By Anthony Small
On Sept. 30, during yet another out-of-this-world Ohana Festival performance, host Eddie Vedder and his all-star band The Earthlings played his song “I’ll Be Waiting.”
They shared a brand-new verse, written specifically for and about Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, and the gathering of friends, family and fans known as Ohana Festival.
Just last week I was complaining
Sick of Seattle rain
Gotta get me down to Killer Dana
Gotta get me some surf Doheny way
And the full moon was here to greet me
And the band we began to play
We’re so lucky to see all you people
Even lucky to be in the rain.
That deep gratitude makes Ohana Festival more than just a music festival. Ohana Festival’s vibe emanates from its founder and the core values of shaping a better tomorrow for our planet and our humanity, motivating others to take action, and making a positive difference in the world.
Mike Long, who has curated the Storytellers Stage since 2019, said, “Hats off to Ohana Festival and Live Nation for creating a space to allow people to talk about real issues like climate action, Indigenous issues and talk about our oceans and our community.”
“Ohana is a place, certainly to celebrate music, but also to celebrate activism and inspiring change in our own backyard,” Long continued. “The Storytellers Stage is a space where the Ohana community activates around doing good.”
Vedder’s Pearl Jam bandmate, Jeff Ament, and former Fitz & The Tantrums drummer John Wick’s new project, Deaf Charlie, rocks hard, and embodies that “thinking of others” philosophy, sharing the opportunity to play Ohana with Wick’s fellow University of Montana instructors and students.
“Sharing this stage is like taking someone to a nice hotel that hadn’t been there before. It peels the jadedness off, and you feel their gratitude seep back into you. Bringing new people into the mix reminds us how lucky we are,” Ament said.
“When we first made that Deaf Charlie record, the last thing we thought was that we’d be playing it live, so to be making our live debut at Ohana, with the afternoon slot, it had to be more up-tempo,” Ament continued. “Reimagining our sound for live performance has been wild, but it seems faithful. I love music that has weight, and for me to attempt to sing it, it must have weight.”
Emcee Marlon Grace shared, “I’m not gonna lie; I was nervous because Ohana Festival is on this sacred ground, and there is a certain respect and honor to be here. What Eddie has built here is not at all like a regular festival. There is a very kind spirit.”
Thee Sacred Souls frontman Josh Lane said, “There is such diversity in the lineup, so it’s not just a typical rock and roll festival.”
“We can perform a song like ‘Sorrow For Tomorrow’ and let people know, let myself know, as a male, as a Black male, that crying is important, and if you try to hide that, you can make yourself sick,” he continued. “Crying is strong and an important part of being human. Musically and in life, we learn from our heroes, but add our own life experiences.”
The Aquadolls, who have previously played both the Storytellers and Tiki stages, played the Ohana main stage this year.
Melissa Brooks shared, “It was so fun to play songs from our new album, Charmed, and to look out and see all those amazing people in the crowd, and the ocean and palm trees, it’s a magical thing that you can only experience at Ohana!”
Anthony Small is Executive Director of Music Preserves Foundation, a City of Dana Point Arts & Culture Ambassador, local musician, and a California Arts Council Individual Artist Legacy Fellow. Small and his family have lived in Dana Point for 25 years.