I KNOW JACK: Hawaii Stays Country With Jack's Kokua Festival
I missed out on the ’60s. Born in the 1980s, there was no long hair and free love for me. No draft boards and no tour in ‘Nam. No knee bumps and no single fins. No Jimi Hendrix, no Beatles. But as a young twenty-something today, I do have something else, and it certainly feels a lot like the ’60s to me: Kokua Fest, Jack Johnson, and a bunch of really smoky air.
Now I know a lot of you will say there was much more to the ’60s than good music and, well, smoky air, and you’re right, there most definitely was. But for the sake of me going hippy this past weekend at the fifth annual Kokua Fest in Honolulu, we’ll pretend that was basically the gist of it.
By now everyone knows Jack Johnson is one of the greenest jive turkeys (still in ’60s mode here) to ever walk the face of the Earth. But after attending this year’s Kokua Fest, the man very well may have gone carbon negative. Walking past the dozens of people begging for tickets (they sold out in a mere 20 minutes) I made my way into the show to hear Hawaii-born folk sensation Mason Jennings playing in the background. Now, as was previously mentioned, Kokua isn’t your typical concert. After walking into the outdoor ampitheatre, concertgoers were greeted by more than 50 environmental/eco/green-living booths set up to raise awareness.
To your left, North Shore bodysurfing legend Mark Cunningham was passing out fliers and trying to Keep the Country, COUNTRY. To your right, a slew of local and mainland non-profits were raising awareness on environmental issues. There was even a bike valet (I left my SUV running because I couldn’t find a parking spot) for the hundreds of people that chose the pedal over the engine. The grounds were immaculate – no beer cups littering the ground, no fights, and the vibe couldn’t have been mellower. And then the headliners took the stage and the place got rowdy – for hippies.
First up was Dave Matthews making his debut appearance in Hawaii. Had there been a roof on the building, Dave would’ve had torn it clean off. With Tim Reynolds backing him up on stage, Dave brought the thousands in attendance to their feet. If I heard correctly, in between songs, Dave Matthews dropped a nice sound byte emblematic of Hawaii: “This is a beautiful country, this a beautiful place…I smell weed and chicken.” The crowd went nuts, but I didn’t smell any chicken.
After Dave Matthews finished his set, the man of the hour and one of the finest ambassadors Hawaii has on offer took the stage. The crowd greeted Jack like a hero-come home. Although the concert is setup as an event to raise money for Jack and his wife Kim’s own non-profit with 100 percent of the money raised going to the Kokua Foundation (an organization setup to raise support for environmental education and awareness in Hawaii’s schools) the concertgoers were there to see Jack. After playing a tremendous set for the overjoyed crowd, Jack and Dave Matthews took the stage together to the delight of the concertgoers.
In the end, 1968 or 2008, the show was fantastic. It’s not often that you can keep a thousand person crowd mellow and fight-free while raising awareness and money for an eco-minded organization, but the Kokua Fest did just that. Woodstock, eat your heart out.
For more info on the Kokua Foundation, go to Kokuafoundationhawaii.org.