Family fun: Blues & BBQ event caters to all, especially families, with music by sibling band Wimberley Bluegrass

By THERESA KEEGAN

Laguna Live! is hosting one last big community-wide fling on Sunday, June 9 at 4 p.m. before the real summer kicks in. Bluegrass & BBQ is an afternoon devoted to some foot-stomping, fun live music and great grilled treats said Cindy Prewitt, president of the nonprofit group.

“Our mission is to help people appreciate and learn about different genres of music,” said Prewitt. “Bluegrass is fun, it’s danceable and it’s great for families.”

The afternoon at the campus of Laguna College of Art + Design, features the Wimberley Bluegrass Band, a popular quartet that was named one of Los Angeles’ Top Five Bluegrass Bands. Their claim to fame is not only do they perform great music, but they are all siblings.

For the past 16 years they’ve been plucking and strumming and singing together and, amazingly, they say it’s still a whole lot of fun.

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Photos courtesy Laguna Live!

The bucolic grounds at Laguna College of Art + Design will again be the site of Laguna Live’s Blues & BBQ event

“We were begging our parents for instruments at Christmas because we just wanted to play together,” said Michael, 25. “We were between 8 and 12 years old.”

Like most things the four of them seem to undertake, there was instant harmony.

“We never really intended to perform,” he said. “We just liked the music.” However, when they were at a local open mic event just listening the proprietor suggested they work up a song for the next month’s jam session. The rest is history.

They are self-taught musicians, but learning of all kinds seems a natural attribute that flows in their genes. They made headlines in 2016 when all four graduated from Chapman University. Michael, then just 17, was the youngest person to have graduated Chapman at the time.

“We’ve always gotten along pretty well together as siblings,” said James, 29 “so that helped going into music and performing.” As the elder of the twins with Mark, they could be considered the middle children, but the Wimberleys defy any sibling stereotypes.

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The popular Wimberley Bluegrass Band will perform at the event. Members include siblings James, Michael, Danielle and Mark Wimberley.

The youngest, Michael is lead vocalist, although they all sing. Danielle, 30, plays the mandolin, younger twin James plays the banjo and resonator guitar, Mark plays guitar and Michael the fiddle. Ironically, they are the same instruments their parents selected for each of them so many years ago.

“Our parents were matching the instruments to our personalities,” said Michael. “They were right – they usually are. We all liked the banjo, but we started playing and learning at the same time, these were the instruments we settled on.”

Their parents, who shy from the spotlight, are understandably proud.

“They love it,” said Michael. “Now that we’re adults and gainfully employed, as well as playing music, they can sit back and just enjoy.”

The family shies away from comparisons to the Von Trapps (“there aren’t so many of us”) or the Jackson 5 (“we get along”).

“We didn’t know siblings were supposed to hate each other until it was too late,” said James. “Playing music helped us form a good relationship and performing solidified that.”

The family is comfortable with the classics, but also compose their own unique brand of bluegrass, with shows providing a mixture of music.

“We love the traditional sounds,” said Mark. “Bluegrass is a rich history, and the acoustic sound is very genuine.”

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The Blues & BBQ is an opportunity to enjoy fun music outdoors. Reserved tables are available in advance for an additional fee.

While the siblings started learning with the popular bluegrass “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” their repertoire has since evolved.

“We got to really appreciate artists like Ricky Skaggs, with a tight music style,” said Mark. “We admire that creativity.” When the Wimberleys perform their own compositions during shows, the result is a great blend that keeps audiences involved.

“A lot of our artistic choices are mutual agreement,” said Danielle. “We occasionally will do some country and adapt them to bluegrass.”

They have performed at Nashville, Las Vegas, NAAM, the Orange County Fair and numerous farmers’ markets and are thrilled to be heading to Laguna Beach for a show, as they love the area.

“We like to do these concerts where audience members sit down and we can play to them,” said Michael. “We can be more contemplative with the music. And if there’s room for them to dance, even better. It’s a super happy music.”

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Laguna Live! takes care of the logistics for attendees, with chairs all set up for people to just arrive and enjoy the event

Prewitt is thrilled with the flexibility the LCAD site offers for the Bluegrass & BBQ event. Laguna Live! sets up the chairs, there are table options, for an additional fee, and people can also bring blankets and listen to the music.

“We like to say leave everything behind, just come and enjoy the music,” she said.

This year, with an emphasis on family entertainment, children 12 and under will be admitted free. Advance concert tickets are $25 each and the barbecue, catered by Richard Jones Pit BBQ, costs $52. There will also be wine and beer served by local providers.

For more information and tickets to Bluegrass & BBQ, click here. For information about the Wimberley Bluegrass Band, click here.


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