May 23-26, 2024 ❘ Martinsville, VA

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. “Blind Faith” admission tickets to Rooster Walk 14 are on sale now for a limited time (or until quantities sell out) at


Saturday edition: My Favorite Non-Music Activity

Late on Saturday night, we polled RW13 festival-goers about their favorite non-music activity at Rooster Walk.

Mitch: I discovered the trail and took a run.

Photo by Cloud Bobby

Ann: I spun fire with Fire My Spirit Productions during Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Greensky Bluegrass.

Brittany: I worked at Bangin’ Pies.
K.J.: I love the community. The staff and vendors are great, too. I feel safe here.

Jackie: I love the lights on the lake.
Charissa: Hanging out with our buddies.

Brandon: Walking around dressed as Jack Sparrow all weekend.
Ivy: Hanging out with the Pirates of the Piedmont.
Danny: Talking with people. Everyone is so generous.

Wenona and Scott: Lying in our hammocks.

Jamie: Camping and hanging out. That’s number one.
Anna: Meeting people — sometimes as they pass by on the golf cart!

Photo by Ryan Guite

Rich: The environment here is beautiful.
Dianne: The food, especially the Indian curry truck.

Samm: The coffee shop needed help, so I worked there for four or five hours.

Kaleigh: Camping with friends. I like the vendors, too.

Trey: Being here with my kids.

Heidi: Hammocks.
Crockett: Pedal boating with Capt. Larry.

Jacob: Badminton — we played a whole tournament.

In His Natural Habitat

Up-and-coming guitar shredder Isaac Hadden is a festival beast

Isaac Hadden performing in the House Band set at Rooster Walk 13 / Photo by Bob Adamek

Isaac Hadden grew up on festivals. Actually, his fest journey started even before that. His mom went to festivals when she was pregnant with him, and just about every year after that. “I don’t even really remember my first festival,” he says. “It’s kind of been my life.”
Mom certainly gets credit for the early years, and Hadden has worked hard since he was a teenager to ensure that festivals will remain in his future — as a performer. Now just 20 years old, he is aggressively pursuing a music career by playing solo, with a trio, and leading the five-man Isaac Hadden Project. He says the varied lineups just make it easier to manifest his many influences in live performance.
“It’s all pretty much just a part of a part of what I’m doing,” Hadden says. “I have a lot of different things I like to express through music, and it’s nice to have multiple outlets.”
Hadden is intimately familiar with Rooster Walk, having attended and played previously, and the festival management knows that he likes lots of opportunities to play. Originally, his Isaac Hadden Organ Trio was scheduled only to play two sets on Saturday. But he got a call on Friday that a guitarist couldn’t make the set by the RW House Band that night. Would he fill in? Hadden was on stage hours later ripping through ’70s tunes such as “Jungle Boogie” and the Tina Turner tribute “Proud Mary.”
Just like that, Hadden was a member of the house band, adding three more sets to his Rooster Walk schedule in addition to joining Yarn and others on stage. Veteran tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway and jam-band demigod drummer Jeff Sipe were members of the house band, so with the addition of Hadden, there was a five-decade spread of musical talent playing together.

“Getting to trade licks with Ron was amazing,” Hadden said. “He sounds so good. What an honor to be on stage with him and Sipe, too. It’s those guys who laid the whole groundwork for everything we’re enjoying here. That was a lot of fun.

Isaac Hadden performing with his trio, IHOT
Photo by Cloud Bobby

“What I love about the artist at large thing too, is just getting to sit in with all kinds of people, making all kinds of different music and getting able to just feel like a whole variety of different energies. That’s kind of what I’m in it for, is to explore the world through energy and self-expression.”

Even with numerous performances on tap, Hadden doesn’t relinquish the role of patron when he’s at a festival, especially one near his hometown of Blacksburg, Va. He stayed the whole extended weekend at Rooster Walk, camping and catching up with old friends.

“Every festival feels like a big family reunion,” Hadden says. “This one has a special vibe to it. Just a really nice group of people that comes out. You can tell that everything’s done from a place of love, and you feel it. That’s really what I love about this festival.”

Hadden plans to keep the festival vibe rolling with lots of little show runs through the summer, including a show at the Grandin Theater in Roanoke, the SunBine Music Fest in Axton, Va., and the Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, Tenn. There, Sipe will sit in on drums with him again, a prospect that has him excited.

Along the journey, you can bet that Hadden will continue to pick up bits and pieces of many influences as he hones his unique sound as a performer. He’s convinced that it won’t work if he tries to emulate any one or two guitar players — he has to keep experimenting and developing individuality as an artist.

And even though Hadden admits that he’s too busy these days to think more than a week ahead, he absolutely looks forward to returning to Rooster Walk 14 in 2024. After all, it’s basically home.
“Every time I come back,” he says, “I feel like I’m in my natural habitat.”

The art vendors of Rooster Walk

It’s important to remember that Rooster Walk is a music AND arts festival. That means you can enjoy a huge variety of visual artists in addition to the music. Here are a few of the artists who showed and sold their artwork at RW13.

Hand Eye Heart Designs

Cait Deane and Emily Sherman make pottery and jewelry in the Harrisburg, Penn, area. Deane handles the pottery, which includes fest- and music-themed mugs, trays and other stoneware. Sherman does macrame and jewelry, offering a selection of rings and woven “hangery,” as she jokingly calls it. This year was their second at Rooster Walk.

Deane says she enjoys selling at festivals because it’s a great way to meet people. “It’s all about connecting through art,” she says.

You can check out work from Hand Eye Heart Designs on Instagram, Facebook and Etsy.

Cait Deane, left, and Emily Sherman of Hand Eye Heart Designs
Emily Sherman shows a ring she made with a stone purchased from another Rooster Walk vendor.

Jada Bean Art

Jada Schmidt’s art is grounded in a healthy respect for the past. Not only does she use only upcycled clothing in her work, she also uses her grandmother’s 1959 Singer sewing machine to hand-make appliques, and her grandfather’s upholstery machine to create fabric-wrapped buttons for earrings, pins, and hair ties. This is her third Rooster Walk.

Sometimes Schmidt will collaborate with other artists, stitching her appliques onto their textiles. She is also amassing a group of musicians who wear her designs, including guitar player and singer Isaac Hadden.

Jada Bean Art has been in business for 12 years in North Suffolk, Va. Check out her work on Facebook and Etsy.

Jada Schmidt’s jewelry — the bee and bear items are made with her grandfather’s button upholstering machine.
A Grateful Dead-themed dreamcatcher Jada Schmidt made from a doily.
Jada Schmidt of Jada Bean Art shows her “Galaxy Queen” upcycled dress with her handmade applique.

Jesi V. Art

Jesi Lundy is a Roanoke, Va., artist who creates prints from her acrylic paintings. She also specializes in orgone art, combining crystals, metals, and other natural materials and encasing them in resin in a variety of shapes.

Lundy, who enjoyed her first Rooster Walk this year, has been working professionally for 13 years. Her latest project is projection mapping, where video is projected onto large artworks, creating layers of color and shape to create dimension. It’s an emerging art in light shows at music performances.

“I just love to inspire and motivate people with my art,” Lundy says. See her work on Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, and her website,

Jesi Lundy shows her original acrylic artwork. Her orgone art is visible in the background.


Josh Jahsta and C.J. Maloney paint concert and culture-related translucent glass panels and make guitar pick necklace pendants. They use upcycled frames and are inspired by shows, songs, and stories. The Virginia Beach, Va., duo was at Rooster Walk for the first time this year.

Jahsta has been painting on glass for eight years and Maloney for one. You can check out their work by searching the #setfreaks hashtag on Instagram and Facebook.

Josh Jahsta and C.J. Maloney hold their paintings on glass.


Sunday Edition: My Favorite Vendor

Late on Sunday night, we polled RW13 festival-goers about their favorite vendor at Rooster Walk.

Patrick: Sugar Shack

Dorothy: Walkabout Outfitters

Jenny: Roti Rolls

James: Sugar Shack

Lindsey: A Little Bit Hippy

Alexis: Sugar Shack

Lucy: Sexi Mexi

Tanner: Pop’s Ice Cream Shop

Michelle: Sexi Mexi

Brian: Bangin’ Pies

Steve: Sugar Shack

Jason: Sexi Mexi

Matt: Three Notch’d Brewing

Jacob: Sexi Mexi

Jon: Three Notch’d Brewing

Chris: Roti Rolls

Liz: Sugar Shack

Betsy: Three Notch’d Brewing

Dane: Paper Dragon Foods

Kinley: A Little Bit Hippy

Ivy: Roti Rolls

John: Paper Dragon Foods

Maggie: Psychedelic Shack

Olivia: Roti Rolls

Savanah: Sugar Shack

Jon Stickley Hosts a Rooster Walk Tradition – the Jimmy Jam

Photo by Jody Carbone

The Jimmy Jam is a Rooster Walk tradition. Originally known as the Jammy Jam, it was renamed in 2021 after the passing of Jimmy Jordan, a Martinsville dentist, saxophone player, RW emcee, and great friend of the arts.

This year, Asheville-based guitarist Jon Stickley drew hosting duties. His band, Jon Stickley Trio, fired up the crowd with a set of originals, including tunes from his brand-new album “Meantime’s Up.” Aside from attending and playing at past Rooster Walk jams, Stickley didn’t have experience leading what he describes as “the most epic raging cluster jam.” But when he was asked to do it, he said yes immediately.

“What’s been really cool is that it’s put me in touch with a lot of new musicians who I’ve never met before,” Stickley said. “So I’m playing with a lot of people tonight who I’m just meeting for the first time. And it’s always great to get out and meet new people.”

After the trio’s opening set, some old friends were the first to join them on stage: Songs from the Road Band, a “bluegrass supergroup” quintet from Stickley’s home base of Asheville, N.C. Rooster Walk artists at large soon joined the fun, including singer Erin Lunsford, drummer Jeff Sipe, and saxophonist Ron Holloway. Empire Strikes Brass Band completed the mega-collaboration.

“It’s just one of those things where you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” Stickley says, “but you know it’ll be awesome and fun.”

Photo by Jody Carbone
Photo by Jody Carbone

Stickley’s trio is having a fun spring in the Blue Ridge region, and they are planning the band’s first trip to the Pacific Northwest to promote their album. “Meantime’s Up” represents the continued evolution of Stickley’s sound, which encompasses bluegrass, folk, jazz, prog rock, and probably 10 other genres. “I would say it’s just another step in our own direction, which kind of goes all over the place,” he says. “Everything on there is some type of new musical experiment that we’ve come up with. We’re pretty proud of it.”

Stickley says to check out the rocking track “Riders on the Night Sky,” which opens the album with a bang: “It’s way, just so different from anything we’ve ever done before.”

For now, Stickley is stoked to be back at Rooster Walk. “There’s a lot more music this weekend to look forward to,” he says. “It’s a stellar lineup as always.”

5 Questions with Jared Stout

Getting to know the New River Valley guitarist-singer

Roanoke, Va., singer-guitarist Jared Stout is making his first appearance at Rooster Walk this year. His
Jared Stout Band cranked things up on Friday with a rocking alt-country set at the Eye Level stage. He
hosted the Fire Jam in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning and turned around quickly for a
Saturday morning final set at the VIP Stage. We grabbed him moments after his opening set to get his
thoughts on strutting through RW13.

RW: How is your Rooster Walk experience so far?
: We’ve had a lot of fun already. We went and saw some Mike and the Moonpies and watched a little
bit of Robbie there on his on his house band set (JSB percussionist and harmonica player Robbie Carden
is also an Artist at Large). It was great. So we’re having a blast already. It was a great crowd. It was a
good show.
RW: How did you end up hosting the Fire Jam at 2:00 a.m.?
JS: We got put on by Johnny (Buck, RW’s executive director) and we were down for the challenge. We’re
such an amplified band, but we find ourselves to be versatile and we have the ability to do different
things. And we’ve actually got some new tunes. So we took it as a positive and we’re gonna rock it out.
We’re gonna have a lot of good times here.

RW: What’s coming up for the band short term, and what’s your ambition for the medium and long
JS: We just finished up with a two-night run with Austin Meade out of Texas. That was a lot of fun. We’re
gonna be opening up for Jackson Dean next week at Dr. Pepper Park (in Roanoke, Va.), and then we’ll be
at the Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, Tenn. We’re gonna do a little bit of local space and then the
trio (Stout, Carden and guitarist/bassist Matt Brassington) is going to Ireland for 10 days. Towards the
end of July, we got a couple of private festivals and some other bigger festivals that are happening. We’ll
be back here for the Infamous Weekend. It’s gonna be an absolute barn burner. I mean, that lineup is
insane. So it’s gonna be a ton of fun.
Moving into the future, we’re just looking to expand and get out. We want more people to hear our
music, and so we want to play it for more people. That’s probably the number one thing that we enjoy
the most. You know, the studio’s great, and making music is fantastic, and we love to do that, but we
love to play it for people.

RW: Is there an artist or band that you want to model your career after?
: I’m a big fan of the way that Cody Johnson handled his career. He did great in the Midwest and he
kept going, he didn’t sign that contract until he had the contract that he wanted. He spread the word
and he kept playing his shows and he really let that fan base go. That’s really important. I am absolutely
a fan of the endurance and tenacity that I’ve seen out of 49 Winchester. I love those guys, they’re so
fantastic, and to watch them just drive right up to the top like they’re doing is phenomenal. I love seeing
that. The number one thing is I just want to be somebody that people want to go listen to. That’s the
goal. You want to be a band that people want to come see, not just buy your music, not just listen to you
on the outside, but you want to be a band that people want to make the trip to come see.

RW: Who else are you really looking forward to seeing at Rooster Walk?
: St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Our buddies Crawford and Power are playing on Sunday. I’m actually
going to sit in and sing a song with them. I’m super stoked about that. Our buddies Dangermuffin will be
here on Sunday, so we’re really excited to see that. It’s like a little reunion for us. We can come out here
and just have a great time with all these people. I love this festival community. Having the opportunity
to be here with all these people, and go from this set to that set, and play your set, and then go watch
people that you never get to watch. We don’t always get to see these guys. So I think the lineup in total
is phenomenal.

The Best Thing I Saw Today: Friday Edition

Ten-Second Poll

Late on Friday night, we polled RW13 festival-goers about their favorite moment of the day.

Mialy: St. Paul and the Broken Bones, when he came out with the shiny cape. I also really liked
Jon Stickley at the Jimmy Jam.

Kevin: Yeah, St. Paul, the horn solos.

Joanie and Lenny: Orgone. They were new to us, but we really liked them.

Crissy: Happy customers at Sexi Mexi, my food stand. I do a lot of festivals — this one is really
well managed.

Sarah: A 3-year-old little girl with a lighted twirly thing. She was adorable.

Robin: The Jimmy Jam—Ron Holloway was amazing. There was so much energy at that show.

Victoria: St. Paul, but everything has been fantastic.

Jenna: Empire Strikes Brass Band.

John: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.

Jarrell: St. Paul.

Luke: St. Paul and the Broken Bones. I’ve seen them so many times.

Dickie: 20 people helped me set up a camper I had never set up before. That was so great.

Jackie: The light show at Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. I also liked seeing the pedal boats out on
the pond.

Meghan: I like the live flowers and the décor.

David: Jon Stickley.

Courtney: The Jimmy Jam.

Jamie: Erin Lunsford at the Jimmy Jam with Jon Stickley.

Annabelle: A little girl wildly swinging on the slackline as her friend held on to the end the line
for dear life.

Betsy: The five little girls dressed up as fairies.

Flynn: I gave a disabled patron a ride to her campsite. She was lovely.

This girl is on fire

Erin Lunsford might be the hardest-working artist at Rooster Walk

It’s no wonder Erin Lunsford feels at home at Rooster Walk—she was born in the middle of festival country. She’s working out of Richmond these days, but her family still lives around Floyd and Roanoke.

“I just feel like this is my people,” Lunsford says. “My cousin is Isaac Hadden, who’s playing this weekend also. So I’m just really happy to be here.”

In addition to playing two sets with her band, Erin and the Wildfire, Lunsford is an Artist at Large (AAL) for Rooster Walk 13. She joins at least seven other musicians to make up the festival’s house band, which is scheduled for three themed sets over three days: 1970s music, Jerry Garcia, and JamGrass. (See the RW13 band schedule here.) However, in the true spirit of “at large,” Lunsford expects to pop up as a guest in a number of other artists’ sets.

“I’m gonna be all up in everybody’s business for the next four days,” she laughs. Lunsford has played with fellow AAL Josh Shilling, a singer and keyboard player, but not with the other artists at large. “I can’t wait to get on stage with people and just kind of let loose and see where the music takes us. It’s such a conversation between musicians. I’m just so looking forward to the collaboration and speaking the musical language with people that I’ve never shared the stage with.”

Lunsford looks for every opportunity to make music, pursuing a solo career in addition to her work with the Wildfire. She has released solo music online and maintains a residency at Common House Richmond, performing every first Wednesday at the club.

What’s the difference, you might ask, between Lunsford’s solo work and her indie-pop-soul-funk blend with the Wildfire?

“If you’d asked me that five years ago, I would’ve said my solo project is so Americana,” she says. “But it doesn’t feel that way anymore. I was raised on bluegrass music, and I played claw hammer banjo and flatpicking guitar. So that’s where my songwriting originated. But as of recent, like the past few years, I’m writing a lot of soul and pop music and indie music and kind of using them for both projects.”

The Wildfire released its album “Touchy Feely” in April 2022 after a long break from recording — “five years,” Lunsford says. “That felt bad.” Right before Rooster Walk 13, she and the band had just finished instrumental tracks for a new album they hope to release this fall. Feeling inspired after a good year back on track, Lunsford says she wrote at least 20 songs, 10 of which will appear on the new record.

The rest of the summer will be dedicated to laying down her vocal tracks and playing a scattered slate of festivals and other gigs. And while Rooster Walk is close to her hometown and her heart, there’s something about the high-level performances at any festival that supercharges Lunsford’s creativity.

“When I get to see so many different people of this caliber, I get so motivated to go and write and go and practice, and it just inspires me,” she says. “It makes me want to go play more music whenever I see somebody else play.”

CashorTrade Partnership for Ticket Exchanges

We are teaming up with CashorTrade as the official fan-to-fan ticket exchange for Rooster Walk.  

All tickets on CashorTrade are face value only. If you have tickets and can no longer attend, you can sell and transfer them to another fan on CashorTrade. It is FREE to sell — there are no fees for sellers. And if you are looking to purchase a sold-out ticket type, check to see what’s available or set up an ISO (in search of) alert on CashorTrade.

To celebrate the partnership, CashorTrade is giving away a pair of 4-Day General Admission Festival Passes, including Free Camping and General Admission Car Parking.  Enter to win now!