The beloved California band closed off Ohana Festival 2019 on Sunday with high spirits.
Time and time again, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have proven that this life is more than just a read through. As the sun set and the energy in the air built up, crowds started gathering up to the front. Oceans waves breezed through the air as the “Californication”-native band, whose hits span across four decades, prove that their spunky live performance energy and memorable funk-rock tunes are enough to get legions of fans still coming out and selling out their shows, time and time again.
Opening with an upbeat drum section from Chad Smith, an epic guitar-driven groove battle between bassist Flea and guitarist Josh Klinghoffen started. The trio started going off as they transitioned into the opening bassline for “Can’t Stop.” Frontman Anthony Kiedis came vaulting onto the stage, adorned in a white cutoff shirt and white cowboy hat, as he sang-rap to the band’s infamous hit.
They then went into a flurry of classic hits, old and new, with “Otherside” into 2016’s hit “Dark Necessities” taking over the night. The beginning piano keys fused with Smith’s impending drums and Klinghoffen’s guitar riffs all played in succession to Flea’s memorable introduction bass line. Kiedis flailed around the stage as the adrenaline pumped and the crowd sang back, “Dark necessities are part of my design.”
Their set was full of a notable energy that never died down. Each of the band members had their own moments to shine, as Flea played an impressive bass solo as they went into a cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Pearl Jam frontman and festival curator Eddie Vedder even joined the band onstage for a cover of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” where the humility and pure love of music and community shines between artist and fan.
Anthony Kiedis’s incredible stage presence, from confidently strutting his bare-chested bod across the stage and jumping into the air mid-song through moments of “Snow (Hey Oh)” and “Californication,” his energy was widely felt.
Drummer Chad Smith’s pounding drum cymbals, rolls and improvisations throughout the show showed his mastery. The inimitable Michael Peter Balzary, better known as Flea’s, mastery over the bass was clear and wide, as his funk-driven grooves and comic presence got the crowd rolling. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (although joining the band 10 years ago after the one-and-only John Frusciante) still proves his worth as his energy and slick guitar-moves and licks add much to the Peppers set. Offering more heavy guitar sounds and solos full of screaming rock-and-roll “wah-wahs” and tight “chaka-chaka” rhythms, he is still a force to be reckoned with.
At the end of the Peppers’ set, Kiedis shouted out, “Let’s figure out a way to breathe for a while!”
A festival that runs its theme on community, intimacy and protecting and caring for our world, Vedder, as always artists on the bill, reiterated those sentiments throughout the three-day event. From taking care of the environment and the seas, from polluted oceans to money-laundering big heads, the importance of taking care of our earth, voting and doing it all through music, is a touching and valuable message to leave by.
As Sunday night’s festivities closed right on the dot at 10pm due to beach curfews, the longer exit time and bustling lines for the shuttles were just a minor inconvenience compared to the festival as a whole.
As a hodgepodge of music festivals have sprung in the past decade, Ohana has proven that a festival can still succeed when rooted in positive and humane issues. Even as others strive to get the biggest names in pop and gather up all of social media’s biggest “influencers,” the humility behind Ohana’s mission to benefit outside of themselves is honorable — and I am positive next year’s 2020 festival will offer enough chill for the political climate’s impending heat.