The inaugural Ohana Festival (jokingly referred to as the Vedder Variety Show), kicked off Friday night with a private (and expensive) OHANA LUAU, consisting of “a night of inspiration and entertainment” presented by Eddie Vedder and surf champion Kelly Slater, and hosted by Jeffrey Ross. Celebrities and professional athletes from around the world attended the special gala event that helped raise charitable funds for the San Onofre Parks Foundation. The event included “dinner, drinks, live entertainment, laughs and good times” as well as a live auction featuring various limited edition items and one-of-a-kind items as well as gift packages and more.
But the real party started on Saturday, with a festival lineup that read like a class reunion of bands that have opened for Vedder’s band, Pearl Jam, over the years – including X, Mudhoney, and Band of Horses. Day One of the 2-day festival brought warm temperatures, crowds of beach towel toting music fans, and long lines for food and toilets.
Jack Irons kicked off the day on the Tiki side stage with his first of two solo drum performances, concluding in Vedder paying respect to Irons on stage with a respect-filled bow and hug. Later in the afternoon, Iron’s the second performance of the day, had Vedder appearing again, this time on vocals to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
Acting as the unofficial MC of the festival, Vedder introduced several acts over the two days. The first being White Reaper, a young band hailing out of Louisville, Kentucky, who played a set rife with grungy guitar solos, nasally vocals, and an animated keyboardist who spent more time jumping and dancing around than actually playing.
Next up on the main stage was Mudhoney, Seattle’s grunge-era band formed in the late 1980’s. After over 20 years, they’ve still got ridiculous energy to put on a great show filled with both original songs like “Suck You Dry” and “Chardonnay,” as well as covers from The Circle Jerk’s “Behind the Door” and “Editions of You” by Roxy Music.
Vedder paid a little visit to old school punk rockers, X, during their set to rock out with Exene Cervenka, John Doe, and Billy Zoom for “The New World” – a favorite of Vedder’s to perform with X over the years.
Band of Horses followed X with an upbeat set, leading with “Is There a Ghost” and ending 10 songs later with “The Funeral” – with a Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover of “Powderfinger” thrown in for fun mid-set.
Elvis Costello kept the ball rolling with classic hits such as “Red Shoes,” “Veronica,” “Watching the Detectives,” and “Everyday I Write the Book.” For his final song, he brought out Vedder to cover Brinsley Schwarz’s “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”
And finally, what everyone in attendance was waiting for – Eddie Vedder took the stage around 8:00 pm to perform a 20-ish song set list that included a mix of solo, Pearl Jam and cover songs, sprinkled throughout with his infamous anecdotal stories and witty punchlines. Vedder debuted a new song titled “Out of Sand,” rumored to be contributed to the Twin Peaks soundtrack, and performed “Indifference” alongside pal and Ohana co-creator Kelly Slater (vocals and guitar), campfire sing-a-long style. Of course, at the end, Vedder invited all the days’ artists on stage for a dance party rendition of “Rockin’ In the Free World” to close out day one.
The crowd on day two was noticeably smaller (and markedly younger), but that was to be expected, knowing that Pearl Jam fans travel far and wide for both their band and their band’s frontman. However, headliner Lana del Rey had her share of fanatical (and vocal) young fans outfitted in flower headbands, maxi dresses and signs professing their undying love for the “Video Games” songstress. Highlight of the del Rey set included a several minute long stroll into the crowd to chat, sign autographs and take selfies with fans, and a seemingly unscripted performance of “Freak” by request, where del Rey asked the crowd to sing along with her. Del Rey’s sultry vocals and ethereal stage presence in a flowy white mini-dress made a breezy night worth staying to the cold, bitter end.
Earlier in the day, Vedder made a few brief “MC” appearances, introducing both Corrine Bailey Rae and Cat Power before they took the main stage. At the end of Cat Power’s set, he even popped onstage to stroke the ukulele to the duet off Ukulele Songs, “Tonight You Belong to Me.” Earlier acts in the day included City and Colour, led by Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green, Ryan Bingham, Johnny Two Bags, and up and coming LA-based bands Wilderado and The Palms on the Tiki side stage.
Aside from some logistical challenges, which are to be expected from a freshman festival (earlier mentioned insufficient toilets, long food lines, etc.), Ohana successfully drew a multi-generational crowd with its eclectic mix of musical acts set in a picturesque, relaxed beachside location (free popcorn and hammocks included). But most importantly, Ohana is donating a portion of proceeds to the San Onofre Parks Foundation, a California non-profit that cooperatively works with the California State Parks to develop, preserve and enhance the recreation and experience of California’s unique and beautiful coastal parks. A very special thanks to Vedder and Slater for helping to keep our beaches clean. This California girl hopes Ohana becomes a new Southern California festival tradition lasting for many years to come!
Article: Shannon Leigh