What a weekend: The RW13 Recap
Festival entertains, inspires yet again
AXTON, Va. — An uproarious Bruce Springsteen tribute set by Yarn closed out a joyous Rooster Walk 13 on Sunday night. The roots-rock band continued their multi-year tradition of wrapping up the music and arts festival by leaning heavily on the theme of the year: collaboration. They shared the stage with numerous musicians from other bands, including Dangermuffin, Sol Driven Train, and the Rooster Walk House Band, as they tore through hits from the Boss.
The performance put an exclamation point on four days of music, food, camping, outdoor adventures, visual art, kids’ activities, and living in the moment while taking a break from the everyday. As always, the big draw was music, and the festival did not disappoint. Jamgrass standouts Greensky Bluegrass, neosoul ensemble St. Paul and the Broken Bones, psychedelic jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and Southern rock legends the Marshall Tucker Band all delivered crowd-thrilling sets.
Festival patrons also grooved to the soul-rock of Neal Francis, the Montana bluegrass of Kitchen Dwellers, the neon synth funk of Doom Flamingo, the jam-country guitar virtuosity of Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country, and the funk-rock-blues of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears.
And about that collaboration theme: Rooster Walk brought in seven artists at large (AAL) to form a house band that played three sets throughout the weekend. Several of them, including powerhouse singer Erin Lunsford and gifted guitarist Isaac Hadden, also performed with their own bands. It was common to see one or more of the AALs sitting in with almost any other band. Lunsford, tenor sax legend Ron Holloway, and jam band drum pioneer Jeff Sipe seemed to be at every other set of the festival — much to fans’ delight.
Other highlights included:
- Doom Flamingo lead singer Kanika Moore belting out the Tina Turner standard “Simply the Best” to a huge crowd at the Lake Stage.
- A blistering Allman Brothers set by Trouble No More, an eight-piece supergroup made up of Donato, guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, drummer Jack Ryan, singer Lamar Williams Jr., and more.
- Face-melting rock from the Stews on Thursday night on the Pine Grove stage, followed up by a rousing set from the Kitchen Dwellers there, bringing one of the biggest crowds seen at that stage.
- Late-night Fire Jam appearances on Friday and Saturday by alt-country-rockers the Jared Stout Band and bluegrass genre-twisters Into the Fog.
- Crazy dance-party grooves at the Eye Level stage from Sneezy, funk pranksters from Chicago.
A rainy weather forecast was a concern all weekend, but good vibes held off the downpours and the festival experienced zero delays or rainouts. Smiles were everywhere as friends and strangers shared stories of things they heard, saw, experienced, ate, or drank. Kids ran gleefully through the crowd and rode in wagons or backpacks, getting immersed in festival culture and fun.
Rooster Walk’s motto and mantra is “appreciate the present” for good reason. The festival was born after the loss in their mid 20s of two of the founders’ childhood friends, Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank.
Proceeds from Rooster Walk go toward a college scholarship, the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund, at their alma mater, Martinsville High School. Revenue also benefits RW’s Music Instrument Program, which refurbishes old band instruments and donates them to entry-level band programs in the Martinsville City and Henry County public school systems. Rooster Walk has raised close to $300,000 for these programs and other local and regional charities.
Rooster Walk’s home, Pop’s Farm, has more events scheduled this year. Country duo Crawford & Power are playing on July 8 (get tickets here) and fall brings an entirely new offering — The Infamous Weekend. Slated for Sept. 15-16 and hosted by progressive bluegrass quintet the Infamous Stringdusters, the weekend also features 49 Winchester, Yarn, Kendall Street Company, and more. Camping, food, drinks, and kids’ activities will be available.
Rooster Walk 14 is scheduled for May 23-26, 2024.