September 29, 2021 by Christina Sanchez & Alaina Pierce
Ohana Fest 2021 had a little bit of everything this year. It was powerful, sultry and full of rock, roll, deep cuts, thunder and lightning… literally!
Day one started off with an evacuation of the fairgrounds due to a freak lightning storm that hit the Dana Point venue. Once the storm blew over, concertgoers returned and Ohana Fest turned into an epic event.
Unfortunately, the day before the festival started, Kings of Leon had to withdraw to allow the Followill brothers to return home to be with their mother before her passing. Fans were disappointed, but understood, and many left heartfelt messages on the band’s social media.
The remaining bands performed extended sets to make up for their missing comrades. Ohana Fest founder Eddie Vedder performed solo sets on Friday and Saturday, then headlined again on Sunday with Pearl Jam – their first time back to SoCal since 2013.
One of the most memorable performances at this year’s Ohana Fest was courtesy of Plague Vendor. So many people in the crowd said it was their new favorite band and they couldn’t believe what an amazing showman Brandon Blaine is. He brought us into the thick of things by creating a circle pit, taking my sunglasses and wearing them, and then had other people stack their sunglasses on top of mine. He also obtained hats from people and threw them back into the crowd – all in good fun.
Black Pumas also did not disappoint. This band is on a meteoric rise to stardom that was on display and the applause they received was very well deserved. Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada played favorites “Next to You,” “Know You Better,” and “Colors,” and showed the crowd why they are Grammy nominated.
The Regrettes were a surprise favorite as they had so much energy and were so animated. With songs like “California Friends” and “Poor Boy,” you need to check out this band because it was so much fun and I am definitely a new fan.
As for day two, Cold War Kids, Spoon and The Aquadolls killed it, but Vedder had a special surprise for us…
Spoon was the last band to perform on the Tiki stage and they played a high-energy set. They of course played all their radio hits, but also some fan favorites that the crowd appreciated. Everyone seemed to know their songs and enjoyed singing along to “The Way We Get By,” “I Turn My Camera On,” “Don’t You Evah,” and “Rent I Pay.”
Clearly a popular indie rock group, The Backseat Lovers were given a very warm welcome by all, especially the females in the audience. The band gave a very solid live performance and sounded great.
Mac DeMarco was charismatic and comedic. He entertained us with little jokes between songs.
He played a solo acoustic guitar set and his voice was smooth. He brought out a karaoke machine to sing along to Frank Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young.” A perfect festival performance; very chill vibes and great songs to sing along to.
Opening up for Eddie Vedder on the big stage was Maggie Rogers. She looked cute in her pixie cut and her fans knew all the lyrics and enjoyed her energy.
Vedder kicked things off with a very intimate acoustic solo set, singing Cat Stevens’ “Don’t Be Shy” and Pearl Jam’s “Wish List.” He gave a heartfelt speech about how much it means to him to be performing again in this type of setting. A year ago, it was hard to imagine festivals happening again. He was sincere and grateful, and thanked us for being there. It was a treat to hear him sing some favorites like “Society” (written for the soundtrack “Into the Wild”), and “Rise,” which he played on his mandolin.
After the acoustic set, he switched to electric and invited his solo band on stage – Andrew Watt, Glenn Hansard, and from Red Hot Chili Peppers past and present, Josh Klinghoffer and Chad Smith. The band is part of Vedder’s upcoming solo album, “Earthling,” and they performed a song recorded for the film “Flag Day,” called “I’ll Be Waiting.” Vedder hopped on the ukulele to perform “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash.
Then, a very special guest joined him. Vedder’s 17-year-old daughter, Olivia, was brought on stage to sing “Father’s Daughter,” another track written and recorded for the film “Flag Day.” It was her debut performance and she was amazing!
Vedder and crew also performed “The Haves”and “Long Way” from the solo album. The crowd could not get enough, asked for an encore, and the band obliged with Pearl Jam’s “Better Man.”
Day three appeared to round out the weekend and Brandi Carlile was the social director! She joined Yola for “Be My Friend,” had members of Pearl Jam on stage for her own set. In addition to performing her hits “The Story,” “The Joke,” and “You and Me on the Rock,” she did a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” and Soundgarden’s “Searching with My Good Eye Closed,” with help from PJ’s Mike McCready and Matt Cameron. She summed things up by saying, “This is just every vibe I could have hoped for tonight.”
Eddie Vedder was back on the big stage as the front-man for Pearl Jam. As a personal footnote, shooting Pearl Jam is such an amazing experience for me. Just like so many in the crowd, I grew up watching the “Jeremy” video on MTV, so to be in the photo pit to capture their performance is a dream come true.
Pearl Jam played so many fantastic songs… “Retrograde” (first time live), “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” “Corduroy,” “Alright,” “Daughter,” “I Got Id,” “Even Flow,” “Immortality,” and “Better Man” with Brandi Carlile joining them.
Vedder said kind words about the artists who had played throughout the weekend and shared Brandi Carlile’s statement: “There are a lot of power bitches on this stage! Brandi would know about power bitches, because it takes one to know one!”
With a four-song encore, Pearl Jam closed Ohana with “Alive.”
The 2021 Ohana Fest was a major success and now we take a deep breath and get ready for weekend number two as Vedder brings us Encore! This weekend, Pearl Jam, Beck, Brandi Carlile, White Reaper, Sleater-Kinney, and more will entertain us again, hopefully without thunder and lightning!