Memorial Day Weekend revelers returned to Pop’s Farm in Martinsville, VA last month for the 13th edition of Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival. For four days, organizers presented a varied lineup ranging from Southern rock heroes to up-and-coming jam band firebrands to mountain music mainstays from across the country.
The keyword of the weekend at Rooster Walk 2023 was collaboration, as artists cross-pollinated each other’s sets with sit-ins galore. It was members of Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and tenor sax great Ron Holloway who helped Pigeons Playing Ping Pong pay tribute to the late Tina Turner with the band’s debut of “Proud Mary” on Friday during Pigeons’ headlining set.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival | Martinsville, VA | 5/26/23
Set: The Town, Melting Lights > Offshoot, Proud Mary*, Somethin’ For Ya > Water^, Underworld, Funk E Zekiel > Kashmir > Burning Up My Time > Sunny Day
* First time played [Tina Turner version, R.I.P.]; w/ Daniel Donato on guitar and vocals, Nathan Aronowitz (Daniel Donato) on keys and vocals, Will McGee (Daniel Donato) on vocals, St. Paul & The Broken Bones horns (Allen Branstetter on trumpet, Chad Fisher on trombone, Amari Ansari on saxophone) and Ron Holloway on saxophone
^ w/ Ron Holloway on saxophone
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong didn’t stage the only tribute to the Queen of Rock n’ Roll at Rooster Walk, with Doom Flamingo vocalist Kanika Moore leading the neo-synthwave act through a cover of “Simply the Best” on Thursday before jetting across the Midwest to Summer Camp Music Festival.
Organizers of Rooster Walk had sit-ins on their minds when planning the festival, going so far as to appoint seven Artists At Large. These included Ron Holloway (saxophone, Dizzy Gillespie/Allman Brothers Band), Jeff Sipe (drums, Apt. Q258/Aquarium Rescue Unit), Josh Shilling (vocals/keys/organ, Mountain Heart), Erin Lunsford (vocals/guitar, Erin & The Wildfire), Wallace Mullinax (guitar, Dead 27s), Robby Carden (harmonica, Jared Stout Band), and Jake Dempsey (bass, The Dead Reckoning). The lauded instrumentalists from all corners of the musical spectrum wandered the grounds day and night, sitting in with a variety of acts. Additionally, they performed together each day as the Rooster Walk House Band.
Saturday headliners Greensky Bluegrass took the sit-in assignment a step further, inviting keyboardist Holly Bowling to join for the entire set. The extended lineup, nicknamed 6reensky, used its single-set performance to run through 20-plus years of fan favorites including “Kerosene”, “Leap Year”, “A Letter to Seymour”, and “Courage for the Road”, balanced with cuts from the band’s 2021 album Stress Dreams. Midway through the set, a duo performance of “Windshield” by mandolinist Paul Hoffman and Bowling struck a sentimental chord, and later on “Past My Prime” ended the set with a bang.
Setlist: Greensky Bluegrass | Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival | Martinsville, VA | 5/27/23
Set: Kerosene, Old Barns, Hit Parade of Love, Grow Together, Leap Year, In Control, A Letter to Seymour, Windshield , Courage for the Road, Reasons to Stay, Demons, Past My Prime
Phoffman Holly duo
Full show w/ Holly Bowling (keys) #6reensky
Guitarist Daniel Donato showed his stamina as well, pulling double duty via sets with his solo Cosmic Country outfit on Friday and Trouble No More on Saturday. The official Allman Brothers Band tribute also features guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, bassist Dylan Niederauer, drummer Nikki Glaspie, keyboardist Peter Levin, pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier, and vocalist Lamar Williams Jr.
The all-star ABB tribute wasn’t the only sound of Southern rock wafting through Pop’s Farm, as South Carolina icons The Marshall Tucker Band helped put an exclamation point on Rooster Walk with a Sunday headlining set. The party didn’t end there, however, as rising Boston jam quartet Neighbor kept fans dancing well into nightfall. In a continuing Rooster Walk tradition, the weekend’s closing set went to Yarn, who delivered a Bruce Springsteen tribute set featuring members of Dangermuffin, Sol Driven Train, and of course the Rooster Walk House Band that circled back to the keyword of the weekend: collaboration.
Kitchen Dwellers – “This Time” – 5/25/23
Kitchen Dwellers – “Their Names Are The Trees” – 5/25/23
Jon Stickley Trio – “Old Train” (Nikki Pedersen, Herb Pedersen) – 5/26/23
Jon Stickley Trio – “Cold On The Shoulder” (Tony Rice) – 5/26/23
Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country – “Luck Of The Draw” – 5/26/23
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – “Water” [Pro-Shot] – 5/26/23
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – “Kashmir” (Led Zeppelin) – 5/26/23
Trouble No More – “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” (Allman Brothers Band)– 5/27/23