Previously I delved into the underground world of renegade camps at the Hulaween Music Festival. These encampments deep in the camping areas host off-the-bill, late-night secret sets that bring in rising talent who perform to festival goers – often until the break of dawn.
It would be shortsighted to mention Hulaween and secret sets without exploring Incendia, aka the “Fire Domes.”
Incendia is a structure strategically placed amid the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) Hulaween’s Spirit Lake art and music area. Surrounded by dozens of art installations, it’s a structure uniquely built, with jet-black domes measuring 10 feet by 20 feet with sharp metal silver plates and fire coming from all angles. It is a commanding force that changes year to year. Although the location is no secret, the schedule and bill are unknown to the public.
At this year’s Hulaween, Incendia hosted Andy Bruh (Bass DJ from Atlanta), Robbie Dude (Athens Electro Funk DJ), My Chemical Bromance (Athens DJ plays emo style sets of early 2000s), Maribou State (DJ set), Pure Colors, Charlie Hustle (Jax, FL Curator of House Music Techno to Indie), Manic Focus, Salvatore Sva (of Incendia plays Bass House), and Levitation Jones. Those who know; know this was a bad-ass lineup of DJs and indie talent from across the Southeast – even England – playing everything from rock and electronic, to punk, emo, mosh / heavy metal / scream / alternate), and bass.
Shortly after MusicFest News published my piece, “The Underground Roots of Suwannee Hulaween,” in which I explore “renegade camps” as they are known, a social media meme began skipping across the ether. It says, “When you first start out going to music festivals, you care about the headlines. Once you’re a veteran, you’re waiting for the underground guy playing a campsite set at 5am.”
For this music junkie, there may be no truer words ever spoken.
To get the background on this intriguing stage, I spoke with Sal of Incendia. The space has a deep, storied, and respected history at Hulaween dating back five years. The Athens and Atlanta crew see Hula and Live Oak as a hometown event. It began as a late addition to the Hula bill perched at the Spirit Lake entrance alongside the Amp Stage.
“That first year we had a decent sized crowd come check out our art installation about every night,” Sal said. “It was very cold that year and we kept people warm late-night. After that the organizers had a feeling we would be better suited for the Spirit Lake area. From then on we have been a part of Spirit Lake, providing the festival goers an option for late night fun and a place to stay warm on those cold Hula nights. It’s a Halloweeny-type festival and we fit in well at Hula.”
Once the sun goes down, the fire ignites, the DJ begins, and the crowds begin to build. Incendia’s distinctiveness fuels intense anticipation unique to this installation. Visually dominating, two large domes on each side are joined by benches ringing the structure. Fire flows like liquid on the ceiling. This year, the stage was centered, with fire running across the front and shooting from the unique metal background.
Everyone remembers their first – or most intense – Incendia experience. Andy Bruh shared his. It centered around a 25-foot-tall DJ booth at the top of some scaffolding.
“I can’t even begin to explain how scary climbing up and down that thing was, all while my DJ gear is dangling from a pulley next to me,” he recalled.
Scary as it was, I can only imagine that the DJs who grace this stage feel an extra push to be at the top of their game and deliver a performance as memorable as the Incendia stage itself.
As a music lover, I appreciate watching artists grow and evolve from one stage of their career to the next. However, as someone who connects with music, I have immense respect for the time, passion and hustle that are driving forces for success.
And I love to hear from the artists as to what that progression feels like. Incendia is part of that growth process. It’s a unique space, in that the DJ is joining an art installation and together they create something completely original to that space and time.
“The stage itself is ablaze with propane gas effects,” Sal shared. “And when the timing is right and the effects shoot off in sync to a drop, it’s pure magic to see the crowd light up yellow. You notice the smiles and people boogeyin’ down to the music you are playing.”
Sal shared his own experience performing during this year’s Hulaween. “I can say personally it’s an awesome feeling to play a pop up set on our stage,” he said.
Then, there’s the buzz that fuels the underground feel.
Thursday night a rumor started that performer Tycho was going to play a secret set somewhere, Sal recalled. Naturally people thought it would be at Incendia, because he played a secret set for Sal’s crew a few years back at the Okeechobee Music Festival down in Okeechobee, Florida.
Yet, in reality, Sal and his team never spoke to Tycho about Hulaween.
So when Sal was on stage playing Thursday night and people started to come around expecting Tycho, they “instead got house music and some fun booty bass tunes that I was playing,” he recalled excitedly.
“A lot of people came up and asked what my name was and how to find more of my mixes,” he said. “That was a really cool feeling to meet people who had never heard of your music and didn’t expect to see house music in late night Spirit Lake because it wasn’t on the line up.”
Incendia can serve as a launch pad for the DJs working from the renegade camps towards the Spirit Lake main stage. Yet it also attracts larger acts that just want to be a part of that storied scene. The 10-by-20 foot dome’s allure does not discriminate. Despite Charlie Hustle playing the main Spirit Lake stage on Thursday, he graced the Incendia stage Friday night with a standout, three-hour performance that did not disappoint. The field was packed, the energy contagious and the music was right on point for how the crowd was feeling.
Although Andy Bruh has attended every Hulaween, this year was the first that he was booked by the festival. Hula and Incendia have helped fuel his career.
“I would say the sets I’ve played at Hula, whether I was officially on the line up or not, have stood out as being more magical than the 150-plus shows I’ve played over the last six years,” he enthused. “I owe a lot of that to the Incendia crew for welcoming me into their realm to help facilitate a special experience for festival goers.”
Being a Hullaween birthday boy makes the festival peak for Andy. In speaking with him, it’s clear that he’s been “bit by the Suwannee Bug.” as loyal SOSMP attendees call those that embrace all things Suwannee. Andy was no different.
Robbie Dude shares Andy’s and Sal’s spirited fervor for Incendia and all things Hulaween. He’s been honing his music skills over the last six years while living in Athens. He knows Sal and the Incendia crew. So it was at Hulaween 2017, Incendia had an opening one night “and I was blessed with the opportunity to get on stage, even though I was wearing a Minion onesie,” he recalled.
Since then, Robbie’s been a regular.
“The last two years we’ve been able to plan out a time for a return to Incendia,” he said. “It’s kind of become a fun tradition at my favorite festival. Hulaween is the one time of year where I get to see all my friends from all over the country that I never see otherwise. That’s probably my favorite part of the weekend. String Cheese and all the other music is great. The art is always inspiring. But the best part is the time with loved ones and the sense of community that’s become synonymous with Hulaween.”
The configuration of Incendia is constantly changing, as is its location. You’ll find Incendia next at Atlanta’s New Year’s Eve event “Fire in The Sky.” It also travels to Okeechobee Festival in March, then Burning Man, and events in Miami and Mississippi, to name a few. You can follow Incendia on Facebook to stay up on their latest events.