A three hundred-pound plus Hawaiian man was crying and he didn't care who knew it.
He and thousands of others held their arms over their heads, letting the tears flow, as they sang along to Pearl Jam's cover version of Izzy Kamakawiwo'ole's anthem of protest and love, "Hawaii '78."
"Tears would come from each others eyes as they would stop to realize, that our people are in great, great danger now," emoted Eddie Vedder Saturday night in Honolulu's Blaisdell Arena. "It was a heavy moment for sure, a perfectly fitting cap to three days of celebration, conservation and consideration for the people of Hawaii, Pearl Jam, Kelly Slater and the North Shore surfing community.
Mid-morning on Thursday, Slater was in the Johnson's backyard looking out at the windswept conditions at Pipe. He wasn't thinking about surfing, his mind was on music. "Ed wants me to do "Indifference" with him tonight," he said without expression. "I'm ready. I guess."
He jammed with Pearl Jam in San Diego a few months back in front of tens of thousands. But doing it in a small room, (where mistakes aren't muffled) packed with his peers and close friends is another trip entirely. "I hope I don't screw up," Slater laughed. "Because I'll never live it down."
Pearl Jam's frontman Eddie Vedder has his own fears to deal with. "I don't know if I should do it or not," he told me on Thursday afternoon before paddling into the sacred circle during the opening ceremonies of the Quiksilver Eddie Akiau Big Wave Invitational.
"What's the bumper sticker say?" I replied half in jest, half in motivation. "Good one," Vedder laughed. "Yeah, but for me, it's 'Eddie Would Die'."
Under the mindful watch of Ross Clarke-Jones and his friend The Champ, Vedder paddled into the distance, joining the circle. With hundreds looking on the beach, a set came through and filled into the Bay. A startled Pearl Jam crewmember looked at me and laughed nervously and said, "We've got three more shows to do, hope he's alright."
A serious and eventually smiling Vedder navigated the treacherous Waimea shorepound with Slater. " That was amazing," he beamed, wiping the water and a little sand from his beard. "Now it's time to go to work."
Across Kam Highway lies the Waimea Valley Audubon Society, a truly magnificent educational, nature preserve. The spot oozes goodness. At dusk Thursday, it was also home to the most shocked and confused peacocks on the planet. The tranquil world that they knew was about to be plucked, because Pearl Jam was to play on their turf. The birds puffed their chests, squawked and spread their feathers at the first strum of the guitar at sound check. They were pissed. I'll put it to you this way: I've been at wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs in rooms bigger than this and Pearl Jam was playing it.
The Quiksilver sponsored show tripled as a kick off to the Eddie Aikau event, a benefit for the North Shore Community Land Trust, Community Conservation Network, Hawaiian Lifeguard Association Junior Lifeguard Program and Punana Leo O Ko'olauloa, a North Shore school dedicated to preserving Hawaiian language and culture, and a throw down for the eight-time world champ and burgeoning musician.
"This is the most private party I've ever been to and we're the entertainment," said Vedder as he took the stage. "I know more than half the faces in this room." He went on to introduce guitarist Mike McCready to Peter Mel.
"I'm towing him in," said Vedder after bringing up Kelly Slater. "He's taken me out at Waimea, and it wasn't small. Oh yeah, and Teahupo'o too. So this is my way at getting him back," laughed Vedder as Slater joined him for the slow and moody Pearl Jam ballad, "Indifference."
Kelly Slater's duet with Vedder wasn't a token celebrity payback, nor was it a backslapping bro thing either. Because the artist formerly known as Jimmy Slade can sing his ass off. No lie. At one point, with my eyes closed, stone cold sober, I had to open them to see who was singing -- and I write about music for a living.
Now, with a shiny new black Gibson with "SL8R" and a red crown adorned over the eight hanging over his shoulder, the eight time champ showed his licks trading chops with bassist/hardcore skater Jeff Ament, and guitarist Stone Gossard and Mike McCready on Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World."
While the jamming was reaching its apex, Vedder walked to the edge of the stage, spread his arms out and fell on top of the crowd. He kept singing as he was passed to the back of the floor. Vedder was laughing, smiling and belting it out as he was pushed back to the front by the likes of Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Martin Potter, North Shore surf royalty and various protectors of the coast to end the historic night in the Valley.
"Could you believe Slater?" laughed Tom Carroll. "I knew he could sing, but really now, c'mon mate, that was sick." Pearl Jam's Ament agreed with Carroll wholeheartedly after the show.
"We've had some people do that song with us and Kelly really nailed it and I'm not surprised. He's one of those guys, who can pretty much do anything."
An hour after the show, a now bartending Kelly Slater admitted that he didn't know he was playing his specialized shiny new Gibson guitar, he was too lost in the moment.
"They handed me a guitar and I didn't look. I thought it was one of Eddie's. Then halfway through the song I realized it."
"You mean, you didn't know?" asked Vedder. "That's beautiful."
It was well after midnight on Sunday morning at the Honolulu show afterparty when Eddie Vedder sauntered up to the table wine bottle in hand. He was hugging everyone at the table thanking each person for being there.
"That was so incredible to be able to end the tour here with everyone here, Kelly, Mark Richards, Ross, everyone. So great," said Vedder.
"Open up that shirt Ed and show us what you got underneath it," said Rob Machado. Vedder put his bottle down and complied with Machado's request to unveil his "Eddie Would Go" shirt to the laughing table. He laughs along with 'em.
"I still think mine should say "Eddie Would Die."
By Tim Donnelly