Hulaween 2019- Live Oak, FL

hulaween 2019

Humid ball pit. Probably a good band name/leading cause for a rash with a long name (treated by an oily balm with a longer name).  It also seems like an apt description of the hidden room we found in the woods. Last year word of a hidden ball pit didn’t reach me till the plane on my way home. This year the clues were more obvious. Behind a fireplace in a hut by the lake was a huge metal door with a series of numbered buttons on the handle. Next to the door was a stack of symbols followed by a #.

Each of the four huts in this area of the woods had both a symbol and a hidden number. Some were easier to find than others. Someone already inside the room opened the door for us before we could find all the clues. Later I was told the code by someone who searched Reddit. Aside from it being a humid ball pit with sequin walls and a hidden exit, it’s just one example of the adventure, magic, and joy that is Hulaween. Many of the installations were familiar and the new ones were welcome additions. The play and spectacle of the entire event are uncanny and delightful. Plus, this year it was super humid.

I was actually cold the last two years but 2019 proved toasty. This means I packed terribly. Hope was on the horizon. Within the first hours, I managed to procure a unicorn headband and a furry tail. By the next night, I’d have a leather mask and black and white polyester pants. Magic materializes here.

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This year the venture was time-consuming. Fly to Jacksonville, rent car, drive 70 minutes, 4 days of music, drive back, fly home, etc. I got to JAX a day just in case there were any flight delays. Afterward, I had a day and a half to hang in town to save a ton on flights. This gave me time to see both Joker and Downton Abbey in the theater, take myself out for breakfast and lunch, visit a game store, and a hookah bar. Returning to Jacksonville after days in the smiling faces of artists, musicians, friends, wooks and whatever Bassnectar fans are called, was a bit of a shock. One night for dinner I ate at a seafood restaurant at a local hotel. Just as I was leaving, a party of 100+ folk in their 50s-70s came in by bus. Lots of blue blazers over khaki pants. Lots of large hair and QVC jewelry. Every one was friendly while not always conscious of just how much they were blocking the exit.

Anyhoo… The lineup was fantastic, the performances were terrific, the food was great, and I got to share the experience with so many friends. Some of whom had not been to Hulaween before! Musical highlights included Billy Strings, Lettuce, Tom Morello, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, The Motet, Beebs and her Money Makers, plus whoever was playing while I was smiling.

It wasn’t till the last night that I really got a chance to dance. JRAD was sounding more enticing by the hour as there wasn’t much Dead all weekend (save for a beautiful rendition of Birdsong by Spaga). Last two sets of the weekend and I wanted to hear some before I left. I also wanted to leave early so I had time to say goodbye to a friend. Just as I was about to leave, she walks up. Two minutes later they launch into Shakedown Street and I got my dance in. Isn’t it great when everything works out perfectly?

Hulaween is fantastic and one of those fests that’s a safe ticket to buy blind. The lineup is amazing and the fans are fun (although seemingly younger each year).


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