Summer is now in the rearview and 2017 is slowly slipping into autumn, so the collective attention of live music fans has shifted toward Halloween plans. This year, there’s no “All Hallows” celebration more eagerly anticipated than Suwannee Hulaween. Hulaween’s organizers have once again assembled one of the year’s most stylistically diverse and eclectically hip festival lineups for their fifth go-around at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL next month.
Of course, the String Cheese Incident-hosted affair will feature a generous sampling of jam scene favorites, many of whom we love and cover quite frequently. Powerhouse funk, rock, and jam bands like The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee, Mike Gordon, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Ween, Lettuce, Lotus, The New Mastersounds, Dumpstaphunk, Aqueous, Tauk, Spafford, Perpetual Groove, and Jaden Carlsen are scheduled to perform, while electronic favorites like Bassnectar, Eoto & Friends, GRiZ, Claude Vonstroke, Tokimonsta, Future Rock, Keys N’ Krates, Michal Menert, and beyond will keep the masses moving late into the night.
But while this lineup is stacked with some of our favorite bands, it’s the diversity of styles and the unusual and creative bookings that set the fan-favorite festival’s 2017 lineup apart. To help give you the inside track on crushing your Hulaween adventure, we’ve highlighted 10 sets that you should go out of your way to see, even if you hadn’t planned on seeing them until right now. Check out the list, check out these sets, and you can go ahead and thank us later….
Keyboardist/organist Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo originally met as middle school classmates, and have been playing music together for the better part of two decades. Most recently, they’ve taken the live music circuit by storm as 2/5 of “more-than-just-a” cover band Joe Russo’s Almost Dead–a project conceived as a one-off tribute that has blossomed into one of the most electrifying bands on the touring circuit (Note: they’re playing the festival too–more on that later).
However, the two first made a name for themselves as the Benevento/Russo Duo. As we’ve seen with JRAD over the past couple years, The Duo started as something small (a weekly residency in a small sub-room at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory) and grew into something massive and exciting and uncharted. The Benevento/Russo released a string of critically acclaimed albums, toured the nation as a duo, and even added various talented musicians to the equation for extended stretches–including, for a time, both Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio of Phish, together known as G.R.A.B. The Duo launched the careers of both Joe and Marco into the stratosphere, and their music still defies expectations of just how much sound can come from just these two guys. The two still dabble in The Duo’s material during JRAD shows on occasion, but aside from a surprise set at a minuscule Brooklyn brewhouse late last year, a highly-touted slot on January’s Jam Cruise, and a single club date at Brooklyn Bowl in February, The Duo hasn’t played as “The Duo” in more than 8 years. Hulaween’s rare Benevento/Russo Duo set should be a no-brainer pick everyone’s must-see list this year.
Watch The Benevento/Russo Duo’s full February 25, 2017 “Freak’s Ball” performance at Brooklyn Bowl below (courtesy of YouTube user wakeup2findout):
Andy Frasco & The U.N.
Andy Frasco and his ragtag band of musicians from all around the world (hence “the U.N.”) may not have the biggest set of the weekend, but you can bet your ass they’re going to party the hardest. A music industry stalwart since his early teen years as an artist manager and business-side specialist, Frasco is a self-proclaimed “fake-it-til-you-make-it” success story, touring endlessly for years and amassing a worldwide fan base along the way. Frasco and company’s mix of unhinged rock and roll energy, hilariously catchy songs like “Mature As Fuck” and “Happy Bastards,” and infamous stage antics–like chugging a beer while crowd-surfing–make Andy Frasco & The U.N. a perennial dark-horse highlight on any festival lineup. “Basically, we’re trying to freak people out,” explains Frasco, “I want people to be spiritually uplifted and happy–and also make them think a little bit.”
Watch the official music video for Andy Frasco and the U.N.’s “Mature As Fuck,” featuring wild footage from their recent tour:
Tank & The Bangas
Prior to this past year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest, not many people outside the Crescent City knew about Tank & The Bangas. But after the R&B/soul/spoken word poetry crew were selected as the contest winners out of thousands of entries, the secret spread like wildfire.
Tarriona “Tank” Ball is captivating in her role as singer, preacher, and emotional shaman, and their live performances have been known to bring audiences to tears of both joy and heartbreak. As contest judge Trey Anastasio raved, Tank is “a psychedelic joy rap explosion. Like a female Sly Stone teleporting into 2017 and landing in New Orleans.” Now that Tank & The Bangas have gotten some more large-scale shows under their belt, we can’t wait to hear what they bring the the Spirit of Suwannee.
Watch Tank & The Banga’s captivating Tiny Desk Concert below, via NPR:
Run The Jewels
Since El-P and Killer Mike linked up as Run The Jewels for their fantastic self-titled 2013 debut, they’ve been a driving force in the ever-growing indie hip-hop scene. The duo has since released two more equally stellar albums–2014’s Run The Jewels 2 and 2017’s Run The Jewels 3–and garnered well-earned clout in the hip hop community and beyond. They’ve played several mainstream festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, and even opened for Jack White at Madison Square Garden, but they’ve remained a rarity at jam and electronic-oriented festivals. A grade-A pick to beef up the lineup’s hip hop appeal, Run The Jewels’ set is surely not to be missed.
Watch the official video for “Legend Has It” of Run The Jewels 3:
The Nth Power: “Wake Up & Live” Bob Marley Tribute
For their appearance at Suwannee Hulaween, Brooklyn soul/funk mavens The Nth Power have some very special “jamming” planned. After debuting the concept at an after-hours blowout in New Orleans during Jazz Fest 2017, the band once again breaking out their Bob Marley tribute, “Wake Up & Live.” Don’t miss the positive Rastaman vibrations when The Nth Power hits The Spirit of Suwannee.
Watch The Nth Power perform Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans on 7/29/17 below:
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Speaking of Marleys, Bob’s youngest son and reputable hip hop/reggae superstar in his own right Damian Marley will also appear at Hulaween. Jr. Gong just released Stony Hill, his first new solo album since his 2005 breakout, Welcome To Jamrock and his first non-anthology release since Distant Relatives, his collaborative 2010 album with hip hop legend Nas. The new project exudes a poignant mix of positive energy and brutal realism, with tracks that seem to hold a mirror up to both the beauty and the flaws of humanity while always seeking hope and truth. A powerful performer with a powerful pedigree and a quality batch of new material, Marley is sure to wow the Suwannee faithful with his set at Hulaween.
Watch the official music video for “medicinal” ganja advocacy anthem “Medication” from Marley’s new album featuring big brother Stephen Marley below:
FKJ–short for French Kiwi Juice–is a multi-talented one-man band whose output is consistently riveting. The Tours, France native utilizes the most potent elements of a vast spectrum of styles to craft his “expanding grooves.” He released his first official album, French Kiwi Juice, earlier this year.
FKJ is a wonder to watch. He creates all the moving parts–the soulful vocals, the smooth guitar licks, the synths, the sax, the jazz-blues bass lines–and sets them loose as hip-hop beat loops, juggling the mounting melodies with effortless flow. And with so many outstanding musicians on hand at Hula across innumerable genres, a surprise guest or two during his set wouldn’t be all that surprising. FKJ is ready and waiting to entrance an unsuspecting Hulaween. Make sure to be there when he does.
Watch FKJ collaborate with Masego live at Red Bull Studios Paris as well as the official music video for “Skyline” below, via FKJ’s YouTube:
Here Come The Mummies
It’s hard to say all that much about Here Come The Mummies–that’s sort of the whole point. The band is intentionally “shrouded” in mystery, both metaphorically and literally. Made up of various talented performers based out of Nashville, TN, the members of the band perform under pseudonyms and wrap themselves head-to-toe in mummy garb to obscure their true identities. Some say several of the band members are GRAMMY-winning musicians, and the mummy gag is a way for them to perform outside the constraints of contracts with various record labels. Other say it’s just a schtick, a way to stand out from the crowd. But there’s one thing that anyone who’s seen them play can agree on: their self-described “Terrifying Funk from Beyond the Grave” makes for one hell of a show. Don’t miss your chance to get down with the undead party funk masters when they hit the stage at Hulaween.
Watch the official music video for Here Come The Mummies’ “Chaperone” below:
The String Cheese Incident’s Halloween Spectacle
You’re likely well aware that host band The String Cheese Incident will perform three sets over the course of the weekend. However, if this year’s Hulaween is your first time at one of Cheese’s festivals, this is vital information, so listen up: SCI’s Saturday performance is always especially spectacular, with over-the-top production, elaborate sensory flourishes, and other general musical badass-ery.
String Cheese traditionally prepares a special theme for their infamous Halloween Incidents.Last year’s “Stringier Things” bash–a play on the wildly popular 80’s nostalgia-fueled Stranger Things. The year before, the band tackled the 70’s with help from the GZA for a “Ghoul Train” celebration. The year before that, in 2014, the band tackled a set of covers themed “The Afterlife,” including The Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy For The Devil,” the Ghost Busters theme, Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway to Heaven,” Paul McCartney‘s “Live and Let Die,” Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller,” and more. This year’s theme is “Night of the Loving Dead,” and it’s sure to be fantastic
Check out crowd-shot video from last year’s “Stringier Things” Incident at Hulaween via YouTube user Cameron Montgomery:
The Whole Damn Pre-Party
OK, we know, this isn’t just one set. But the entire Suwannee Hulaween Pre-Party on Thursday, October 26th surely deserves mention as a truly can’t-miss portion of the festival’s lineup. While it may be billed as a “pre-party” separate from the fest proper, the magnitude of performances scheduled just for Hula’s Thursday puts most full festival lineups to shame: 2 sets of Umphrey’s McGee, 2 sets of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and an otherwise “jam”-packed roster of favorites like Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Spafford, The Nth Power, Southern Avenue, Zach Deputy, Eoto & Friends, and more will all take the stage that night–and even when all of that is said and done, the festival won’t have even actually officially started yet. Hulaween is not a party you want to show up to fashionably late. Get in on Thursday, and spare yourself the inevitable regret of hearing your friends talk about how dope the pre-party was all weekend. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
Weekend passes for Suwannee Hulaween 2017 are SOLD OUT. For more information about the event, head to the Hulaween website.
[Cover photo via Joshua Timmermans]