The Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Festival is celebrating its 51st year on Saturday, October 7th! Join us for one of my all-time favorite, family-friendly, traditional music festivals on the west coast. This is my eighth year serving as the artistic director of the festival and I’m excited to officially announce the extraordinary line-up of musical artists and events below. The festival is hosted by the Goleta Valley Historical Society who strongly believe in preserving the history and living culture of old-time music. The festival will present performances and workshops with master musicians, hosted jam sessions, an instrument petting zoo, vendors, food trucks, and the “beating heart” of the festival itself: the contest.
You can now purchase the insanely CHEAP festival tickets HERE. Tickets are only $20 if you purchase early bird tickets online (or $25 at the door). Students are only $5 and children under 12 are FREE. These tickets cover everything: Performances, contest, jams AND workshops! The festival is 100% outdoors on the beautiful and shady grounds of the Stow House just off the 101 freeway in Goleta.
THE CANOTE TWINS
I’m so thrilled to announce that Greg and Jere Canote (The Canote Twins) will be performing and sharing their old-time music with us this year. The Canote Twins are literally the happiest and funnest musicians on Earth…so happy, that they even sing songs about it when they’re not playing some of the coolest old-time fiddle tunes. Simply put, Greg and Jere Canote are west coast legends in the old-time music scene who radiate pure joy. Raised in California’s central valley and later the Bay Area, they remember tagging along with their parents to folk and square dances. They have played hundreds of dances over the years with caller and square dance icon Sandy Bradley and joined her for thirteen years as her affable sidekicks on NPR’s “Sandy Bradley’s Potluck.”
They have taught and performed all over America at music festivals and instructional camps and have taught an ongoing stringband workshop in their hometown of Seattle for over forty years! Filmmaker Larry Edelman has just released a full-length documentary film The Canote Twins and they continue to spread joy and musical fun wherever they go! We’re extra delighted that they’re able to jump away from their documentary screening tour to join us. The Canotes will also be teaching fiddle and banjo workshops at this year’s festival.
Hog-eyed Man are returning to the Fiddler’ Festival! They are an Athens-based acoustic band comprised of Clifftop winning fiddler Jason Cade and multi-instrumentalist Rob McMaken. Drawing primarily on the archaic tunes and pre-radio aesthetics of Southern Appalachian fiddling traditions, Jason and Rob have forged a compelling and authentic style of old-time music, both reflecting deep respect for the past masters and carrying the musical conversation forward to the present era.
Their live performances, though rare, have garnered loyal friends and fans at venues and festivals throughout the United States, and they have released five official albums charting their unique path in American traditional music. I recently released their album Kicked Up a Devil of a Row on Tiki Parlour Recordings and had the great pleasure of playing guitar on it when I wasn’t concentrating on filming and recording them! Jason and Rob will be also teaching old-time fiddle and mandolin workshops at this year’s festival.
SPENCER & RAINS
For me, this year is another true reunion of musical buddies. The Kansas/Texas old-time fiddle and songster duo Spencer & Rains are joining us again by popular demand! They specialize in tunes and songs from the Midwest and Texas. They are also folk artists whose work has adorned many traditional music albums and festival art. In fact, Howard’s artwork has been visible for the last several years on the Santa Barbara Fiddlers’ Festival posters and T-shirts, including this year’s poster. I had the great pleasure of recording and filming Tricia Spencer and Howard Rains several years ago where we instantly became friends and musical buddies. Fiddler Susan Platz and I have had the pleasure of performing and teaching at festivals around the country with them. It is so wonderful to have them back at our festival. Tricia Spencer will be teaching an old-time fiddle workshop and Howard Rains will be teaching an old-time guitar workshop.
The high energy Los Angeles-area stringband Echo Mountain are going to be lighting the stage on fire with powerful old-time songs and instrumentals. Their fiddler Jonathan Shifflett was one of my fiddle students years ago, so it’s always extremely special for me to hear him play. Echo Mountain features Kyle McNally, Jonathan Shifflett, Peter Linden, Kelly Marie Martin and Ben Kramer. They have been at Watkins Family Hour, Grass Valley Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival and Parkfield. Their collective vision is a repertoire reflecting the full spectrum of the old-time tradition, tackling complex fiddle tunes, and rich harmony singing while remaining true to traditional style and form. They will also be presenting a Harmony Singing workshop this year!
OLD TIME MUSIC CONTEST
The CONTEST has returned to the main stage, alternating with the concert performers. The categories include: fiddle, youth fiddle, banjo, youth banjo, singing, mandolin, guitar, misc. instruments, and band performance. The contest’s mission is not only to expose this music to all the musicians (and non-musicians) who attend the festival, but to help spread the music into the local community and beyond. Musicians of all levels, including beginners, are highly encouraged to sign up and show their peers (and judges) what they’re playing and what they’ve been practicing. It is truly inspiring to witness players of all ages and levels play the old tunes and songs of early America. Often, spectators transform into musicians once they see how much fun the contestants are having. The contest registration is now completely online. Contest Registration is HERE
HOSTED JAMS & INSTRUMENT PETTING ZOO
Throughout the day, there will be HOSTED JAMS by the wonderful staff of jam leaders: Jim Mueller, Joe Wack, String Bean Serenaders, and Andy Denes. Additionally, there will be many other areas for impromptu jams to take place. We are also excited to continue hosting the ever popular Instrument Petting Zoo where children and adults can try out instruments and see what makes them tick. It’s a great judgement-free area for people to get their hands on instruments with support and guidance from the petting zoo staff.
THE ALONZO JANES PERFORMANCE STAGE
Now I’d like to draw your attention to the fiddler depicted on our main stage backdrop: Alonzo Janes (1850-1937). In 2019, we renamed the stage the “Alonzo Janes Performance Stage” to help preserve the legacy of this special individual who had a huge impact on my musical life. Descendants from three states attended the festival to be part of the stage dedication.
From our festival website:
WILLIAM ALONZO JANES (1850- 1937)
Known in his family as “Uncle Jimmy,” Alonzo Janes was born in Paris, Tennessee. His father’s name was Peter, though sadly his mother’s name is lost to history. They lived in a small brick farmhouse that his parents helped build, along with the extended families of the farm, both black and white. Family myth holds that Alonzo often travelled alongside his enslaver, sometimes on riverboats down the Mississippi. In New Orleans, where he was sometimes left alone, he considered running away, but was told by an elder not to worry, that soon they would all be free. He had thought it was a psychic prediction, but more likely, his advisor was simply reading the newspaper and knew of the coming war that would indeed liberate his people from bondage. After slavery, he moved with his wife, Mary Magdalene Wright, and their children to Moscow, Kentucky, and finally to southern Illinois. They initially resided in the small town of Onarga and then the slightly larger Pontiac. There he met the musical Durham family while working as a cooper. During this period he shared his fiddle tunes with the Durhams. Two of these tunes, “Over the Mountain” and “Alonzo Janes,” were passed down to fiddler Mel Durham (1914-2008) who relocated to Southern California just after World War II. Mel shared Alonzo’s tunes with several generations of fiddlers in California. When our festival director David Bragger first learned these tunes from Mel, he became obsessed with playing them and learning more about their origin. For the last 15 years David has been teaching Alonzo’s tunes around the world at festivals and workshops without much historical information about their source. However, a few years ago with the help of fiddler/genealogist Cynthia Richardson, David was miraculously connected with Alonzo Janes’ descendants. The family was able to hear their patriarch’s music for the very first time – they also provided photographs! It is with great pleasure that we are honoring fiddler Alonzo Janes as well as the folk process through which his tunes came to us (Janes to Durham to Bragger) by renaming our main stage “The Alonzo Janes Performance Stage.”
Again, this year the festival is on Saturday, October 7th. You can now purchase the ridiculously CHEAP festival tickets HERE. Tickets are only $20 if you purchase early bird tickets online (or $25 at the door). Students are only $5 and children under 12 are FREE. These tickets cover everything: Performances, contest, jams AND workshops! The festival is 100% outdoors on the beautiful and shady grounds of the Stow House just off the 101 freeway in Goleta.
We encourage you to bring a folding chair and picnic blanket to the main stage lawn as you enjoy the performances. No dogs allowed.
Date: Saturday, October 7, 2023
Time: 9:30am to 5:00pm
Address: Rancho La Patera & Stow House
304 N. Los Carneros Road, Goleta, CA 93117
The 51st Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Festival
Coming Saturday October 7th