A Civilized Look at Ohana Festival 2017

This past weekend Civilized was invited to join surfers, campers and festival goers of all ages to Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, CA to experience the annual Ohana Festival. Set up on a stretch of pristine California beach and state park grounds, with an eclectic line-up of friends, admired artists, and buzz-making newcomers all curated by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, the three-day event was an even more expanded version from its previous year's debut. The laid back vibe of what is turning out to be the summer’s best music festival, included an abundance of various food trucks, drink options and family friendly activities including an on-site video arcade, various interactive games, food tastings and a row of hammocks that if you were lucky enough to score you could swing on and soak up the sun and sweet ocean air.

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Friday’s main stage line up, which had more of an indie punk rock vibe to it than the other two days included, The Orwells, TV On The Radio, The Pixies, and Orange County’s own Social Distortion. The Tiki side-stage featured blues guitar heavy sets from new comers Jade Jackson, Corey Harper, Tim Curren as well as an acoustic performance from Simon Townsend, brother of rock legend Pete Townsend, with Vedder joining him onstage for a version of “She Asked Me.” Vedder later again joined Mike Ness to sing the Social Distortion classic "Ball and Chain."

As the Austin,Texas electronic duo Missio kicked off Saturday, the crowd size seemed to double in anticipation of Vedder's headlining performance. Proudly pumping up the crowd with their hit song “Middle Fingers,” singer Matthew Brue encouraged the crowd to raise their middle finger in protest to whatever they personally wanted to rally against. It was the first of many powerful messages from the day’s artists ranging from remembering 9/11, immigration to the environment. Highlights from the day included a passionate set from Irish songwriter Glen Hansard, which ended with Vedder and his longtime friend and tour mate performing a version of Pearl Jam’s “Present Tense,” a rare festival performance from Fiona Apple--who received a happy birthday song from the crowd before celebrating with a cartwheel on stage and a powerful drum bashing set on the Tiki Stage from Liam Finn that included Vedder once again joining his friend for a boisterous version of Pearl Jam’s “Habit.”

Vedder took the man stage a little after 8:30pm performing a moving set that included covers of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage,” Fugazi’s “I’m So Tired,” and George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity.” Tracks “Rise” and “Far Behind” from the movie Into the Wild were performed solo while Liam Finn reappeared to join Vedder on “Society.” Several Pearl Jam classics including “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” and “Porch” had the audience roaring along word for word, but it was a heart-warming performance of “Just Breathe," that Vedder emotionally dedicated to a young couple who were destined for each other after devastating losses from the tragedy of 9/11 that made this a night feel really special. After sharing the stage again with Hansard to perform the song “Falling Slowly,” Fiona Apple and several other of the events musicians joined Vedder on for a thumping rendition of Neil Young’s "Keep On Rocking in the Free World."

The third and final day of this festival saw a crowd pleasing performance from Dr. Dog who’s loyal following showed up in strong numbers, a feel good and dance happy set from The Naked and Famous, groovy and several soulful songs from the supremely talented sister trio Haim, who end their Ohana appearance with an epic four person drum battle. Sunday’s headliner Jack Johnson was the perfect artist to close out the three days with a set that featured the classics “Flake,” and “Better Together,” which he dedicated to his wife as well a duets with surfing legend Kelly Slater, and a version of “Constellation,” with Vedder. The three day long event wrapped up with Vedder, Johnson, several of the day’s artists and even a return of Glen Hansard who stuck around an extra day performing a meaningful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

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For us, this weekend really felt like a gathering of family--which lives up to the meaning behind the Hawaiian word Ohana. The magical locale, extremely chill vibe and Eddie Vedder’s presence throughout the weekend really set this apart from other music festivals and we can only hope that this becomes a regular summer stop.


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