October 8, 2021 | Festival Review by Alaina Pierce
Do you remember your first concert experience?
Just feet from the stage, a boy’s mother taped a small sign onto the crowd control barricade, perfectly centered for bands to read from the stage. Written in bold ink, the sign read, “First Concert, First Ohana.”
I don’t know how long this devoted mother waited or what bribes she pulled to secure a spot for her and her son to stand front and center by the time Pearl Jam walked on stage, but I do know it earned her the “Coolest Mom” award that night. That title should be good for years to come because she didn’t just take her son to a concert; she took him to a music festival.
But this was not just any music festival; this was the Ohana Encore, which featured a solid lineup of bands. This kid’s first concert included big names like Beck, Lord Huron, White Reaper, with the headlining band being Pearl Jam! You’d be hard pressed to find a better “first concert” to attend. Well done, mom.
As the name suggests, Ohana Encore was the “encore” to the Ohana Festival. After selling out the Ohana Festival at record speed this past spring, it became clear that one weekend of music wasn’t enough. A second weekend was soon added with Pearl Jam headlining both nights, to the delight of their fans. Host Eddie Vedder took his time choosing the right bands to join Encore’s lineup, which spoke to the festival’s successful turnout.
This being the fifth Ohana Fest Eddie Vedder organized, I’d imagine his Friday morning began like any other Friday morning. As for the rest of us, clock watching became our new morning pastime. Time couldn’t have passed slower in anticipation for the festival gates to open at Doheny Beach.
Vanillaroma kicked the festival off performing on the Tiki stage, followed by St. Panther, then ZZ Ward on the big stage. The very talented Josh Klinghoffer, who also plays guitar for Pearl Jam, made his first live debut as Pluralone, while White Reaper returned to play for their third Ohana Fest. Both bands energized the crowd with their solid performances.
Lord Huron suited up to perform their lively set to a sea of fans singing along to their songs. Lead singer Ben Schneider dedicated their last song “The Night We Met” to all the swaying couples for them “to make out to.”
Beck gave a thrilling full spectrum performance on the Ohana stage. Members of the audience were first treated to an unexpected, intimate acoustic set; his beautifully stripped-down songs filled the atmosphere with all the feel-good vibes. After his fifth song, Beck changed the pace and upped the tempo saying, “Let’s have a little fun now.” With the bass drum kicking and lights flashing, he dove right in with “Devil’s Haircut” and everyone jumped to their feet. His wild set continued to escalate to the very end. Eddie Vedder later declared it was the best Beck show he’d seen. And really, Pearl Jam couldn’t have asked for a better opening band that night.
The congregating audience seemed to grow in size as the day carried on. After sunset, Pearl Jam finally took to the stage to an overwhelmingly warm welcome. Pearl Jam opened their set with “Low Light,” followed by “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” and a new song off their 2020 “Gigaton” album called “Dance of the Clairvoyants” (which contains a chorus you’ll catch yourself singing days later). “Buckle Up” and “Who Ever Said,” also from “Gigaton,” made their live debut later in the set. After the band rocked us out to “Never Destination” and “Do the Evolution,” Vedder picked up his guitar for a flawless performance of “I Am Mine.” It was the kind of performance that made us feel his words as he sang them. When the song ended, Vedder took a moment to mention how fortunate their band is to have strong badass women in their lives and how special it was to have them all in attendance that night. There were several heartfelt and special moments like that throughout the night.
Within the first three notes, “Even Flow” was immediately identified by the audience. Unable to contain their excitement, hands shot into the air in a single choreographed motion from the crowd. Guitarist Mike McCready rewarded their enthusiasm with his complex guitar solo behind his head, lasting for what seemed like five minutes. Their extended performance of “Better Man” had the same outcry from the crowd.
Vedder stopped singing, but continued to play guitar for the audience to take lead on vocals in a call-and-response participation. Just before the chorus, Vedder sustained his note, signaling the band to join back in for a climatic finish. The band visibly jumped in sync to the rhythm before launching into an alternate ending chorus of “People Have the Power.” They finished their set by playing “Rearviewmirror“ and the overwhelming response from fans brought Pearl Jam back out for a six-song encore. Pearl Jam’s unforgettable performance of “Alive” and “Yellow Ledbetter” was the perfect ending to an incredible day of music.