Is Jack Johnson still a huge concert draw in 2018?
That was the question that was on my mind as I made the rainy drive out to the Austin 360 Amphitheater Wednesday night. A spring storm had delayed the doors opening, but no rain or thunder was going to stop me from seeing the former professional surfer-turned soft rock environmental philanthropist.
SEE PHOTOS: Jack Johnson at the Austin360 Amphitheater
It’s here where I should probably mention that I was basically pre-destined to like this show, barring any excessive preaching from the stage or some other decidedly not-Jack Johnson shenanigans.
The last time I saw Jack Johnson in concert, it was 2007. My family was stationed in Hawai'i. And if there are any three albums that are permanently seared into my memory, they’re Johnson’s first three releases: “Brushfire Fairytales,” On and On” and the one that got him famous outside of the Aloha State, “In Between Dreams.”
Dude was inescapable on O’ahu in the early aughts. Those songs were the background music for so many of the block parties, cookouts, camping trips and beach days of my youth. Simple songs that reminded me of a great experience in my life.
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On the night before the movers came to pack up all of our stuff for an overseas move to South Korea, we decided it would be a good idea to see Johnson host his Kōkua Festival, a benefit show that donated proceeds to the Kōkua Hawai'i Foundation, an environmental non-profit that Johnson started.
We saw him perform at the Waikiki Shell in Honolulu. Wikipedia tells me that Eddie Vedder, Boom Gaspar, Ernie Cruz, Jr., Matt Costa and The Girlas opened for him, but all I remember is Vedder getting drunk on red wine and growling his way through “Better Man.”
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I was 15 years old, and that show was the first time I was exposed to marijuana in a public place. Honolulu Police Department officers aimlessly walked the lawn, casually confiscating joints and placing them into large painters’ buckets while my father silently fumed. When the night became late, we left somewhere in the middle of Johnson’s set so we could get up early enough to meet the movers. I remember hearing “Flake” as we hiked back to the truck, ready to start a new chapter in our lives in a few short weeks. It was a brief experience, but a memorable one.
All of that is to say, I knew as I was driving out to Del Valle, I was looking for a familiar rush of nostalgia, and I didn’t care if it rained or not. But would it live up to the memories I had built up in my mind of those five years of Hawai'i?
The sun came out just in time for the show tonight in Austin. Jack and the band are excited to be on the road again...