live photo from suwanee hulaween taken by aaron bradley

Review: We Found Magic Once Again at Suwannee Hulaween

After 18 months in a painful pandemic limbo, Hulaween reopened its spooky gates at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, Oct. 28-31, in Live Oak, Florida – re-sparking the festival flames of ravers, jam-banders, bassheads and music lovers everywhere. 

Entering Hulaween’s campgrounds feels effortless compared to other camping festivals where groups are forced to arrive all together. At this Halloween-themed fest, campers check in and drive through the hundreds of acres to catch up with friends or meet new neighbors. In the Spirit of Suwannee, the choice is yours.  

The festival area is jam-packed with art, munchies, vendors and adventures along the paths to the stages, but Hula did make some minor renovations for 2021. The main bar area and giant, iconic “HULA” letters were moved to the side of the main stages, opening more space for dancing and star gazing. But don’t fret – festival goers can still easily access drinks, relax by the cheesy letters and take those signature, Gram-worthy pics while lounging to enjoy String Cheese Incident’s many sets, or unforgettable performances from Skrillex, Khruangbin, and more.

Removed entirely was veteran stage, The Patch, but it was generously replaced with The Hallows, where performances from Zed’s Dead, Bonobo, Wreckno, Leon Bridges, Jungle and more lit up the night. Not only was The Hallows a nightly must, it was a swift and simple walk across from Hula’s main stage, The Meadow. 

But regardless of stage or performer—whether it was the mind-blowing bass and lights of Skrillex, VEIL or Mersiv, the hip-hop hype of Dreamville’s Earthgang, the ass-shaking house music of Chris Lake or Claude VonStroke, or the one and only String Cheese Incident covering Tiny Dancer at the end of the night—not one performance lacked in energy or magic. Not one stage lacked luster. It was a continuous dance party and a freedom of long-repressed pandemic expression through the entire festival weekend. 

And Spirit Lake. Oh, how we missed Spirit Lake. It’s not only a fantasyland for more music, art, games and gambling (shout out to Frick Frack Black Jack), it’s a portal to another world. It’s a glimpse of what it would be like if worries, prejudices and inhibitions were left at the door. Take a shot at the funkiest skee ball game ever made, pass tequila around in the witch’s “boiling” cauldron, or lay back in a teepee and admire the light show over the foggy, euphoric lake. Or all three. Spirit Lake stays up late and will be waiting. It may even surprise you with a secret set at the fiery Incendia stage, featuring a b2b from Skrillex, Bonobo AND Chris Lake. 

To be honest, maybe the festival scene needed a break. Maybe a pause was needed in order to regain appreciation for it all. After a year of indoor isolation, the ability to dance freely under the stars and flashing lights, packed between both strangers and loved ones, never felt more invigorating. After a year of indoor isolation, Hulaween bounced back and succeeded with flying colors, leaving fans not only in awe, but sincerely grateful.