Peace, Love, And Understanding Reign Supreme At The Ohana Fest Attention to detail and Inclusiveness gives The Ohana Fest an edge.
DANA POINT, CA- For the past several years, Ohana Fest has been one of my favorite music festivals to attend. Not only does Ohana Fest live up to its “extended family” theme, but it’s also a music festival that’s set on pristine beachfront, with a consistently exciting lineup curated by Eddie Vedder benefitting various environmental organizations. There’s no denying that the good vibes run deep whenever this weekend comes around every year.
But there was something about this year that really connected with me. This year, I felt like Eddie Vedder was speaking to me. I really felt like he was doing more than just entertaining the masses with the roster of artists that he amassed and all of the various festival installations that were activated. I felt like he was making a statement. At least that’s what I felt.
Protecting the environment and preserving pristine beachside, Ohana Fest directly benefits both San Onofre Parks Foundation and The Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association. As soon as you walked into the festival grounds, you saw an art piece that was a wave built with over 20,000 golf balls recovered from the ocean. Attendees were encouraged to pose with the stunning work of art, but it was also an impactful reminder of what we humans toss into the ocean for no good reason. There were other pieces of art like a gorgeous elephant composed of driftwood, an amazing octopus bench (“The Notch“) carved out of a recovered redwood stump and a shark-shaped recycling container made of that which was to be tossed into it, and each a piece spoke volumes about some part of the ecological discussion. I only hope that patrons took the time to read about each piece that they were taking pictures of.
Those ecological discussions were brought to life on the “Storytellers” stage, where conservationists, pro surfers, photographers and more can and share their stories with attentive audiences. Presented by Zippo, topics of discussion included countering the effects of deforestation caused by wildfires, sustainability and the various threats to coastlines around the world. Along with the “Register to Vote” booth, games to win refillable water bottles and electric car displays, the environmental policy was clearly on display.
But other than that which was on display, I saw (and more appropriately heard) messaging that went deeper than the obvious.
Certain performances at The Ohana Fest always touch on important social topics of times. We’ll discuss some of them with a little more detail in the reviews for the individual days, but artists like Glen Hansard, Devendra Banhart, Las Cafeteras and even the host himself each raised important socio-cultural issues ranging from gentrification to immigration. But one issue that wasn’t necessarily overtly discussed, but was clearly in the house, was LGBTQ+ issues.
For the first time in the past three years that I’ve attended The Ohana Fest, I noticed patrons wearing their rainbow-themed clothing, and fly their rainbow flags, at this Orange County-based music festival. And for three very good reasons: LP, Tash Sultana, and Laura Jane Grace.
While The Ohana Fest has had LGBTQ+ friendly artist’s in the line-up in year’s past (Lana Del Rey, who has been described as a “muse to gay fans” was the headliner for the inaugural The Ohana Fest and LP’s fiance Lauren Ruth Ward performed on the Tiki Stage in 2018), the line-up this year really seemed to cater to the LGBTQ+ community with the selection of these three amazing artists, two of whom had main stage slots in the line-up.
One may simply shrug off this observation as coincidence, but as someone who pays attention to regional politics, I noticed it. After all, Orange County, CA hasn’t been known to be the most liberal county in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. As one of the largest counties in California, and even in the US, it has long been a conservative stronghold for the Republican Party. Only quite recently has the political demographic slowly leaned Democratic., with the number of registered Democrats surpassing the number of registered Republicans in the county in August of this year.
To me, this year’s line-up really seemed to take a truly all-inclusive approach. It really felt like every ethnicity and every sexuality was represented in this year’s line-up, and while I obviously can’t say with certainty whether this was a conscious effort on Eddie’s part, I truly appreciated this fact.
With a glut of national and regional musical festivals trying to gain a foothold in markets for the all mighty dollar, it’s the little things that will set the good ones apart. Attention to detail with a real focus on who is playing and what they can offer to make a day of music with “family” complete gives The Ohana Fest an edge.
During his own headlining performance on Saturday, Eddie subtly snuck in the Elvis Costello lyrics “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding” into one of his songs (a song that he played with Mr. Costello at the inaugural event), and those lyrics stayed with me for the days thereafter. Those lyrics, sung in his whispered rasp, encapsulated the whole ethos of what The Ohana Fest means to me. It’s a weekend where peace, love, and understanding reign supreme. Where everybody attending is your extended family, and you can enjoy the beach and the music knowing that for those 3 days, you are in a safe space. Ohana, man. Ohana.