It’s a Saturday afternoon at Ohana Fest 2019 where the sun is peeking through an otherwise overcast day. It’s warm and festival goers have been setting up camp on the grassy area which is spread out in front of two stages, set for performers like Jonny Roundhouse, Erin Rae, Paul Cauthen, The Messthetics, Laura Jane Grace, Donavan Frankenreiter, Madison Ryann Ward, Benjamin Booker, Mudhoney, Glen Hansard, Incubus and the one and only Eddie Vedder.
Eddie Vedder not only hosted but seriously rocked the show this evening with classics and covering at times artists like the Beatles’ “Help” and Tom Petty’s “Wildflower” while fans sang along in harmony. Vedder charmed thousands of fans into the evening at Doheny State Beach. His genuine warmth, care and inclusivity with artist and people alike exudes from his being. His songs moved people to teary eyed as one woman was drying her eyes while he sang from his heart. Many times he just held the mic up and fans sang loudly while he nodded and smiled.
On Friday evening, he performed “Juicebox” with The Strokes and tonight with Glen Hansard on “Society,” “Black,” “Big Hard Sun” and he also shared songs with world famous surfer, Kelly Slater with “Indifference.” Later Vedder held up a phone and said, “Hey Kelly, I think you left your phone onstage. Rob Machado called four minutes ago.” His last song, “Rockin in the Free World” included his four-string quartet, three violinists and one cellist, along with Kelly Slater, Glen Hansard and Eddie’s mother who joined him onstage to rock out.
Earlier in the evening, Incubus rocked the crowd with legendary songs, “Stellar,” “Love Hurts,” “Megalomaniac” and “Are you In” and at one point lead singer, Brandon Boyd said, “Thank you so much, thank you. We’re called Incubus, here’s a new rock and roll song.” He sang “Pardon Me” in acapella style and later closed with a cover song of Ginuwine, “Pony” while Boyd lifted his shirt up and leaned into the mic and speaker. The group came together to take a bow before heading out.
Madison Ryann Ward performed early in the day with her two guitarists who wore matching red and white striped jumpsuits. Ward is a beautiful young woman who wears silver rings on all fingers and lulled the crowd into a peaceful and melodic trance. She has long, wavy hair and produces a siren like sound with her transcendent vocals that evoke a similar sound like Lauryn Hill.
Later, Paul Cauthen and his five piece country band from East Texas captured the crowd with their rambunctious and ethereal country flair. This country band pretty much knocked it out the park. The lead singer, Cauthen wears dark sunglasses and channels a Johnny Cash, deep-throated sound which bellows against excellent drums, keyboards, and guitar backup from his band. Each song was unique and he got the crowd going pretty strong and at one point said, “We’re just a country band from East Texas. I don’t know what ya’ll are doing out here in California but back home we’d be put in the big house.” He wore white jeans, black shirt with a black cowboy hat and dark sunglasses and dons a thick beard.
Later, Benjamin Booker took the main stage, and his humble and meaningful approach was refreshing while his music is heartfelt and deep. He thanked the crowd, saying, “Thank you very much for coming out and listening to me. Thank you.” His song, “Believe” is powerful and deep and the music is coming deep from his soul in such a way that is authentic.
Aside from food vendors, there was artwork and storytellers, including various noteworthy speakers and non-profit organizations, like Surfrider Foundation, Greg Long and other surf veterans offering insight into issues like protecting the ocean, conserving authentic surf shops (there are only 20 or so shops on the coast compared to 200 years ago) and giving detailed history on Doheny State Beach for the past 250 years.
The Messthetics played on the Tiki Stage and the crowd responded enthusiastically. This trio played their instruments in solid fashion, producing long, drawn out cords from bass, guitar and fast drums. There were no vocals throughout the entire set, yet their sound is nothing short of electric and expansive. The talent behind The Messthetics include former Fugazi members, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty along with guitarist Anthony Pirog.
Mudhoney’s stage presence is like no other as singer Mark Arm moved around the stage dramatically singing powerful grunge, punk-rock lyrics in your face. This Seattle band which formed in 1988 sang songs like, “I Like it Small,” “Keep it Out of My Face” and “Touch Me I’m Sick.” Mudhoney’s members are singer and rhythm guitarist Mark Arm, lead guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Guy Maddison and drummer Dan Peters. Lyrics like, “Well, I feel bad, And I’ve felt worse, And I’m a creep, yeah, And I’m a jerk, Come on! Touch me I’m sick! Wow! I won’t live long. And I’m full of rot. I’m gonna give you, girl. Everything I got.” Arms throws every ounce of his being into his lyrics onstage.
After Mudhoney and Laura Jane Grace’s performance, the festival grew bigger and bigger. Suddenly the lawn was maxed out as thousands of people transformed the once mellow vibe into an all-out jamfest. It was obvious people came to see Incubus, Eddie Vedder, Glen Hansard was performing, Eddie Vedder came out to join him and sing a duet. Glen Hansard is poetic and at one with his guitar and his sentimental lyrics match his impactful singing and songwriting skills.
Glen Hansard took to the stage singing hits like, “Falling Slowly” which was captivating and sentimental. He also performed, “I’ll Be You, Be Me” which was powerful with lyrics, “I’ll be you, be me and I’ll be you. I’ll take your truth, your lies, your secrets
How ’bout you be me and I’ll be you. I love your strength, your pride, your weakness.” Hansard’s vocals and style are in tune to the very moment, he pours his heart and soul into each moment.
Photo Credit: Stephen Hoffmeister