Dana Point, CA- These days’ music festivals are everywhere. You can find them on the coast or deep inland, in big cities and small towns, on the water or in a desert. If there’s an available space and money to be made, someone will inevitably capitalize on it. But at a certain point music festivals started to look alike and became more about the scene, and the instagram photos, than about the music.
Enter Ohana Fest. A beachfront music festival carefully curated by legendary musician Eddie Vedder, where the lineup consists of performers that influenced or inspired Vedder in some way. Being music-centric isn’t the only way it separates itself from the festival pack, the name Ohana roughly translates to “extended family” in Hawaiian, and Ohana does an incredible job of forging a beautiful family of musicians, local businesses and fans through its intimate two-stage setting and offering of homegrown eateries and shopping. The event also works to educate and fundraise for environmental nonprofits including the Wyland Foundation, the Surfrider Foundation, the San Onofre Parks Foundation, and more, making Ohana Fest a smorgasbord of music, inspiration, and community.
Returning to Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, the second year of Ohana Festival showcased headlining sets from Social Distortion, Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder himself. More than 25 acts performed over the course of three days on either the Main Stage or nearby Tiki Stage, so eager fans didn’t have to choose one artist over another. Vedder appeared a number of times throughout the weekend, including guest spots during Social Distortion, Simon Townshend, Glen Hansard, Liam Finn and Jack Johnson’s sets.
Friday‘s rain and rainbows didn’t stop the crowds from enjoying sets by The Orwell’s, TV on the Radio, Pixies and local favorites, Social Distortion and more. Brooklyn band TV on the Radio played a mix of songs from nearly all 5 of their studio albums. Lead singer Tunde stopped “DLZ” mid way to say it had a “broken leg” and they needed to restart it. Smiling he turned it into a lesson about fixing things when they’re broken. Before their last song, “Starring at the Sun,” he called back to his earlier sentiments saying,
“Be good to people you know and don’t know. It’s fucked up out there, but we can stop and fix it.” -Tunde of TV On The Radio
The Pixies darker set seemed contrary to the sunny beach vibes but still managed to elicit feelings of nostalgia from the older fans and reverence from the newer ones. They played old favorites, “Monkey Gone To Heaven,” “Wave of Mutilation,” and “Where Is My Mind” and even dropped some new material from their 2016 album, “Head Carrier.”
The night ended with headliner, and OC favorite, Social Distortion taking the stage. Mike Ness took the crowd on a punk rock journey with songs like, “99 to Life,” “California (Hustle and Flow)” and “Angel’s Wings.” Eddie Vedder joined them on stage as they closed their set playing one of their biggest hits, “Ball and Chain.”
Saturday brought more sun and surf and the biggest crowds in anticipation of Glen Hansard, Fiona Apple, Ray La Montagne, Eddie Vedder and more. Glen Hansard’s gritty acoustic set was a plethora of covers, solo works and songs from his time with The Swell Season. Before digging into a cover of “Vigilante Man,” by Woodie Guthrie, he mentioned that when he asked Guthrie’s permission to play around with the lyrics he said, “you sing whatever you need to sing, but you gotta mean it.” Hansard had found out that when Gutherie wrote this song, and others, he was living in one of Fred Trump’s buildings learning all about his hatred and evil ways. Hansard changed the lyrics to voice his political views about Fred Trumps son, Donald Trump. “He wants a wall, but doesn’t want to pay for it, what I would do to him if I knew I could get away with it.” Eddie Vedder joined Hansard on stage for a cover of Pearl Jam’s, “Present Tense.”
There were many highlights over the course of the weekend, a rare festival appearance by Fiona Apple, Haim’s cover of Shania Twain’s, “That Don’t Impress me Much,” but Eddie Vedder’s perfect 90 minute set encapsulated the festival’s spirit. Unaccompanied but for the appearance of a handful of guests towards the end, he talked about environmental and political issues, humanity and love. At one point he said he was, “upset enough to lose faith in humanity, but everyone out here has restored by faith.” But it wasn’t all serious on stage, he popped champagne and raised a toast to a couple who had met after losing their fathers in 9/11 and were married that very day. And after seeing a mosh pit during Social Distortions set the night before he encouraged the crowd to mosh to his next song saying, “it would be the first time anyone’s ever moshed to this song.”
Eddie moved flawlessly from organ to ukulele, mandolin to guitar and played a number of Pearl Jam songs including, “Porch,” “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” “Just Breath,” and “Wishlist.” The show ended with Jack Johnson, Glen Hansard, Fiona Apple, and fellow festival curator and pro surfer Kelly Slater, joining Vedder in a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
Sunday, the sun was strong and the crowds swelled throughout the day seemingly building towards Jack Johnson. The final day also brought Timmy Curran, Dr. Dog, The Naked and Famous, Haim and more to the Ohana stages. The Los Angeles band Haim, made up of sisters Este, Danielle and Alana, started their set strong belting out their new single, “Want You Back.” Throughout each song they encouraged the crowd to dance and sing to songs like, “Forever,” “Don’t Save Me,” and “The Wire.” At one point they pleaded with the audience, “The weekend ain’t over yet. We’re together and we’re a family.” An idea not lost during this incredible weekend of music and Ohana.
Jack Johnson closed out the festival to a large crowd of all ages. It really should have been billed as a “Ohana Fest featuring Jack Johnson” set as the capacity audience sang along to virtually all of his songs. Jack’s set concluded with an encore that saw Eddie Vedder, Glen Hansard and other musicians from the weekend come out one last time for a version of “Constellation” before Eddie gratefully thanked the crowd and those who took the two stages over the weekend.
Ohana Festival proved to be a unique collaboration of music, community and environmental awareness, with the themes of love, and equality echoed throughout the weekend by nearly all of the performers. Eddie Vedder’s last words on stage were perhaps the most profound of the weekend. “You’re the answer. Whatever the question, you’re the answer.” Reminding us that change happens with each of us, making Ohana Fest not just a festival, but a cultural movement.
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BELOW ARE THE MUSICAL ACTS THAT BLURRED CULTURE WAS ABLE TO CATCH AT OHANA FEST. STAY TUNED AS INDIVIDUAL PAGES ARE POSTED HERE TO READ OUR THOUGHTS AND CHECK OUT OUR PHOTOS!!!