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The festival, now in its fifth year, will feature national touring acts Leftover Salmon, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Yarn, and Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.
Dumpstaphunk will be performing at this year's Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival.
Courtesy Alicia J. Rose
Sammy Shelor will be performing at this year's Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival.
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds
Courtesy DSE Music
Courtesy Roger Gupta
Nighttime at Rooster Walk 2012.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
For the Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival, progress has been slow and steady. But even as the festival grows its lineup, it sticks with some longtime favorites.
In its first year, a passel of local and regional bands filled the lineup at the Blue Mountain Festival Grounds, near Martinsville. Charlottesville’s Kings of Belmont and Ashveville, N.C.’s Sanctum Sully were on the bill.
This time around, in its fifth year, Rooster Walk features national touring acts Leftover Salmon, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Yarn, and Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.
But Kings of Belmont and Sanctum Sully, as usual, will be onstage , too, during the four-day event that begins Thursday.
That’s part of this festival’s spirit, which organizers began as a way to honor their friends and Martinsville natives Edwin “The Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank, who had died shortly before that first festival. Penn died after a dirt-bike crash in 2007. Shank died in his sleep of heart trouble the next year.
As always, money raised at the festival goes to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship at Martinsville High School. Organizers say that they have raised about $20,000 so far and have awarded three scholarships to Martinsville High students.
Both Kings of Belmont and Sanctum Sully have Martinsville ties and had friendships with Penn and Shank. They are the only two bands that have played each edition of Rooster Walk. In the early years of the festival, they played for free.
“They want to be a part of Rooster Walk,” festival spokesman Johnny Buck said. “And we always want to have them back.”
After all, they are part of the reason that the scholarship endowment is within about two years of being self-supporting.
The festival’s board includes a financial analyst, who has said that if the event continues to grow as it has, the fund will be able to continue to provide the $1,000 annual scholarship , even if the festival doesn’t go on.
Of course, festival organizers want to keep it rolling for far longer. With community businesses continuing to increase sponsorships, a 15 percent per year increase in attendance, and a lineup that improves yearly, why not?
“As we get more people in the door every year and they see what we’re doing, they want to get involved,” Buck said.
Saturday night packs a wide variety of musical action.
A recently reunited Leftover Salmon, the Colorado act that pioneered the jamgrass subgenre, comes to the festival behind a new album, “Aquatic Hitchhiker,” that finds the band rocking hard. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk also has a new album in the pipeline, set for release July 30, and the band is playing lots of it on stages this tour.
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, led by singer Arleigh Kincheloe and her harmonica master brother, Jackson Kincheloe, is a band on the rise. Soulful singer Josh Panda brings multiple genres with his band, the Hot Damned.
Connecticut-based jazz/funksters Kung Fu, Rooster Walk perennials Kings of Belmont, Yarn, and Larry & Jenny Keep with Sammy Shelor are Friday highlights.
Gypsy jazz monster Stephane Wrembel, Big Fat Gap, L Shape Lot and Space Capone bring heat on Sunday.
Bassett Furniture is the title sponsor, and its help has allowed the festival to book such acts as Leftover Salmon and Dumpstaphunk, bands that are, “in Rooster Walk terms, really huge,” Buck said.
The first year, between 600 and 700 people came out, organizers estimated. Last year, the Memorial Day weekend saw about 3,000 people come through the gates, Buck said.
Plenty of local acts, too
The festival features plenty of fine local and regional music flavors, as well. Roanoke jam-rock band Funk Punch headlines Thursday, a VIP-only day. Americana-rockers The Floorboards play a Friday afternoon set. Folk- and pop-grassers After Jack are on the Sunday lineup.
“We’re always on the lookout for local acts that are really offering high quality music and entertainment and that are really working at it hard,” Buck said. “The other important thing to us is that they play original music. We like to think is a great opportunity for them to play in front of a large crowd and hopefully get a bunch of new fans right on the spot.”
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