Read the 12th Ever Los Angeles Old Time Social performer bios below, organized by day and headliners first:
:: THURSDAY ::
The Americans (Los Angeles)
The Americans perform music deeply rooted in traditional American music. They have performed on the Late Show with David Letterman, twice joined Grammy and Oscar winner Ryan Bingham on national tours, and played the first dance at Reese Witherspoon’s wedding. They have backed up Nick Cave, Tim Robbins, and Lucinda Williams. The Americans appear throughout American Epic, a four hour primetime PBS / BBC special produced by Jack White, Robert Redford, and T Bone Burnett, featuring Nas, Elton John, Alabama Shakes, and Willie Nelson (coming summer 2017).
Bearcat Duo (Oakland)
The Bearcat Duo (Robin Fischer – fiddle and Rowan McCallister – guitar and banjo) like to play old songs with a young attitude. Equally at home busking on a street corner, playing for a square dance, or at a festival, The Bearcat Duo love to play rippin’ old time fiddle tunes, rags, and songs with the spunkiest lyrics they can dig up. Robin and Rowan met as fill-in musicians at a show in 2012 and having been making music together ever since. The Bearcat Duo have been making a name for themselves in the Northern California roots music scene with high-energy sets, quality musicianship, and powerful drive.
Bees Knees (Los Angeles)
The Bees Knees are Steve Lewis on banjo, Laura Osborn on guitar, and Joe Wack on fiddle. They formed ten years ago, centered around Joe’s repertoire of fiddle tunes from his former home in West Virginia. In 2013, they produced a cd with the title, “Yew Pine Melodies”, a collection of a few of their favorite fiddle pieces. Although they play mainly for their own pleasure, they also can be found playing at square and contra dances and various performance venues. For a long time, Steve and Joe have hosted monthly jams in the Los Angeles area, and Laura plays and teaches flute in addition to her old time interests. They are very pleased to be the kick-off band for the 2017 LAOTS at the opening Thursday night concert.
:: FRIDAY ::
Buck Ewe (Pennsylvania & Berkeley)
East meets west in this all-star band with champion fiddler and banjo player Rafe Stefanini (who lives in Pennsylvania) with Berkeley, California’s Suzy and Eric Thompson, plus Eric and Suzy’s daughter Allegra on bass. Several years back, Rafe, Eric and Suzy teamed up for a few concerts in the east, and the results were magical: Capt. MJ Bonner tunes from the 1920s combining Eric’s flatpicked guitar with 2 fiddles playing in octaves; Rafe’s funky blues fiddling and Eric’s cuatro on the country blues; ethereal rippling of Rafe’s old time banjo picking and Eric’s mandolin behind Suzy singing a mountain ballad. For this show, they’ll add Allegra Thompson on upright bass and vocals. This will be a rare chance to hear these three old time music masters playing together as a band.
Bob Willoughby (North Carolina)
Bob Willoughby started playing as a 5 year old in the mid-1950’s. He spent his evenings learning to accompany his grandfather, an accomplished Old-Time fiddler in rural West Tennessee. By age 10 he had learned to play a handful of stringband instruments by ear including fiddle, guitar and bass.
Bob’s unique style on piano and fiddle have taken him around the world to Denmark, Germany, Ireland, England, Scotland, Shetland, Canada, Puerto Rico, and France. Bob also accompanied many fiddling greats, including Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher and Kevin Wimmer. He spent years playing for the Fiddle Puppet dancers.
Bob is truly a multi-genre musician, comfortable in a tuxedo or overalls, with a repertoire that includes Old-Time, bluegrass, gospel, blues, early country, jazz, swing and cajun. While he is perhaps happiest playing acoustically for late-night dancers in a dimly lit hall, Bob’s versatility shone through while touring with a gospel quartet, playing and singing harmony in a bluegrass band, and rockin’ jazz standards on a grand piano at a 5-star resort hotel music listening room.
Skillet Licorice (San Francisco)
Rowdy rags & wondrous waltzes from the Roaring 20’s all mixed up with traditional dance music from the coal mines of eastern Kentucky.
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. Whether they’re playing hot fiddle breakdowns, slinky blues, sparkling banjo breaks, ragtime or dreamy waltzes the duo displays an impressive command of styles and techniques that comes from deep study and loving dedication to America’s folk traditions. With the help of their talented friends Allegra Thompson and Erik Pearson they’ve put together a sound that is essentially traditional, yet with a modern approach that is anything but a stodgy museum piece. Skillet Licorice is hot, sweet, and just a little bit greasy!
Elise Engelberg (fiddle and banjo) a Kentucky native, began studying classical violin as a young girl. After moving to California, she rediscovered her bluegrass roots and began to play the fiddle. Since then, she has become a sought after fiddler in the Bay Area old time scene. Elise has recorded with the Crooked Jades, The Mercury Dimes and has toured with the Stairwell Sisters. Her love for teaching young children has afforded her a thriving music studio in San Francisco.
Matt Knoth (banjo, guitar and vocals) hails from San Jose, CA where he grew up playing bluegrass music with his father, world-famous radio personality Cuzin’ Al. Endowed with his father’s hard-driving right hand, Matt has recorded with Evie Ladin, Mike Marshall, Todd Phillips and has shared the stage with Peter Rowan, Danny Elfmann and Chris Thile among other lucky stars. When not performing music, Matt pursues his love of nature photography & road biking.
Erik Pearson (guitar, banjo and uke) has been an integral part of the Skillet Licorice sound since the beginning, first performing with the band and then recording and composing for their self-titled CD. In addition he has performed and recorded as a solo artist and with a multitude of bands including SKUNK, the Crooked Jades, Mushroom, Sonya Hunter, Alice Bierhorst, The Billy Talbot Band, Irene Sazer and The Stairwell Sisters just to name a few. Pearson tours the US with master storyteller Diane Ferlatte accompanying her on banjo and guitar. Pearson, who studied Music Composition and Cultural Anthropology at Oberlin College/Conservatory of Music, has composed music for San Francisco choreographers Chris Black and Jordan Fuchs, and written film and chamber music ranging from Creeping Dawn: Mountain & Shadow, a prize winning composition for 24 recorders commissioned by the American Recorder Orchestra of the West, to “Fork & File”, a banjo composition on the Crooked Jades’ World’s on Fire CD which was included in the soundtrack for Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild.
Allegra Thompson (bass) started out on the path to early country music earlier than most. The daughter of old time legends Eric and Suzy Thompson , she was raised on a steady diet of American roots music, everything from Delta Blues to Appalachian fiddle tunes. Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; 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. Allegra plays with Wendy Burch Steel and with her parents in the family band Thompsonia.
Angel + Kelly (Los Angeles)
Artist Angelina Elise, longtime tastemaker of posters and graphics for the Los Angeles Old Time Social and the community at large has teamed up with old time musician and singer Kelly Marie Martin on their first cranky collaboration! Kelly shared Addie Graham ballad, “Sisters, Thou Art Mild and Lovely” with Angel and she was inspired to make a hand drawn story to accompany it. They will be premiering it with a live cranky and singing performance for the Friday Night Concert at the Velaslavasay Panorama Theater. You don’t want to miss it!
:: SATURDAY ::
Robin Fischer is a musician, square dance caller, and in-demand fiddle teacher based in Berkeley, CA. She loves calling for both new and experienced dancers, and has lead dances all over Northern California, including the regular almost-weekly square dances in Oakland and San Francisco, and pretty much anywhere live fiddle and banjo music happens to be.