Scheduled Performers on Three Stages
Plus The Dance Barn and Eucalyptus Grove

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

The Main Stage

11:30 a.m.

Skillet Licorice
"Roaring 20’s rags & waltzes mixed with traditional dance music"

Skillet Licorice Skillet Licorice is the latest project from San Francisco Bay Area roots-music luminaries Elise Engelberg and Matt Knoth. The duo’s talents are showcased beautifully on their new self-titled CD which draws on their diverse experiences playing in numerous string bands over the years in a dizzying array of folk genres.

Elise Engelberg (fiddle and banjo) a Kentucky native, has recorded with the Crooked Jades, The Mercury Dimes and has toured with the Stairwell Sisters.

Matt Knoth (banjo, guitar and vocals) hails from San Jose, CA where he grew up playing bluegrass music and has shared the stage with Peter Rowan, Danny Elfmann and Chris Thile.

Erik Pearson (guitar and uke) has been an integral part of the Skillet Licorice sound since the beginning and tours the US with master storyteller Diane Ferlatte accompanying her on banjo and guitar.

Allegra Thompson (bass) started out on the path to early country music earlier than most, being the daughter of old time legends Eric and Suzy Thompson. Allegra has inherited both her parents’ love of traditional music as well as her mother’s powerful singing voice. She backs up her singing with a strong rhythm section, playing both standup bass and rhythm guitar.

More at

1:00 p.m.

Hot October
"High Energy Bluegeass"

Hot October Hot October is a high energy, five piece bluegrass band of some of the best pickers in southern California. The band travels regularly to play festivals, Hollywood events, breweries, even the occasional barn dance! Their new album has already had great reviews in it’s pre-release. They combine traditional favorites with their original contemporary bluegrass songs, written by fiddler Jesse Olema and banjo-picker Paul Fuller.

Paul Fuller (banjo, lead vocal) has played the banjo all his life, and has a tight melodic picking style that will blow your socks of. He leads the bluegrass lifestyle of hunting, fishing and living outdoors, and his songs reflect that tradition with a feeling of today.

Jesse Olema (fiddle, lead vocal) has been playing fiddle since the age of five and it shows: His playing has earned him spots playing with top artists all over the world. As a composer and songwriter, he found a home in the bluegrass realm with Hot October.

David Tranchina (bass, vocal harm) has the musical freedom to rip through these punchin’ bluegrass songs, while his bowed technique adds a new texture to bluegrass.

Sasha Birrittella (guitar, vocal harmonica) picks up the acoustic guitar and you can see burning flat picking lines with impeccable time. His vocals bring that perfect touch to modern bluegrass songs.

Craig Ferguson (mandolin/dobro, vocal harm) has made a name for himself in the bluegrass world playing on many albums, and backing many artists. His tenor vocal add the final touch to the high lonesome sound.

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3:00 p.m.

Conjunto Jardin
"Son Jarocho"

Conjunto Jardin

Updating and reinvigorating the lively son jarocho of Veracruz, Mexico, Los Angeles-based Conjunto Jardín (cone-HOON-toe har-DEEN) features sisters Libby and Cindy Harding - the band’s name is a play on the Spanish pronunciation of their last name - on the traditional jarana, a small strummed rhythm guitar, and requinto, a 4-string lead guitar plucked with a long bone pua or pick. (Thus the expression “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”)

Their sibling vocals ride atop hard-charging jaranas, driving cajón-and-bass rhythm section and sparkling harp-like keyboards to create a fresh, modern sound that is at once faithfully traditional, yet at the same time possessed of a rock-influenced drive and accessible edge. The group was nominated for Best Latin/Salsa Artist in the 2003 L.A. Weekly Music Awards, and is the recipient of an L.A. Treasures Award from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

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5:15 p.m.

Rose’s Pawn Shop
"High-energy punk-bluegrass-a-billy attitude - genre-blending, boot-stomping tunes"

Rose’s Pawn Shop With an arsenal of guitars, banjo, thumping upright bass, and fiddle their sound is a wholesome mishmash of creek mud, rusty nails and your mom’s cookin’. It’s sincere, straight-forward and explosive, effortlessly combining such disparate musical styles as rock, country, bluegrass, and punk to create an incomprehensibly smooth and accessible sound for true believers and skeptics alike. They confront traditional country music themes of loss, lamentation, and redemption, with a couple of drinking songs for good measure. Sure, they’re borrowing pages from the books of Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Johnny Cash, but ROSES’S PAWN SHOP takes those pages, tears them up and sets them on fire with three and four part vocal harmonies and lyrics that’ll break your heart.

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The Railroad Stage

The Railroad Stage will host the "Sing-Offs in the morning and and the Intermediate Competition at Noon

The Mountain & the Moon

"Classically informed bluegrass and folk music"

2:30 p.m.

The Mountain & the Moon The Mountain & The Moon was formed during the spring of 2015 when bassist Noah Laniakea and banjoist Casey Holmberg met at UCLA. Both musicians shared a love for bluegrass and old-time music, and as they rehearsed and performed together they began to explore a larger musical space around that idiom. “What has emerged is a form of classically informed roots music - a blend of the string arrangements on Nico’s Chelsea Girl and the banjo playing of Béla Fleck, perhaps...”  Freshgrass- 2016

In August 2016, the banjo/bass duo released their self-titled EP of original music which synthesizes folk, bluegrass, and classical music in a bold and innovative way. After which, they were invited to the Freshgrass Festival in North Adams, MA as finalists in an international competition after just a year of working together.

With a solid start underfoot these musicians are cutting new ground and expanding beyond the limitations of traditions with a style completely their own.

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Joellen and the Urban Gypsies

"Americana/Roots/Folk/World Music through a multicolored urban lens"

3:30 p.m.

Joellen and the Urban Gypsies The Urban Gypsies bring the whimsical and imaginative mountain dulcimer player/builder Joellen Lapidus together with the musical talents of violinist Yvette Devereaux and bass player Oliver Steinberg. We want people to sing along and participate in the style of the living rooms, back porches, villages and town squares of folk music throughout the world. We are equally comfortable playing square dance tunes from Appalachia, jazz standards from the 40’s, Indian Ragas, pop tunes and Klezmer.

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Ross Altman

"THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH: The Circus in American Folk Music"

4:00 p.m.

Ross Altman The Day Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Closes the Big Top - 1871-2017
Today, Sunday May 21, 2017, as we celebrate the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival, on the other side of the country, the 146 year-old Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus performs its last show - a casualty of changing times and social mores, and the direct result of declining ticket sales and mounting costs.
Folk singer Ross Altman takes this occasion as the perfect time to look back and remember some of the long-standing inspiration of the circus in the imagination of songwriters and folk music, from Bob Dylan to Tom Paxton to Joni Mitchell and Peter, Paul and Mary. Since elephants - the circus’s star attraction - were banned from performing in live shows in Los Angeles County and throughout California last year - and all wild animals soon followed - ticket sales have plummeted and it became increasingly difficult to sustain the bottom line. Without opening the debate of whether it is a good thing or bad to see the circus disappear from our cultural landscape, Ross explores the larger themes of the circus and all its attendant metaphors in the language of modern poetry as expressed in song, including last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan. So welcome to the Railroad Stage and let the show go on - for one last time: The Greatest Show on Earth!

Ross Altman may be reached at

Get on board at the Railroad Stage and visit Ross at his Web site,

The Pavilion Stage

The Pavilion Stage will host the Beginning Instrument competitions in the morning

Burning Heart Bluegrass

"Heart’s Burning, Still Yearning..."

1:00 p.m.

Burning Heart Bluegrass Burning Heart Bluegrass had a busy 2016. In addition to releasing its first studio CD, the band appeared in a slew of Bluegrass festivals, including Blythe, Lake Havasu, Parkfield, Prescott, and Summergrass in San Diego. Locally, BHB appeared at some of LA’s best acoustic music venues, including the Coffee Gallery Backstage, Boulevard Music, and the Fret House. Most recently, the band was selected by the California Bluegrass Association to appear as a California Showcase Band at their Fathers Day Bluegrass Festival at Grass Valley this June.

Burning Heart Bluegrass grew rather spontaneously out of one of the many jam circles at the Great 48 Jam in Bakersfield, CA back in 2014. Returning to LA, the new band performed at bars, restaurants, pizza joints, and farmers markets while it developed arrangements and tightened up its driving rhythmic style. All the hard work paid off with an invitation the following year to appear at the very first Route 66 Bluegrass Festival in Victorville CA. Since then, Burning Heart Bluegrass has kept up a steady schedule of appearances. and it looks like 2017 will be no different!

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High Life Cajun Band

High Life Cajun Band

"Cajun Dance Music"

2:00 p.m.

The High Life Cajun Band plays straight-out Cajun dance music that is fresh, authentic and fun. The dueling fiddle and accordion, French lyrics, and clear dance beat, make this distinctly American folk music into a party.

The band is built around Paul Rathje on accordion, and Ben Guzman on fiddle. It regularly includes guitar and triangle, but can grow to include bass, rub board and even a second fiddle.

Rathje spent 15 years mastering the accordion, and brings to it a deep admiration of the passionate, driven playing of 1980s Louisiana hit maker, Paul Daigle. Ben Guzman has been playing traditional American fiddle music for over a decade, and was one of the Feet in the Los Angeles Old-Time band Triple Chicken Foot.

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Mike Mahaney

Mike Mahaney and Friends

"Cowboy Music and Poetry"

3:00 p.m.

Mike is a founding member and advisory board member for the Western Music Association. His background includes Broadcasting for KCRW and KCSN FM in Los Angeles & KBBQ in Ventura, Ca. Mike was one of three that began the McCabes Concert Series in 1969 and began performing at Topanga with the band Trailmix back in 1980. Mike and Trailmix perform traditional and contemporary Cowboy and Western Swing. Mike regularly hosts the Cowboy Music and Poetry segment at the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest.

Mike’s guest performers this year are:

Western Singer/Songwriter Showcase

This year the showcase will present Tex Davis, Ashley Holland, Mark Bedor, Bob Thomas & David Volk. All authentic cowboy style singers, songwriters and Western music performers.

Tom Sauber and Friends

Tom Sauber and Friends

Since winning the last Topanga banjo contest to actually be held in the canyon (1969), Tom has devoted his life to playing oldtime, bluegrass, and Cajun music. Today's set will feature mostly tunes learned directly from Western fiddlers Earl Collins, Max Collins, and Benny Thomasson.

Latimer and Osborn

Latimer and Osborn

Laura Osborn and Cliff Latimer have been playing Old Time music and Traditional Bluegrass in the Los Angeles area for more than ten years. Their style is based on the harmonies of the Carter Family and of the great Brother acts of the forties and fifties: the Louvins, the Monroes, the Stanleys, and the Blue Sky Boys. With Laura on guitar and banjo and Cliff on mandolin and guitar, you can frequently find them singing and playing at local watering holes and farmer’s markets, as well as appearances around Southern California.

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The Dance Barn

The Dance Barn will host the Band Playoffs until Noon

12:00-1:15Flatfoot Dancing Competition - Join the Fun!
1:15-2:00Flatfoot Dance Workshop led by Ira Bernstein
2:00-3:00Square/Contra Dance with Rhythm Method String Band and Susan Michaels calling
3:00-4:00Square Dance with Becky Nankivell calling, music by Bee’s Knees
4:00-5:00Contra Dance with Becky Nankivell calling, music by Panada

Flatfoot Dancing Workshop with Ira Bernstein
1:15 p.m.

Ira Bernstein IRA BERNSTEIN has spent decades performing in concerts and at festivals throughout the world featuring traditional Appalachian dance, including appearances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England, Maison de la Danse in Lyon, France , the Lincoln Center in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. He has shared the stage with many of the world's greatest tap and step dancers, including Gregory Hines, Howard "Sandman" Sims and and Brenda Bufalino; as well as with renowned ensembles such as the American Tap Dance Orchestra, the Jazz Tap Ensemble, Manhattan Tap, Rhythm in Shoes, the Fiddle Puppets and Footworks. Mr. Bernstein no longer performs due to health issues, but continues to teach and be of great inspiration to percussive dancers worldwide.

Square/Contra Dance with Rhythm Method String Band
2:00 p.m.

Caller: Susan Michaels

Rhythm Method String Band

Rhythm Method String Band performs a wide variety of folk-based music. They regularly play for dances, including contra, square, English county and Victorian tea as well as for audiences of all ages who like to get up and dance! The band’s music ranges from traditional Appalachian square dance hoedowns to Irish and French-Canadian jigs, reels, waltzes, polkas and even hambos and schottisches. With their band of fiddles, banjos, guitar and bass, they also play a variety of newly composed contemporary renditions of traditional pieces. The members of the band include Briana Band, fiddle; Steve Shapiro, fiddle, 5-string and Tenor Banjo; Emil Olguin, guitar.

Square Dancing with Bees Knees
3:00 p.m.

Caller: Becky Nankivell

Bees Knees Bees Knees is Joe Wack (fiddle), Steve Lewis (banjo), and Laura Osborn (guitar/banjo-uke). Their repertoire is an eclectic mix of traditional music ranging from high-energy, all-out dance tunes to hauntingly beautiful melodies from the Southern Appalachian region. Though they’ve only been playing together as a trio since 2008, their old-time music reflects decades of playing for dances, concerts, workshops, parties, and events, as well as just good old-time music-making with like-minded folks on both sides of the country.

Joe Wack was first enthralled by old time music as an art student in West Virginia University in the early ‘70s. From that time he has maintained the dual vocations of musician and artist. As a banjo player, he was an original founder of the still-active WV stringband Stewed Mulligan. Since moving to L.A. in '93, he has worked as a character designer for “The Simpsons” TV series while remaining immersed in old-time music on fiddle, banjo, and guitar.

Laura Osborn has been a lifelong musician, performing and teaching flute in the Los Angeles area for almost twenty years. While enjoying a robust family life with her husband, two children, and two cats, she finds time whenever possible to play old-time music on guitar, banjo, and banjo-uke.

Steve Lewis has played the 5-string banjo most of his adult life. A veteran of contests, fiddlers’ conventions, and festivals, Steve has also produced and played for contradances since 1989. He continues to play for dances, both contra and square with one or another of four old-time bands. For the past eleven years, Steve has led an old-time jam at the CTMS Folk Music Center in Encino on the first Sunday of each month.

Contra Dancing with Panada
4:00 p.m.

Caller: Becky Nankivell

Panada Panada has been playing lively old time dance music and providing festive entertainment for six years in and around southern California. Each band member has a long history of many kinds of music from New York to California and beyond. Bass player Ken Shaw grew up in the Greenwich Village scene in the 60’s and played with emerging stars of the era. Emmy award winning guitarist Larry Kemp started out at age 5 on the eighty-eight string guitar and later cut back to four strings in New Jersey before coming to Los Angeles. Master banjo picker James Flaherty is in such demand that he is now in at least five bands in the area. And fiddler Dave Lynch heard an old time fiddler, and the next day rented a fiddle and hired a teacher. Two years later he was playing in a dance band that performed from central California to San Diego. Panada is enthusiastic, reliable and always entertaining.

The Eucalyptus Grove

Childrens Crafts will be held from 11:00a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Women on the Move

Women on the Move

11:00-12:00 p.m.

What started as a CD project to raise funds for shelters and awareness of domestic violence, known as the BEAUTIFUL CD by Women on the Move, turned into WOMEN ON THE MOVE TRIO. "We started with 14 Los Angeles area women for the CD. And though we did shows with 13, 9, and 5 women, somehow it boiled down to the three of us, and works well when we go on the road together. On one tour we had 8 shows in 10 days and Linda became the master packer! Touring is amazing.

We have met some fun people and they always ask us back!" states founder Joan Enguita

The Hollow Trees

The Hollow Trees

12:00-1:00 p.m.

The Hollow Trees have been sharing “Folk Music for Families” around California for eight years now. Their upbeat acoustic Americana music is like a gumbo made with a mix of bluegrass, western swing, blues, and folk styles, seasoned with a generous helping of fun.

Hailing from Nelsonville, USA, they perform classic standards, strange and wonderful covers and great original songs. With some luck they’ll be joined by their friend Nelson playing his homemade banjitar. Come on by and join the hootenanny! Learn more at

Scottish Fiddlers of L.A.

1:00-2:00 p.m.

Scottish Fiddlers The Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles were founded in 1981 after several musicians discovered common musical interest at the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest and formed the first Strathspey and Reel Society in the United States. The group provides an opportunity for musicians with little experience in traditional music to get actively involved and makes it accessible for people coming from a classical background. Over the years, members have ranged in age from 5 to over 80.

Their music focus centers on the heritage of Scottish fiddle music dating back to the seventeenth century and many of these early tunes have found their way into the American folk fiddle repertoire. The Scottish Fiddlers always welcome musicians playing fiddle, cello, guitar, harp and other instruments to join them for rehearsals and to play at concerts, festivals, Celtic fairs, Scottish games and gatherings, and many other events. SFLA has also reliably contributed new contestants and volunteers for TBFC.

Internationally known Jan Tappan has directed the Fiddlers for over 25 years. She was the recipient of the 2014 TBFC Music Legend Award and is a judge on the Main Stage today.
For information on booking the Scottish Fiddlers, or to join, please contact: Visit us at

Old-time, Slow Jam Guitar Workshop
with Kelly Marie Martin

3:30-5:00 p.m.

Kelly Marie Martin Learn the ins and outs of jamming on an old time fiddle tune. We’ll talk about the role of the different instruments and how to play along and well with others, but mostly, we will play, slowly, so everyone can join! Fiddlers, banjo and mandolin players, guitarists, bassists and even harmonicas are welcome. You’ll leave this workshop and head right for the old oak tree, hungry for more TUNES!

Old-time, Slow Jam
with Kelly Marie Martin

3:30-5:00 p.m.

Kelly Marie Martin has been playing old time music for over ten years. She started on the upright bass and plays guitar and banjo and sings. She played guitar in old time trio Triple Chicken Foot, who played numerous shows, festivals and private parties. They hosted hosted monthly jams and a square dance which both continue. They also produced the annual festival the Los Angeles Old Time Social which introduced Los Angeles to old time masters from West Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and all along the west coast. Many of these artists have performed at Topanga as well.

The Foot, as they were affectionately called, produced 3 albums, were featured on NPR and in the LA Times, and in 2012, were voted Best Folk Band in LA by the LA Weekly.