In anticipation of the Malibu Guitar Festival, which kicked off yesterday, May 18, and runs through May 21, we sat down with Festival performer and all-around guitar virtuoso Steve Vai to chat about the week’s festivities, guitars and more.
Now in its third year, the Malibu Guitar Festival brings together some of the world’s greatest players for four days of all things guitar, along with unique jam sessions, guitar demos and a one-of-kind guitar-themed art show.
This year’s festival will feature performances by Vai, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, Jamtown with Donavon Frankenreiter, Cisco Adler & G Love, Hunter Hayes, John Hiatt, Robby Kriger of the Doors, Zepparella and Tommy Emmanuel.
Now let’s check in with Mr. Vai.
Talk about a specific guitar that changed the way you play.
The [Ibanez] JEM has had the biggest effect on my playing style. I designed it to have 24 frets at a time when it was rare, a floating tremolo, particular pickup configuration, particular cutaway and body shape, last four frets scalloped, etc. This guitar opened up some possibilities that were not there on conventional guitars in the early Eighties.
Some incredible players are performing at the Malibu Guitar Festival. Tell us about the greatest live performance you've ever witnessed.
There are many great live performances I’ve seen, but a few stick out. Tom Waits in Seattle because, he’s Tom Waits and my favorite artist. Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden because it was my first concert and it blew me away. Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan because he’s connected and God flowed through him.