Ohana Fest Part 1 @ Doheny State Beach – 09/29/2018
Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam frontman and festival father, kicked of the second day of the Ohana Festival at 12:15pm, just 15 minutes after the gates opened. Devoted fans who had been waiting since the early morning hours were visibly moved by Vedder’s impromptu performance – several of them were weeping as Vedder sang “Porch.”
Johnny Roundhouse, the first official act on the bill, was introduced by Vedder. Roundhouse, in his brightly colored Hawaiian shirt, played the ukulele on the Tiki stage. He encapsulated the festival’s feel-good, beach vibes. Festival attendees, in their flip-flops, board shorts, flower crowns, and beach Cruisers served as a reminder that this little festival is all about good music and good times.
The festival’s diverse musical offerings expanded with a performance by Los Angeles based Desure. The LA band brought their Americana sound – led by Josh Desure whose vocal stylings were reminiscent of John Fogerty. The big crowd pleasers, were the songs “Los Angeles” and “Coming Down.”
Plague Vendor, from Whittier, California, was the first act to take the main stage. They brought a decidedly heavy-rock element to the festival. Sounding a bit like a punk Jack White, and channeling a young Mike Patton, lead singer, Brandon Blaine, thanked Eddie Vedder for inviting them to the festival and wished his mom a happy birthday.
From Nashville, Lilly Hiatt, played an emotional set with songs dedicated to Hiatt’s neighborhood. A crowd favorite was a song called, “Records,” which Hiatt dedicated to her favorite band, Pearl Jam.
Canadian artist Bahamas were the perfect match for the early afternoon crowd that wanted to mellow out to the groovy crooning of lead singer Afie Jurvanen. He joked, “It is a pleasure representing the soft-rock community at this festival.”
Billy Raffoul, hailing from the southernmost point in Canada, the small town of Leamington, said it was an honor to play in the company of so many great artists in such beautiful weather. “We never have days like these,” he noted, “so I’m very glad to be here.”
Legendary Johnny Marr played the main stage in the later afternoon. By that time the festival crowd had grown to a full house. Fans roared their approval when Marr sang two The Smiths classics, “Big Mouth,” and “How Soon is Now.” Marr also played the 1991 hit “Getting Away With It,” which he introduced as “a disco song from Manchester. Marr, unlike his former bandmate, showcased his great sense of humor on stage. After “How Soon is Now,” he said, “I hope you were texting ‘That was fucking badass.” The biggest surprise of Marr’s set was when Eddie Vedder joined him on stage for the last song. Marr introduced Vedder by saying, “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank someone who I’ve admired and who has been good to me.” They co-sang The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.”
If tents had roofs, Lauren Ruth Ward would have blown the Tiki stage to smithereens. Her high-energy set thrilled the crowd. Reminiscent of Janis Joplin’s bluesy, no holds-bar approach to music, Ward threw herself into the art of the live performance. She commands the stage with sheer force as well as good-natured sweetness. Ward was definitely a crowd favorite.
As always, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought their unique style of highly visual rock to the main stage. Karen O, Brian Chase, and Nick Zinner played crowd favorites “Zero,” “Sacrilege,” “Maps,” and “Heads will Roll.” Karen O interacted with the audience and had the front row sing with her.
To end the night, Eddie Vedder took the stage by expressing gratitude. He said he was grateful everyday, but more grateful for days like these. Every song he sang was a hit with the crowd. Songs from the Pearl Jam catalogue, “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In a Small Town,” “Just Breath,” and “Wishlist,” might have gotten the most audience participation, but his solo work, “Sleeping By Myself,” and “Without You,” got big cheers as well. He sang, “Better Man,” with Liz Phair and three Tom Petty songs, “Wildflowers,” “Room At The Top,” and “Won’t Back Down,” with former Heartbreaker Scott Thurston. Vedder finished off his set with other well-known covers; “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” by The Clash, “Open All Night,” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Keep on Rockin in the Free World,” by Neil Young.
Keep on rockin’, Eddie. And we’ll see you next year at Ohana 2019.
Ohana Festival Photo Gallery