Photo: Ron Elkman / USA Today

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on Ohana Festival: 'Music and Surf the Ultimate Combination'

September 27, 2018

By Scott T. Sterling

Eddie Vedder is the most fired up for this year’s Ohana Festival at Doheny Beach in Dana Point. He thinks you should be, too.

“I believe the idea was simply this--where can we set up a stage or two as close to the beach as possible! After months of research, the answer came back, Doheny. This was stunning news to me as Doheny was the spot where I caught my first waves as a kid,” Vedder explained recently behind the fledgling festival he launched with fellow surfer, Kelly Slater.

“I had carried so many indelible memories of being nine and ten years old out there. Buying eight feet of bungee cord from Jack's Surf Shop to fashion a leash (or leg rope), was so dangerous...those cords came whipping back. It really came flooding back to me the day before the first show. My first time back since all those years ago. Looked just the same. Except we had some bleachers set up on the sand and a great sound system that you could hear while paddling in the line up,” Vedder recalled of the inaugural Ohana event back in 2016.

“It would be really great to play every spot mentioned in the song ‘Surfin' USA.’ So far we got Doheny and Waimea Bay. I gotta get on that.”

The Pearl Jam singer credits the local community embracing the show, as well as the musical camaraderie formed at the annual festival as major factors in keeping him inspired.

“It's been a true honor to work with the community and organizers to create a stimulating vibe and uplifting atmosphere for the great crowds and incredible musicians who come out to play in the park. To have the Pixies, X, Mudhoney, Jack Johnson, etc., etc, etc. play your festival has been so satisfying. Far beyond our initial vision for it all,” he raved.

“Seeing Fiona Apple play a truly joyful set in the sun, I know I'll never forget that. Being there while Lana Del Rey and Chan Marshall (Cat Power), hung out for the first time. Lana, who is singing on Cat Power's new single. When you get to witness that and know you've had a small part in that, there's definitely a healthy sense of pride you can glean from that.

Vedder had nothing but praise for legendary singer and songwriter, Elvis Costello, raving about the process of working with the musical icon.

“When he starts singing from the chair across from you, you're hit with the realization that he is equipped with his own personal P.A. system in his throat,” the singer said of Costello. “Perfectly tuned and a voice that's like no other. It's Elvis!”

As for the 2018 edition of Ohana, Vedder is fully fired up for the stellar lineup of artists set to grace the festival stage.

“I'm building up my stamina now 'cause I don't wanna miss a thing,” he promised. “Johnny Marr and I worked together with Neil Finn, so I'm excited to see him again. Beck, Legend. John Doe, Legendary Legend. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs...truly amazing live. Pow Pow Family Band made a super exciting first record, can't wait to see them live. A young surfer named Jonny Roundhouse writes songs about surf and is so perfect for the bill. Liz Phair, Mumford and Sons, Norah Jones, Amos Lee, Eric just keeps going. I'd really like to hear at least one band a day from in the waves. Music and surf, the ultimate combination. And I hear there's a swell coming in just for the occasion. Nature Approves. Surf's Up Ohana!”

For fans curious to know what to expect from next year’s lineup and beyond, Vedder couldn’t resist offering up a sweet and intriguing tease.

“Not everyone knows that Springsteen was a full-on surfer back in Jersey. His first bands used to practice in the warehouse of "Challenger Surfboards" back in the day,” Vedder revealed. “All their gear was covered in the dust and resin emanating from the shaping room. It sure would be something to hear his live vocals pushing out over the waves.

Even rock legends like Eddie Vedder know that scoring another rock legend for your own super cool musical festival is far from easy.

“He's been working hard on Broadway. By year's end he would have played 250 I'm not gonna be asking him anytime soon...the Boss needs a break!,” Vedder cracked. “Pearl Jam would be another good one. If I only had an in.”

The 2018 Ohana Festival will go down this weekend, Sept. 28-30. Tickets are available here.