Berkeley Old Time Music Convention

Proving it's more than country music's hillbilly brother

PREVIEW It's strange for a music to be called "old time" if it's played today. Granted, webbed fingers because your parents were cousins might keep you out of Internet distribution, and Deliverance (1972) didn't help any, but old time music really is more than country music's hillbilly brother.

The Berkeley Old Time Music Convention fiddles away four days of concert performances, square dances, contests, and tailgate string band sessions. San Francisco's swanky Make-Out Room opens the festival with a square dance: expect straw on the floor, bolo ties, and polished boots.

All hat but no cattle? Learn to support your cowboy swagger at Ashkenaz on Sunday with a clogging workshop, or at Thursday's panel discussion at UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall. If you play, polish your chops at one of Sunday evening's JazzSchool workshops (unfortunately scheduled too late to prep you for Saturday's string band concert). The convention's main event, the string band competition, pits band against band, with the winner awarded a trophy of gilded roadkill and second place taking home a jug of moonshine and homemade candles.

For professional fare, Freight and Salvage and Ashkenaz bring the best out of the woods for nightly concerts and square dances showcasing fiddler Benton Flippen, banjo player Paul Brown, and guitar player Frank Bode — all southern Appalachian born and bred.

Not to drape a flag, but for the oldest form of North American traditional music (other than Native American music) to host its festival on 9/11 seems particularly fitting.

BERKELEY OLD TIME MUSIC CONVENTION String Band Contest, Sat/13, 11 a.m., free. Civic Center Park, Martin Luther King Jr. and Center, Berk. (510) 848-5018, Convention runs Thurs/11–Sun/14, see Web site for details.

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