A Guitar Lover’s Dream!

When looking from the outside in, established producers and co-founders Doug DeLuca (Jimmy Kimmel Live) and John Watkin (Planet Grande) have dream jobs. However, they both admitted that creating the Malibu Guitar Festival and now producing its third year has been a childhood dream come true.

Like many teenage boys, playing guitar was a beloved pastime for both DeLuca and Watkin, longtime residents of Malibu….in fact, Watkin still plays in bands to this day. Watkin’s grandmother taught him to play the ukulele at just nine years old…he added, “I do a pretty mean uke version of Stairway to Heaven!” DeLuca’s mom gave him his first guitar when he was in second grade just after he had a tonsillectomy. He was in a variety of metal bands growing up.

The festival, presented by D’Angelico Guitars was originally conceived by co-producers Doug DeLuca, John Watkin, and Alejandra DeLuca in 2015 and was a huge success. Deluca and Watkin run the production side of the event, while Alejandra (wife of Doug DeLuca) took over the charity aspect of the festival. Alejandra DeLuca, a meditation/motivational coach and owner of Manifesting Success and Wellness has been active in her Malibu community. She has gathered deserving local nonprofits who will benefit from the festival.

Mick Fleetwood Photo by Daniel Sullivan; Courtesy of Malibu Guitar Festival

Offering four days of live music, the event opens with an all-star charity benefit at Casa Escobar with surprise guests. John Hiatt, Robby Krieger, Hunter Hayes, Steve Ferrone, Waddy Wachtel, Bernard Fowler, Scott Thurston, Kenneth Brian…are just some of the guest musicians one can expect.

Each lineup of the weekend’s events has been carefully crafted. When asked how they decide on the band order, Doug DeLuca recounted the early planning stages, “As the acts start coming in it’s about creating an experience. As a fan, I place myself in the audience and visualize the flow.” Watkin said he does make suggestions, but mostly leaves it to Doug. “He’s the king of talent.”

Jamtown ft. Donavon Frankenreiter, G.Love, Cisco Adler; Courtesy of Malibu Guitar Festival

He also stressed the importance of the role of Steve Ferrone (drummer for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) as musical director. DeLuca agreed and added, “If they pass the Ferrone test, they’re in!!”

The weekend continues with Friday night’s “Hot Licks.” Steve Vai headlines on May 19 at Casa Escobar. The evening showcases several talented female musicians such as Nik West, Lari Basilio, Gretchen Menn and Zepparella. See full lineup of each day on website. On Saturday, the main event will run from 11:30am-10pm and features heavy hitters Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, Jamtown featuring Donavan Frankenreiter, G. Love & Cisco Adler, and the list goes on and on.

Steve Vai; Courtesy of Malibu Guitar Festival

Finally, to wrap up the weekend celebration of guitar legends, the Rolling Stones Brunch pays homage to the fathers of Rock n’ Roll. The brunch will feature stories from musician/author Andy Babiuk’s book…Rolling Stones Gear: All The Stones’ Instruments From Stage To Studio as well as live performances by the Tearaways, Brooke Halpin and more.

Since inception, Alejandra DeLuca said she wanted to feature a charitable aspect to the festival and help grassroots organizations. The opening night which kicks off the festival is now a benefit. “This is an opportunity to also have a taste of the festival prior to the main festival day in a more intimate venue.” She stated that awareness for these nonprofits was an added benefit. THERAsurf celebrates the healing power of the ocean. Children experience surf therapy through the organization’s programs…proving to create a powerful impression not only on the child but the family as well.

Hunter Hayes, Courtesy of Malibu Guitar Festival

The Emily Shane Foundation was founded out of a painful tragedy…in loving memory of Emily Rose Shane, who was tragically murdered on April 3, 2010 at the age of 13. “This year, we chose to work with this charity because it is also very dear to the Malibu people. It is the representation of transformation of a painful story into one of healing and power.”

The third charity to benefit is the Karl LaDue Wodakota Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the education of native youth with knowledge and skills that enable them to embrace their traditional heritage and culture. Alejandra said that since Malibu is Chumash land, she felt there was a need to connect the festival with those roots. At an preliminary producer meeting, she had a profound experience. “An osprey, a white eagle, kept circling above us for a long time and pretty close. I had a very strong sense of communication with that eagle in the moment, and felt we were given the blessing of the land.” She later learned about Chief Arvol Looking Horse from a close friend who had interviewed him while he was peacefully protesting against the Dakota pipeline. “In that moment, I felt the connection between the white eagle and the Chief,” said Alejandra. “It was meant to be.” Malibu’s ceremonial Elder, Mati Waiya, will present the award.

Robby Krieger; Courtesy of Malibu Guitar Festival

Additionally, Alejandra explained that choosing Robby Krieger for the festival’s first Life Achievement Award was an obvious choice due to the timing of this year being the 50th anniversary of The Doors. An exceptional musician and guitarist, Krieger participated in the first inaugural Malibu Guitar Festival.

“We believe that it is in giving that we receive,” said Alejandra. “Music is about giving. Music goes out — it is an evocation, an exhalation. By giving, we hope we can ‘ignite’ the desire of others to give and to help. Her husband Doug Deluca added, “It really is about music and art bringing people together for great causes. What could be better or more fun?

Tommy Emmanuel; Courtesy of Malibu Guitar Festival

The Malibu Guitar Festival runs from Thursday, May 18 through Sunday, May 21, 2017; Check the website for times and locations and full band list. Additional events took place earlier in the week, such as an art show, music workshops, even a fashion event. http://malibuguitarfestival.com/

Originally published at medium.com


  • Kathy Leonardo

    Founder of LAArtParty.com and EatTravelGo.com, Kathy has been a freelance writer for fifteen years. She writes about art, food, travel and entertainment

    Kathy Leonardo is the founder of LAArtParty.com (2010) and EatTravelGo.com (2018). She has been a freelance writer for the past fifteen years, writing for Los Angeles newspapers as well as national and international print and online publications. LAArtParty.com is an arts and entertainment website featuring events taking place all over Los Angeles. Each month, it spotlights all types of events, art, music, theatre, dining, local businesses, some travel, plus weekend getaways. EatTravelGo.com is a food and travel site with an art twist. Leonardo's articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Argonaut Newspaper, LA Weekly, Santa Monica Mirror, Downtown News, Santa Monica Daily Press, Artillery Magazine, and WhiteHot Magazine, among others.