APR. 15/16/17


Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson brings some of
his musical friends to perform
in a casual concert with a cause

Jack Johnson sees the Kokua Festival as a day for family and friends to gather together and listen to music by some of his friends, with proceeds going towards supporting the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation, an environmental organization he co-founded.

The Second Annual Kokua Festival

A benefit concert for the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation featuring Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, John Cruz, Ozomatli, G. Love & Special Sauce, and Kawika Kahiapo & Kaukahi

Where: Waikiki Shell

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: Sold out

But if concertgoers also stop by the on-site booths set up by organizations to address local environmental concerns, or visit the organic food vendors, he couldn't be happier.

"The shows are cool because it's not just a show itself," Johnson said by phone from the airport in Brisbane, Australia. "There's a lot of room to promote projects."

Currently on tour Down Under with G. Love & Special Sauce (see Page 8), Johnson will bring not only his opening act to the festival, but other friends and colleagues who will join him on the bill, including Jackson Browne, John Cruz, Ozomatli, and Kawika Kahiapo and his band Kauhaki.

Johnson has a story about each act performing at the Kokua Festival, such as Kahiapo, a slack-key artist he met at a friend's wedding; John Cruz, who sat in on a song last year at the first Kokua Festival, and local favorites Ozomatli, "a good live band" who are also good friends of Johnson's band.

"A lot of times I just play with friends," he said. "I've been in touch with Jackson Browne. I've been doing some benefits with him and he owed me a favor. He was more than happy to help."

Johnson likens the Kokua Festival to a family-friendly, barbecue-style atmosphere. It's also a setting he captured on his newest album "In Between Dreams," which was recorded in his home studio, the Mango Tree, on the North Shore. Johnson talks a lot of friends and family being a source of inspiration for the album.

Sometimes, he writes about what he and his wife, Kim, might find funny. At other times, the song might detail a friend's circumstance. "I tried to make it a heartwarming, family-style album," he said of the album, currently number 8 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. "My favorite part is writing songs and lyrics. When you turn on the TV, the channels show negative programming. I want to talk about joy and the hard things and feeling better about the process of life. My personality is not really about big performances. I'd rather that performances become a sing-along, a bigger version of front porch sing-alongs, so that people can hear the words and enjoy the setting."

THE FESTIVAL, which started on Maui Wednesday before moving to Oahu, takes its cue from Neil Young's Bridge School benefits, now in its 15th year in San Francisco. The concerts have become an annual tradition in the Bay Area, with such wide-ranging acts as the Foo Fighters, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Beck and Thom Yorke of Radiohead performing acoustic sets to help raise funds for the school's programs to help those with severe speech and physical impairments with alternative means of communication and assistive technology applications.

One person who has a link to both affairs is Browne, who performed at the San Francisco show in 1990 and will play at this year's Kokua Festival .

The festival's focus, so far, has been on recycling. Johnson, his wife and a few of their close friends started up a recycling program, such as the one at his old school, Sunset Beach Elementary, with proceeds from last year's debut festival. With the hope of making the Kokua Festival an annual event, the mission of the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation is to raise money for school programs with an environmental emphasis.

In addition to expanding the recycling program, future plans include funding school field trips to the Waimea Valley Audubon Center, starting school gardens, and helping teachers raise funds for environmental studies.

"I hope this will be a continuing event," said Johnson, whose wife and young son have joined him on tour in Australia. "Last year, we were rained out, and had to switch places the night before. It sure took a hit. Last year was a learning process."

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