Summer time in Topanga hosts two iconic musical festivals per year that have been around for decades- Topanga Days, and the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest.
Topanga days is a three day festival of music and activities, with a big parade on the final day. You can read more about the history HERE.
The festival consists of a main stage and then a smaller stage. I gravitated between the two, with most of the action happening outside on the main stage.
Ana Popovic stood out to me as a rare female performer at the festival, which lacked a lot of female lead talent. A strong and powerful blues singer and guitarist with a rocking back up band...
Check out this video of Ana at the festival.
Also on the main stage was the reggae band The English Beat. They were coming off their "Here We Go Love" tour, and King Schascha delivered a lively lead vocal performance for the dancing crowd.
The Fergus Show-"Weirdo Pop Music"
The Fergus show is a fun band of locals doing their unique blend of, what member Noel Rhodes describes, as "weirdo pop music". Weird is right. On their facebook page it is described as "casserole music", and it is just that-a blend of trip hop-tribal-pop with interesting, almost uncomfortably cool harmonizing throughout. Their summer album, "Ok Chinese Restaurant" has some cool tunes that will surely make you sit up and listen for it's unusual blends and strange hazy vocal treatments that give it a live feel. I interviewed Noel backstage at the festival. Check it out HERE.
On the smaller stage, I got to see a large bluegrass country band called Murphy's Flaw. They performed songs such as "Way Down in the Blue Ridge Mountains" and had a strong female bass player.
Topanga days is where I met Dana Wood and Linda Viccaro and got to interview them for this issue. They performed as "LV and the Lovedogs", with Dana doing several of her own tunes.
One of the most fun things about Topanga Days was the outdoor festivities apart from music. Vendors selling artistic wares, street like performances and great food...
Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest
The Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest has been around since 1961-part string instrument contest, barn dance and concert, this one day festival has a lot to see and to learn from.
The highlight of my experience was getting to see local 8 piece band The Dustbowl Revival. Their "American Roots" orchestra was varied with all sorts of musical bending genres to experience. Here is a little interview with Liz Beebe and Z. Lupetin and a video from the festival.
M.E. "You tour quite a bit....What is it like being on tour with 8 people?!"
D.R. " We've gotten used to it - it takes a lot of communication and acceptance of everyone's little quirks. It's been helpful to have two minivans on longer tours so some of the gang can do their own thing."
M.E. "You just came out with a new album. Tell me a little bit about the process making music. Do you write together at all? How do the songs form?"
D.R. "I tend to write the majority of the tunes at least to get the ball rolling - the strings and brass will create their parts organically and the rhythm section makes it bumping. Liz and I try and work harmonies out before everything else. Some songs are quick and others take years!"
M.E. "What are your favorite places to play in Los Angeles?"
D.R. "Depends - I think playing The Ford Amphitheater was pretty dreamy."
M.E. "Do you have any new crazy musical ideas-genre mixing madness on the horizon?"
D.R. "Dubstep - klezmer - bluegrass dance party. Watch out!"
The T-Sisters were another great act on the main stage. Sweet tri-harmonies and folk melodies from their backing band.
Ross Altman, on the Railroad Stage, performed a tribute to fallen labor activist icon Joe Hill, called, "The Man who Never Died: The Music of Joe Hill and the IWW". Ross is very well versed on everything Joe Hill, and it was an educational exploration of the movement and the man behind it. Ross performed songs about the movement and people who were paramount.
Here is an explanation, a song, and some history in between, live at the festival. Listen HERE
Some of the best moments at the festival was off the stages. All around were musicians playing on corners in all areas of the grounds. At one point I heard a powerful female voice and was drawn to a lively performance by Heidi Huber-Kalin of Pilgrim, and a large background of bluegrass country players which included members of Pilgrim.
Check out this clip...
The Songmakers had a get together at the festival...
It was cool to just walk around and see people playing all sorts of different instruments that you don't get to see all of the time, like the Hurdy Gurdy.
Some more pics from the festival...