’s first set on Saturday. The six piece band kicked things off with “Sometimes a River” and then “Mouna Bowa.” Herman can back out for a bluegrass version of the Beatles “One After 909” and then led the vocals on the “Zombie Jamboree.” To round things off, we got “Shine” and then “Colliding” which lead in to drums featuring Jeffrey Lerner and Luke from Toubab Krewe. It was an awesome set.
Set 1: Sometimes A River, Mouna Bowa, Cedar Laurels, One After 909, Zombie Jamboree, Windy Mountain > Shine > Colliding > Drums
String Cheese Incident (set 2)
I didn’t know if SCI would be able to top that, but I think they just may have! “Best Feeling” > “Howard” to kick off a set? Yes. Covering Jackson 5’s “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground” with Jennifer Hartswick? Yes! “Rivertrance” into the Talking Head’s “This Must Be The Place? YES!!! It’s incredible that the, count ’em, seventh set these guys put on might be the best one, but it’s just a great testament of how good these dudes really are.
Set 2: Best Feeling > Howard, Pack It Up > Shake Your Body Down To The Ground2, Rivertrance > This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody), Outside and Inside
I hate this band’s name, and once I have my mind set on something like that, it’s really hard to change my opinion. The name still sucks, but these guys have a really dope sound. The electro-rock thing (think Zoogma) has been done before, but a dance party is a dance party and this wasn’t a half-bad segment from Cheese to Tribe.
STS9 in 2013. They still play great shows, but they also play some comprised of the same songs you’ve been hearing for the past two years. A recent look at their Life Is Beautiful setlist left me really doubtful that they would pull out some great jams. I’m really happy to say I was wrong. Dead wrong.
This might actually have been my favorite STS9 set I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for “Really Wut?” and when they kicked it off with that, my doubts began to flee my head. Five songs in to the set, I couldn’t have been happier to say that I was really messing up when I doubted Murph & the gang. The set was built nicely, starting off slow, ambient and chill before building up in to their more electro-rock sound.
Set: Really What?, Blu Mood > Move My Peeps, When The Dust Settles, Wika Chikana, EHM, Golden Gate > Circus, Rent, Vapors, Hubble, 20-12, Inspire Strikes Back, Baraka
To cap off a great night, we hit Emancipator’s set up. While I wish we could have got the newly-announced Ensemble, I was happy to hear new and old favorites on a noticeably loud system. The nature of Emancipator’s music is soft and introspective, but nothing kills that quicker than some nonsensical hippy blather courtesy of the hombres next to you. I couldn’t hear my friends when they were talking in my ear and, frankly, that’s the way I like it.
Perhaps the best part of the set was Paul Levine’s announcement that Suwannee Hulaween will return in 2014. That was definitely a positive note to leave the concert grounds on.
After all of this, I was unable to hit the silent disco. I went to go take a “stretch nap” in my tent and woke up about 5 hours later as the sun began to rise.
Suwannee Hulaween has left an absolutely lasting impression among its attendees. I haven’t heard a single negative word about the entire festival…a few murmurs of rain ruining this or that, but they are quickly trumped by an ecstatic story about the Spirit Lake or a Cheese set. The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park did a phenomenal job at housing 7500 patrons for what was undoubtably the greatest Halloween party I have ever been to. We can not wait for 358 days to go by so we can go back for Suwannee Hulaween 2014!