The 4th annual Ohana Fest came to Dana Point over the weekend, officially closing out summer with a rock-heavy lineup that did not disappoint. The Eddie Vedder-curated festival featured performances by the Strokes, Vedder himself, Incubus, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and more.
Ohana is a fundraiser for the San Onofre Parks Foundation and the eco-conscious mindset of the fest, paired with a great lineup that delivered many surprises at a picturesque venue on the water makes this one of the most intimate and exciting festivals around.
We were there Friday and Saturday. Here’s what we saw!
3:49 p.m.: The conservatism and environmentalism that are the backbone of Ohana Festival are on display right when you arrive. There’s a giant wave with a surfboard you can stand on made with 20,000 golf balls pulled out of the ocean. #PlasticFreeWave
3:52 p.m.: OHANA FESTIVAL HAS HAMMOCKS?! (Seemingly nobody ever gets out of them though, so good luck getting one). But, still, HAMMOCKS!!
4:05 p.m.: O.C.’s own Dustin Kensrue has a full band with him on the second “Tiki” stage, but it’s not the one I’m used to seeing him play with. He’s wrapping up a set of his solo material, including the smoldering “Pistol” and “Please Come Home,” and a stirring take on Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.”
“Oh, that’s the lead singer of Thrice?,” a friend said after watching him from a space near the main stage. “That was good. I should have been closer.”
4:12 p.m.: A couple walks by with pants that have the other person’s face all over them. #GOALS
4:20 p.m.: Devandra Banhart cuts through a softer moment in his set with a yelp so loud and sharp it stirs me from the hypnosis of his sleepy, sometimes sultry, and thoroughly convincing set.
4:49 p.m.: New York’s Sunflower Bean is throwing down tunes that bounce between shimmery 80’s influenced synth pop, moments that recall Hole and Silversun Pickups, and even some muscular Sabbath-style riffage. Not what I expected with a name like Sunflower Bean, but then again I didn’t really know what to expect.
5:13 p.m.: The Storyteller’s Stage features speakers educating and conversing with the crowd on a variety of environmental and creative topics. One of the few bands scheduled on the stage breaks into a cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” just as I’m pondering what to eat for dinner.
5:17 p.m.: Silent bidders are perusing the items available for auction. Among the best items are (all autographed) handwritten U2 lyrics, Angus Young’s guitar, a shot of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird shaking hands on the court, and a Paul McCartney signed “Abbey Road.”
5:23 p.m.: Rocco’s Cookies are delicious vegan treats. Their “Middle of the Brownie” cookie is chocolate perfection. It’s made with applesauce, espresso powder and vegan butter and was the best bite at the festival.
5:41 p.m.: LP, aka Laura Pergolizzi, is a singer I’ve never heard (or heard of) before. Not to be confused with the rapper El-P (a solo talent and ½ of Run The Jewels), LP has 5 records to her name and songwriting credits for megastars. She’s absolutely crushing the crowd with operatic pipes and epic songs that could soundtrack the least boring parts of romance films.
5:44 p.m.: “The Strokes are my favorite band ever,” LP says. Much of the crowd screams back in agreement.
6 p.m.: A woman walks by in a shirt that reads “Who the fuck is Mick Jagger,” just minutes after LP covered The Rolling Stones “Paint It Black.” The irony.
6:24 p.m. Dude 1, with both giant nachos in his hands and a giant joint in his mouth, walks by. Dude 2, with a birds of paradise floral print shirt and (matching, to him) Rick and Morty print shorts stops to fist bump him. I can’t tell if it’s for the nachos, the joint or both.
6:58 p.m. Two Sheriff’s Deputies walk by me signing, in harmony, a song with the line “Baby, I Love You … ”
7 p.m. THIS. SUNSET.
7:10 p.m. Tash Sultana is an angel that plays and loops and re-loops seemingly 40 instruments at once. Blending old into new while running barefoot back and forth across the stage (at times with a trumpet on their back), Sultana’s guitar work goes from Santana’s pluck to Slash’s soar with a sound that melds decades of rock and blues and jazz with the futuristic sounds and drops of EDM.
“I make layers and layers,” Sultana says. “Some people think that I’m a DJ, but I’m not a fucking DJ.”
I knew this was a set not to miss, but when you hear someone complain that “new music sucks,” show them any live performance of Tash Sultana’s and immediately prove them wrong.
7:52 p.m. A dude in a shirt that reads “Champion” across the front is passed out on the ground completely contradicting his apparel.
8:41 p.m. “I broke my clavicle and just had surgery 2 days ago,” someone standing next to us says. ”I don’t miss The Strokes.”
9:04 p.m. I’m finally seeing Julian Cassablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr. together on a stage for the first time. College me is very happy. Me, me is very happy, too.
9:14 p.m. Casablancas says he almost wore sandals today, telling the crowd that “the nexus of terrible fashion and ultimate comfort is socks and flip flops. Kind of the most comfortable thing and also the least sexually attractive look. It’s like jogging pants. Comfortable, but you will repel mates.”
9:23 p.m. “Hard to Explain” + “Reptilia” = Nostalgia Level 100
9:27 p.m. The Strokes bring out Eddie Vedder, with Casablancas’ epic introduction: “We would all collectively like to sleep with him, we thank him, we bow to him, we will do his bidding, our lord, our prince, ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for Eddie Vedder.”
The girl in front of us try to figure out who he is. “He’s good, he’s good,” a trio of her friends assures her.
They play Pearl Jam’s “Hard to Imagine,” in dedication to those working toward “common sense gun laws that respect the right of ownership but also respect our right to feel safe in our own towns … in our country.”
Vedder stays for The Strokes’ “Juicebox,” which, TBH, sounds strange with anyone but Casablancas’ frenetic vocals driving the song.
10:03 p.m. The Strokes have to cut songs for time, but still deliver “Razorblade” “What Ever Happened?” and “Someday,” capping off a day of great performances. Someone next to us yells “Julian Casablancas, I fucking hate you!”
3:20 p.m. Security: You got anything in your pockets?
Me: I got everything in my pockets!
Security: Don’t show me no good shit!
3:25 p.m. The Messthetics, a trio featuring former Fugazi members Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, are destroying Ohana Festival with instrumental, grinding, progressive metal reminiscent of bands like ISIS and Pelican. If you’re into that sort of thing, check them out when they’re back in town.
3:29 p.m. The skull pummeling continues with veteran grunge pioneers Mudhoney. As with LP the night before, Mudhoney is a long running act I’ve never heard but really loved live. Their songs have deep, chunky bass riffs and guitars that chug along with a lot of soul and anger behind them.
4:05 p.m. Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm is bouncing around the stage with awkward Dad moves, while delivering this disclaimer: “Those moves are patented. They are trademarked. … And no one else really wants to do them.
4:14 p.m. Messthetics into Mudhoney into Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers is proving to be a pretty heavy afternoon. Will Glen Hansard into Donavon Frankenwriter kill the vibe?
4:25 p.m. Babies in oversized headphones at concerts are super cute.
4:33 p.m. Laura Jane Grace give the audience “a song about taking that thing the world will ridicule you for and turning it into your sense of empowerment.”
4:49 p.m. A man in a white top hat and a Hawaiian shirt patterned with purple palm trees goes prancing through the crowd, hobbling over people with awkward sidesteps. Someone should tell him the lead singer of Mudhoney has trademarked that move.
4:54 p.m. Glen Hansard is one man with an acoustic guitar that sounds like he’s making as much noise as the 3 rock bands that came before him. He brings out a full band for the rest of the songs–flute, piano, stand up bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drummer and sax player– and things get even rowdier.
5:10 p.m. Most everyone who was in the talking in the back at the beginning of Glen Hansard’s set is spellbound and all in.
5:24 p.m. The band does a horn-studded stomp through Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and everyone’s singing along.
5:30 p.m. Shout out to Hydro Flask who has set up a Skee-Ball game that has people lined up to play. Two chances for a $1 gets you a shot at winning a full-sized Hydro Flask and all proceeds go back to The Ohana Festival’s fundraising for local beaches.
5:39 p.m. Donavan Frankenwriter has a softer sound than Hansard on this day; like if Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Prince went on vacation to Hawaii and cut an album together. But the dreamy sound is perfect for sunset, as it’s the first time the sun has actually cut through the gloom of the day, all day.
5:47 p.m. HARMONICA SOLOOOOO!!!!!!!
6:21 p.m. Incubus open with “Privilege,” but don’t turn this one into a “Make Yourself” anniversary set like the tour they’re currently on. All the way to the back the crowd is belting out every word to “Anna Molly,” “Megalomaniac,” “No Fun” and more.
6:51 p.m. Pardon Me while I burst. They need more bathrooms at Ohana Festival.
7:07 p.m. Actual “Pardon Me” into “Stellar” is the best part of the day so far.
7:07 p.m. While writing that last note in my phone I smacked my head into a large wooden whale near the Storyteller’s Stage. Don’t text and walk, lesson learned.
7:19 p.m. A woman in an “Unfuck the World “ t-shirt is the hero we all need!
7:22 p.m. Incubus winds down their set with Ginuwine’s “Pony.”
8 p.m. Eddie Vedder emerges to a string quartet and the very little girl in front of me gives him a standing ovation. His first 10 songs include 6 Pearl Jam tunes, plus covers of Daniel Johnston’s “Walking the Cow,” Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” and The Beatles’ “Help!”
“Alright, let’s see you,” Vedder says as the house lights go up. “I’m noticing you’re in extremely good voice tonight.”
8:12 p.m. Vedder before playing “Walking the Cow” tells a story about him and Chris Cornell sitting on a couch listening to someone “for hours straight, laughing and crying and smiling so hard that the tears were squeezed out of our eyes. And we said he is better than both of us. And his name is Daniel Johnson and I’ll like to play this for you.”
8:27 p.m. Vedder tells another story, this one about learning to surf at Doheny at age 11. “There’s a rock out there … I have a scar on my knee from it. I saw it the other day and it’s still out there fucking mocking me.” Kelly Slater comes out to play Pearl Jam’s “Indifference” with a string quartet. “I wish I could surf as well as he can play guitar and sing,” Vedder says.
8:49 p.m. “It’s a family show,” he says, before bringing his mom on stage for a hug.
9:12 p.m. “Will somebody tell Kelly Slater he left his phone up here? Hey Kelly, you just got a call from Rob Machado 4 min ago”
9:32 p.m. Vedder thanks the other bands, the parks department and the crowd, saying “I’m surrounded by such great people there’s no such thing as a solo show.” Glen Hansard returns for “Song of Good Hope” and “Society.” “Did we cover everything okay?” Hansard asks.
9:58p “Hard Sun” into Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” finishes the set, just as a light drizzle starts to fall.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to attend most of Day 3 of Ohana, but I did try to make it back in time for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. That didn’t happen, and I missed them covering “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges and The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” (with Eddie Vedder)!
I asked my friend Joe to fill me in and here’s his notes:
“It was amazing! Cars’ cover with Eddie V. … blown away.”
“(RHCP Drummer) Chad Smith … holy shit!”
“(Former RHCP and Pearl Jam drummer) Jack Irons too. Eddie V and the Messthetics guitarist
jammed with Irons!”
“Lukas Nelson rocked. Eddie V. joined him as well.”
“Fun day … but man am I beat!”