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Jack Johnson welcomed friends from ALO, Ben Harper, Kenny Loggins, David Crosby and more to raise money in support of the victims of the Montecito mudslides, with 100 percent of the net proceeds going directly to the recovery efforts for affected families and individuals. A recurring theme of Sunday night’s show was community and giving a huge thank you to the first responders and volunteers who were on the front lines of this horrible disaster.
On a cool evening with overcast skies, ALO opened up the first notes of the Santa Barbara Bowl 2018 concert season. Santa Barbara local and Jack Johnson band member Zach Gill, who apparently has been beard farming in Goleta, led the band into classics like “Maria” and “Barbeque.” Guitarist Lebo and bass player Steve Adams kept pace, providing fun and happy rhythms to get the early arriving faithful a nice warmup.
Next up was Harper. He delivered an emotional 30-minute solo set that started with two songs on piano. Dawning a trademark wide-brimmed hat, he then took center stage to sing and play his signature laptop slide guitar. He finished his solo set with a few acoustic guitar tunes, including a crowd favorite “Diamonds on the Inside.”
Before Johnson started his set, he thanked all of the first responders and members of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade. He then introduced Abe Powell, the chief of the Bucket Brigade. Powell gave an emotional talk about the importance of community, remembering the ones who were lost and the ability of the community to come together when tragedy strikes.
The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade was founded as an all-volunteer group to help dig out homes and help Montecito recover from the Thomas Fire mudslides. Members of the Bucket Brigade could be seen wearing their now trademark red T-shirts throughout the venue.
Johnson took the stage and opened his set with three acoustic solo songs before bringing out his band. The first friend sit-in of the night came as close friends of Johnson and members of ALO Lebo and Adams joined. ALO and Johnson went to school together at UCSB in the 1990s and reminisced about old times. Gill jokingly referred to the two bands as rivals. There were a lot of laughs.
The next guest sit-in was Loggins joined by his daughter, Hana. The Montecito resident has sold more than 20 million albums in his storied career. He sang his classic “Danny’s Song.” The moment seemed to galvanize the evening as his young daughter, Hana, sang a powerful verse. Loggins seemed to be relaxed and enjoying the moment.
Next up and perhaps the highlight of the evening was the surprise announcement of Santa Ynez resident David Crosby. Once Crosby found his microphone and Lebo was ready at the laptop pedal steel guitar, the crew launched into “Teach Your Children.” Loggins and Crosby’s vocal harmonizing was astonishingly tight and crisp. The attendees, many of whom were bundled up, joined in the harmonizing as the feel-good moment seemed to radiate throughout the venue. This particular ensemble stayed on to play another CSN classic and rocked “The One You Love.”
The night continued with Gill grabbing his accordion and taking center stage. Johnson asked the crowd if they wanted to hear “Devil Went Down to Bavaria,” or if they wanted to hear “Purple Rain” by Prince. The crowd yelled “Purple Rain.” Gill nailed it, and the chilly folks were right on top of singing along to the chorus. Everybody loved it. It was a true laugh out loud moment.
Finally, Harper joined Johnson. The two have a strong bond that was forged backstage at this very venue. Johnson once was a fan — now a close friend. Harper was one of the first people Johnson called when he decided to organize this amazing community event, and of course Harper was willing to move his schedule around to be part of it. These two have provided countless memorable moments on this very stage over the years. They played several songs together, including “Flake.” At the end of the night came another one of the highlights when the duo sang a Harper anthem, “With My Own Two Hands,” echoing lyrics like, “I can change the world with my own two hands.”
To cap off the evening, they sang probably the best song the tandem sing together, Bob Marley’s “High Tide or Low Tide.” Harper’s falsetto was deeply haunting as the two together sang, “I’ll be by your side.”
The evening was all about support, friendship, honor and dedication — a celebration and a thank you to those serving. Proof that music heals. The gathering seemed to encompass the feelings of community and gave permission to come together to have some good times and build a stronger future.
— Steve Kennedy is a Noozhawk contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.