Malibu Guitar Festival, Main Event On Saturday May 20th 2017
Malibu Guitar Festival went strong in its third year, with a four-day event sponsored by D’Angelico Guitars, including an opening night fundraiser, two days of performance/activations in local restaurants, bars and outdoor public areas, and of course an all-day outdoor Festival concert on Saturday before ending in a Sunday brunch, which this year was a tribute to the greatest rock band around, the Rolling Stones.
During the charity event, Doors guitarist Robby Krieger received a Lifetime Achievement Award, and an all-star band featuring Krieger, ex-Wings guitarist Laurence Juber, John Hiatt, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone, and country star Hunter Hayes performed.
I attended the main event of this relatively new festival on Saturday, managing to see 10 bands during the afternoon and evening, which culminated with Mick Fleetwood Blues Band on the main stage at the end of the day… How often do you see a legend perform in such a relatively intimate setting?
I arrived around 3 pm, just in time to catch a set by Duane Betts and the Pistoleers, who rocked the small stage with expansive Allman-esque jams. Once you know that Duane is the son of Allman Brothers founding member Dickey Betts and was name after Duane Allman himself, you understand where his talent comes from. I didn’t caught his entire set but he joined the supergroup Jamtown with Donavon Frankenreiter, Cisco Adler, G-Love for a grand finale late at night, and his guitar solos were as effortless as they were legend-inspired.
On the main stage, Buzz Wizzards, Jimmy Kimmel’s house band (featuring Toshinari Yanagi, Jimmy Earl, Mini Carlsson) mixed blues, rock and jazz with a lot of shredding, enhanced by the presence of Cleto Escobedo on vocals and especially Stephen Ferrone, the drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers … they even treated us with a cover of the Pretenders with Mini Carlsson on vocals and guitar.
The Soft White Sixties were another delight, bringing a modern twist to some infectious R&B dancefloors, while the moonwalking-like moves of soulful singer and frontman Octavio Genera were just plain delicious.
The Kenneth Brian Band played a set of country Southern rock with a large-screen horizon and the bright yellow western shirt of their frontman and once again Stephen Ferrone joined them on drums for a few songs… actually some of their tunes had that Heartbreakers touch, and after a salute to Chris Cornell, went from a slow burning Nashville vibe blending into explosive instrumental solos to extra long jams of outlaw country.
On the other stage, Hollis Brown had a lot of soul with once again some southern rock accent, and a frontman with a tambourine,… should I add they named themselves after Bob Dylan’s ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’? But they were no balladeers, as they certainly unleashed some furious Americana rock.
Hunter Hayes is surely a new country-rock sensation, you should have seen the rows of young girls front row in front of the main stage, looking at him as if he were the new male Taylor Swift with a shredding guitar… I must have passed this age a long time ago, not that I have ever reached that phase, but this young guy has an impressive resume: he is a five-time GRAMMY nominee, has a No. 1 self-titled debut album and chart-topping sophomore album, and already three No. 1 singles,… on Saturday, the main stage was all about these drooling loving faces.
Wrenn, fronted by a young woman, may have represented the female portion of the festival, quite in minority during this main event … With a indie-folk rock vibe, he played sad but dynamic songs, and performed with a very emotive voice, which somehow, reminded me about Jewel.
Mick Fleetwood Blues Band took the stage shorty after, as a matter of fact, there was almost no waiting between acts all-day long, and I am not sure that people expected Mick Fleetwood to sit behind his large drumset. Who knew the legendary musician was also a drummer? The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band is his side project and also features ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito, and showcases material from the famous group’s early Peter Green-led period, they did the classic ‘Black Magic Woman’. As it is suggested by their moniker, it got very bluesy, from classic, old-school blues cuts to Led Zeppelin sequels and Chuck Berry’s licks. Rick Vito was the fontman the entire time, and beside a few minutes of talking, ‘a word from the drummer’ explaining the band’s adventure and Rick’s deep love for the blues, we didn’t see much of Mick Fleetwood, but we surely could hear his powerful drumming, fueled by a youthful energy. At one point, they brought up another drum kit closer to the stage, and it was possible to better admire Mick Fleetwood’s style… He continued with a massive tropical drum duel (another drummer had joined) with chants and screams in a super energetic interlude, before another deep-South-outlaw-ish blues and some final words from the drummer, telling us to ‘remember to be very very kind to each other’.
But if you left after their performance you were completely wrong because Tommy Emmanuel played a mind blowing guitar on the small stage just after, and saying I have never seen someone play as fast and brilliantly the acoustic guitar would be an understatement. Personally schooled by Chet Atkins, the guitar-virtuoso man has won every award you can imagine, and each one of his performances is a jaw-dropping, wows-triggering, brain-blasting experience.
The festival closed with Jamtown featuring surfer and guitarist Donavon Frankenreiter, Cisco Adler (music producer Lou Adler’s son), G-Love (from that Special Sauce), making one of their premiere appearances as a group on the festival stage… They were joined by Duane Betts and many others and wanted to jam all night long if it wasn’t for this 10 pm curfew.
Located in one of the most beautiful beach cities of Southern California, Malibu Guitar Festival is such a loveable festival, where else can you get that close to guitar legends, see them play improvised jams together and even play guitar yourself at these D’Angelico booths? It is still in its growing years but it is filled with surprises
The entire week, the city of Malibu celebrates guitars, guitar players and enthusiasts, hosts jam-sessions, school performances, guitar demos, guitar themed art show, … and the best part of the whole event has to be its charitable side, since the fundraising night benefits special needs and struggling children (for Therasurf, Emily Shane Foundation, and Native American youth of The Karl LaDue Wodakota Foundation). An ambitious all-star young festival with a big heart.