Mumford & Sons, Beck, Young the Giant & Switchfoot Highlight An Epic Final Day At The Ohana Fest Love, light and memorable performances close out Ohana Fest 2018.
DANA POINT, CA — Sunday’s third and final day of Ohana Fest drew in the largest crowd of the weekend. With more than 25,000 fans over the course of the weekend, headliners Mumford & Sons, Beck, Orange County locals Young the Giant, San Diego natives Switchfoot and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness closed off Sunday’s Ohana Fest, making it a true celebration.
The festivities began with a slow calm as vendors, artists and festival-goers arrived and Doheny State Beach’s waves crashed calmly along the wayside, but the music got off to a rockin’ start by a group of preteens on the Tiki Stage with The Alive.
The trio of Bastian Evans (age 13, guitar and vocals), and brother Kai (age 13, drums) and Manoa Neukermans (age 10, bass), may be young, but they know how to get a party started right. And don’t let their youth fool you! Each member has had experience playing in other bands/group prior to coming together as The Alive, with the brothers Neukerman even playing big stages at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and the main stage at BottleRock Napa.
It’s always inspiring to see kids show no fear on stage, and The Alive are some of the most fearless 10 and 13 year olds I’ve ever seen. As The Who proclaim, “The Kids Are Alright”.
Following the youthful rock of The Alive came the sultry soft lullabies and ethereal pop melodies from the equally youthful newcomer Ambar Lucid. This bilingual Spanish and English artist’s performance and voice was absolutely mesmerizing.
As Lucid took to the guitar and ukulele, accompanied only by an additional guitar player, her acoustic set was undoubtedly soothing, and demonstrated her knack for drawing forth her emotions through her effortless playing. Her single, “A Letter to My Younger Self” is an exciting introduction for the 17-year-old bilingual Mexican and Dominican singer, and is surprisingly mature for such a young woman.
As her gentle voice filled the sea-breeze air, Ambar’s music provided the most appropriate soundtrack for an easy going mid-afternoon siesta — and we can’t wait to hear more from her.
The first act we were able to catch on the main stage was Hiss Golden Messenger and M.C. Taylor and company did not disappoint.
The last time we were able to catch M.C. Taylor perform live was during an intimate set at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion earlier this year accompanied only by Phil Cook. This time around, he had his whole band in tow- with Phil Cook- and his earnest emotions couldn’t have sounded any better. His music speaks to the everyman, focusing on raw emotions and mood inherent in the lyrics he sings. His songs are like meditations on all states of the human condition, even when his band performed upbeat and optimistic. I couldn’t recognize some of the songs that he performed at The Ohana Fest, but I have a feeling he performed tracks off his latest album, Virgo Fool, that was release November 2, 2018.
His brand of Americana, with its country flourishes, is about as “America” as it gets, and it was pleasure to hear him passionately sing his stories at Ohana.
The Palms are an L.A. based band founded by Johnny Zambetti and Ben Rothbard, who also happen to be member of another band: Terraplane Sun. Looking to spread their musical wings and incorporate an amalgam of musical styles into new music, they formed The Palms.
Since 2017, they’ve had a relatively quick rise. Their single “Levitate” is an infectiously mellow track. Hell … I even put it on one of my playlists back in the day, contributing to the 11mm+ listens on Spotify.
Their performance at Ohana Fest was a solid one. They had a laid back, psychedelic vibe that definitely had the crowd grooving right along with them. They’ve dropped a handful of singles throughout 2018, and I’m keen on hearing how their music evolves fort he sophomore effort.
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness took to the main stage and kept their set fun and energetic, as McMahon and his band were adorned in yellow flower crowns and shades. McMahon started off at the grand piano, but his energy couldn’t be contained as he would eventually do a massive leap off of it, causing the audience to hold their collective breaths for a safe landing.
Formerly the lyricist and band member of Something Corporate and pop-punk act Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon had me reminiscing of my pop-punk days as he sang his biggest electronic-pop hit “Cecilia And The Satellite” and the fun and upbeat piano meets electronic hit “Synesthesia.”
He took his relentless energy brought directly to the crowd as he crowd-surfed on a huge, rubber duck floaty and concluded his performance with even more flare by busting out a huge rainbow-colored parachute — reminiscent of those seen in grade school gym classes — fans lucky enough to get under his ‘chute were able to party with McMahon in that moment on the festival grounds.
If Andrew McMahon lit the fire to get the party started, The Wild Feathers stoked that flame to get the party smoldering. This Nashville based band is rock and roll through and through, and their performance was an eye-opener for me.
I was instantly drawn to the way the band set up shop on stage. The four core members (Ben Dumas, Joel King, Ricky Young and Taylor Burns) each lined up, evenly spaced, at the front of the stage. With three members (Ricky, Joel and Taylor) handling lead singing duties and harmonizing seamlessly, they sang songs about drunk nights and loves lost as a single unit. At no point did any one member overstep or overshadow another, and with so many moving parts on stage, that says something about their personal relationships.
Together, they performed as a band of brothers, and that camaraderie really evinced the whole mantra of “family” that The Ohana Fest was all about.
Just steps away from the beach and under a hazy Orange County sky, Jonathan Foreman of Switchfoot said, “I look out at all of your eyes right now and I’m reminded of what an incredible thing it is to be human and to be alive right now. What a gift, right?”
As Foreman played through the beginning riffs of their 2004 hit single “Dare You To Move,” he continued, “If Ohana means family, we’re united right now by a bigger thing than just blood. We got spirit. Do you feel that? Are you feeling that Ohana? This one’s a dare.”
For San Diego natives Switchfoot, their arrival to Ohana Fest was a welcome one. The San Diego band had been on hiatus for quite some time, but their moving set — blending their classic 2000s hits (such as “Meant To Live”) and newer songs — truly enlightened (and brought myself to a moving tear).
The band, who is on to release a new album, seemed to be in high hopes with a genuine love for being present with the Ohana crowd. The surfer-friendly band joked with the crowd, as Jonathan even shouted out his brother Tom Foreman on the bass, saying that he’s the better surfer. Overall, the band’s music, much about uplift, hope and perseverance through struggles, inspired the crowd, as they sang newer songs “I Won’t Let You Go,” “Holy Water” and “Hope Is The Anthem.”
Allan Rayman carries himself with a serious sense of swag. Since his emergence in 2015 with his self-released LP Hotel Allan, the singer/songwriter developed a sense of mystery about him and his music, performing in dimly lit lighting schemes and speaking nary word to the crowd in between songs. This would be the third time I’ve seen him perform live, however it was actually the first time I’ve ever actually seen him perform.
2018 has really been a banner year for Allan as his 2017 album, Roadhouse 01, an equally mysterious collection of music with flares of R&B, soul and folk, earned him a Juno Award nomination for “Breakthrough Artist Of The Year”. He followed up the critical acclaim with a new single, “Rose”.
At The Ohana Fest, under the bright sun’s rays, Allan performed a solid with that really showcased his sensually raspy voice. A particularly memorable moment of the performance was when he sang the standout Roadhouse 01 track “13”. When he sang, “There you go again, acting like it’s all about you,” he did so with such a particular cool and tasteful swagger, it was just irresistible.
Orange County heroes Young the Giant from Irvine were a pleasant surprise. The indie rock band, known for their breakout hit “Cough Syrup,” truly got the crowd moving with an explosive and high-energy set. Fans towards the front were incredibly awed by the band, singing back every lyric and moving to every soul-crushing beat.
Frontman Sameer Gadhia, dressed in a floral blouse, loose pants and patterned knee-high socks complete with a belt-buckle, really had the moves to make anyone — including myself — swoon. He was a complete joy to watch. Whether he was jamming on a drum-pad, shaking a tambourine, or banging on a cowbell as the rest of the band played an exciting career-spanning set, he exhibited the kind of charisma that really instills joy to even someone unfamiliar with their sonics.
The band, who released their new album Mirror Master on Oct. 12 of this year, premiered their new material, introducing the standout single “Superposition,” which, albeit a new sonic direction for the band, still excited the crowd. Their indie-rock sound with a penchant for acoustics and more electronic beats, showcases Sameer singing in a more breathy undertone with songs that seemed to quietly mesmerize.
Their performance proved to me why the band is such a success — their live energy is infectious, their songs are fun, powerful and ooze with pure indie rock goodness. They played songs such as “Amerika,” “Something To Believe In,” their most recent hit single, “Simplify”, among others, and got the crowd most moving to their big hit “My Body,” which closed their set off.
I first saw Fantastic Negrito (Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz) perform back 2015, and I remember it vividly. It was an early afternoon performance at The Echoplex for a local music festival. I was blown away by the visceral nature of Xavier’s music and performance. The passion in his blues was palpable and I couldn’t get enough of it. When his 30 minute set ended, I longed for more. It’s a shame that I had to wait close to 3 years to see him perform again.
Since that performance, Fantastic Negrito released his Grammy Award winning album “‘The Last Days of Oakland” and toured the world. 2018 saw Fantastic Negrito release his follow up album, “Please Don’t Be Dead”, which finds Xavier really exploring the sonic boundaries of blues, especially with funk. While it’s a departure from the relatively strait-forward blues that earned him his Grammy, it’s a true testament to his fearless musical soul.
His performance at The Ohana Fest brought “Please Don’t Be Dead” to life, and had not only the blues, but also the funk, coursing through my veins. His performance was enhanced by the air of mischievousness that emanated. He brought his music to life with every sly smile and smooth growl that he displayed. Some musicians can play their music live to perfection; only a select few can really bring that music to life …. literally … through a performance like Fantastic Negrito can.
Always providing an incredible performance, the musical powerhouse that is Beck Hanson mixed his set with career hits, such as 1996’s “Where It’s At,” the electronic trip-hop song “Wow” and the 1994 hit “Loser.” It was, for all intents and purposes, set performance of his greatest hits, and trust us when we say that they’ve all aged extraordinarily well with time and still had booties shaking and voices singing along to every chorus.
Beck included carefully chosen covers including The Creation’s “Making Time” which was seamlessly melded with “New Pollution”, “Raspberry Beret,” which paid tribute to Prince, and a five-song medley towards the end that included “Blue Monday” and “In the Air Tonight.”
Beck’s hits delighted the sea of Ohana-goers as the night sky creeped in and the crowd was fully vibing to their funk-rock, pop meets electronic hits.
Mumford & Sons closed out the festival with a strong and memorable 15-song set. With their notable folk rock meets bluegrass meets alternative rock style, Marcus Mumford drummed on a couple songs and teased details of their new album Delta coming this November. Aside from their big hits “Little Lion Man,” “I Will Wait,” “Awake My Soul” and the incredibly moving song “Believe” — where Marcus sings “So open up my eyes / Tell me I’m alive / This is never gonna go our way / If I’m gonna have to guess what’s on your mind” — fans were treated to performances of their new songs “Woman” and “Guiding Light” off their new album. While the new songs were sonically a little more downtempo, deep and emotional compared to their otherwise lively and upbeat folk rock band, the songs still highlighted the band’s strong and emotionally-powered lyrics.
As long-time fans held up signs saying “Happy Birthday” to keyboardist Ben Lovett, the band and festival took a moment to sing “Happy Birthday,” only then to go into one of their early hits “The Cave.” As they whipped out their acoustic guitars, banjos, pianos and double bass throughout the set, parading through the crowd and exploding with energy and excitement, Marcus even mentioned that after playing so many festivals, Ohana was one of the best.
As the weekend closed, Ohana proved to be a particularly successful and pleasant festival experience. With the ocean air, strong performances and generally tame festival-goers, Mumford & Sons performed a four-song encore which ended with a vibe-y blues-rock cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” joined by festival founder/curator Eddie Vedder.
Before heading into the last song of the night, Vedder took a moment to remind the crowd what his festival is all about and how important it is to protect the oceans.
“This is the last song of the last night of three beautiful days under this beautiful sky next to this beautiful ocean,” Vedder said as the crowd roared in praise. “This beautiful ocean that we have to take care of, that if we don’t vote in the midterms — we’ve all seen up close and personal the crazy sh*t that can happen.”
He closed off to say: “Thank you to everyone on this stage. Most importantly, thanks for all you out there because you’ve given such a great wave of energy. We had waves out there and waves from you. We’ve been surfing the whole time, and surf’s been up here in Doheny.”