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Banjo, fiddle players show how it’s done

first_imgThe softer half of the local folk duo, “The Swine and the Pearl,” Dixon surveyed the crowd, some drinking beer, others jamming in small groups. “It’s the one day a year where everyone comes out and it doesn’t much matter whatever kind of music you like as long as it’s folk related,” she explained. “People just walk around and you start jammin’.” Amid crumbling wooden buildings still used to film Western movies, hundreds of amateur musicians mingled with the pros, plucking and strumming as onlookers tapped their toes. A handful of die-hard blue grass fanatics began what is now the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival in 1961 with 500 fans, 26 five-string banjo pickers, five fiddlers and four judges. It has since grown into eight contests and three stages, drawing about 3,000 spectators and no shortage of talent. AGOURA – Donning straw hats and lugging banjos, guitars and fiddles, thousands of bluegrass, country and folk music fans packed the Santa Monica Mountains Sunday for a foot-stompin’ jam session. Music lovers from all over Southern California assembled at Paramount Ranch in the hills around Agoura for the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival. Held under a beating sun, the contest featured some of the best pluckers, strummers and fiddlers around. “There is nothing else like this,” said Fur Dixon, a 47-year-old folk singer, whose music drew hoots from the crowd. Nick Staho, also known as “Cowboy Nick,” a country DJ on KCSN and KXLU, hunched his 6-foot-8 frame over his guitar. Wearing a pair of Dickies overalls, aviator glasses and a white cowboy hat, the 26-year-old’s fingers danced along the fretboard as he and country rocker Mark Christian warmed up for a set. “To a lot of people, this music brings tradition and authenticity,” Staho said. “They are attracted to this music because of it’s deep roots.” Among musicians at the festival – and there were so many it was hard not to bump into one – history of the music is as important as the sound. “The real stuff here is in the shadows,” said David Bragger, a banjo, fiddle and mandolin instructor from Winnetka. “If you really hunt, you will find some Old Time musicians, that’s where the gold is.” For the uninitiated that means that Bragger likes the rough, less refined and more soulful sound of Old Time music, a pre-cursor to bluegrass. Fans range from the purists, who pledge loyalty to one time period, to those who chase around the best sound around at the time. Then there are those like 12-year-old Chase Fierro, who just relishes the chance to play for somebody else. “It’s pretty fun,” he said, placing the fiddle below his chin and warming up for his second round in the intermediate contests. Fierro – like dozens of other musicians at the festival – got tips from some veterans. Meanwhile, young children gobbled down snow cones, while hundreds sat in lawn chairs in front of the stages, chomping on chips and lathering on sunscreen. “It’s really neat. There’s music everywhere,” said Vanessa Biddle, 37, as she carried her 2-year-old son. “I just wish we weren’t on a nap schedule or we would stay longer.” [email protected] (818)713-3741 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more