Nothing to 'Bu about

by Sid Feddema

Wailing Whammy Bars and Luscious Licks at the Malibu Guitar Festival

Calm and unassuming was the atmosphere when I stepped into Malibu Village last Saturday—tempered by the heat of the day, almost everyone was conserving their energy for what really mattered: the 3rd annual Malibu Guitar Festival. Though the event had kicked off at noon, it saw a relaxed start, but the tempo accelerated as the day went on.

From the street, you wouldn’t have known much was happening; there were no obnoxious signs or over-the-top advertisements, the lack of which added to the close-knit vibe of the event, familial and exclusive at the same time. Entering the ticket center was like entering a whole new world—mosaic guitars lined the walls, interspersed with paintings and collages paying homage to the greats of guitar history. The rest of the festival grounds were similarly enthralling. Past the ticket center’s art-filled walls lay a guitar nerd’s dream: tables and tents of rows of stringed instruments to try out, ranging from vintage steel guitars to the newest electrics.

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As for the music, the lineup was for the books. Drawing on a diverse selection of guitarists, the set list featured, amongst others, headliner Mick Fleetwood Blues Band; legendary acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel; Jamtown featuring Donavon Frankenreiter, G. Love, and Cisco Adler; and country star Hunter Hayes - whose youthful enthusiasm showed between songs as he confessed to a secret identity as a “guitar geek.”

The festival took on a somber note as it carried the weight of singer Chris Cornell’s unexpected death the day before, but having that many talented individuals in one place created a unique and supportive emotional atmosphere, demonstrating just how close this community really is. Remembrances took more than one form as a special humanitarian award was presented to Chief Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the sacred bundle for the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations, and a lifetime achievement award for Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, in honor of the iconic band’s 50th anniversary.

If anything, Cornell’s passing only made the event more sentimental, and it was, overall, a tremendous success. As the beach city’s third consecutive guitar festival came to an end, it was clear that both the musicians and the crowd were a passionate bunch, and there will only be good things to come from next year’s installment.

Written and photographed by Via Savage