Roostertail Music Festival
If you have been paying attention to the Country, Americana, Alt Rock, and Southern Rock festival scenes in recent years, you know there is no shortage of great music festivals out there, even for the independent music scene. We would even venture to say, especially for the independent music scene, Oklahoma, Texas and the Appalachian region pretty well have the market cornered. Knowing this, we were ecstatic to see a new one pop up in the Midwest. Roostertail Music Festival in Madison, Indiana is a fairly new music festival that has been built into a 90-year-old Regatta on the Ohio River over the Independence Day weekend. This year, we saw that beautiful riverside Bicentennial Park in Madison, Indiana was the place to be. For three straight days, thanks to Brent Turner, Matt Wells and their dedicated team of volunteers, the town exploded with the fastest boats we’ve ever seen racing down the Ohio River during the day, and a rocking music festival from the afternoon through the night!
Kicking off Thursday were local favorites, The Famous Amy Noel Band. Lead singer and namesake, Amy Noel’s powerful vocals caught the attention of the assembling crowd. As they filed in to grab their preferred spots on the hill, under the trees, or right up front on the rail, Amy started singing with Joe Perkinson (guitar), Ronnie Green (lead guitar), Danny Cook (bass) Kerry Mefford (drums), and Woody Woodmansee on keys. An obvious local crowd pleaser, Amy and her band played their fantastic original songs like, “The Way It Must Be,” “My Time to Shine,” and “One Aloha.” They mixed their set up with stellar covers that showcased her vocals as she crossed genres with Susan Tedeschi’s, “Rock Me Right” and “Little by Little” to Aretha Franklin’s rockin’ groove “Chain of Fools.” While we loved hearing awesome new music by these artists, a personal favorite moment was when they launched into “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac and the crowd around us were singing along! That was an awesome way to start off the festival! To close out the Madison, Indiana double header, another local band, Steamship took the stage next. Headed by Robert Earl Reynolds, their blend of folk and rock kept the crowd excited as they continued to file in from the riverfront and the festival-like atmosphere.
As the sun started to sink below, Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters from Southern Indiana jumped up on the stage to familiar applause, and they were ready to rock with their solid Americana style. They have played their music at the festival to appreciative fans all three years. You can hear the influences in their music from some great artists ranging from John Prine, and Hank Williams, to, Dr. Dog, and Little Feat. Backed by Bob Rutherford on bass and Alec Rhoades on drums, Nick played selected songs from his two EPs, Extra Better and Light of Day, and his full-length album, Midwest Heart/Southern Blues. Some of the crowd favorites were “Trouble Song” and “Rhythm of the Train,” but the way Nick played his guitar and belted out “Love Me Like You Did” and “All Damn Day” we can understand without a doubt why this band is an established player in the Americana music scene.
The headliners of the night, The High Divers from Charleston, South Carolina, brought their highly energetic performance to close out the first day of the festival. Led by husband and wife, Luke (guitar, vocals) and Mary Alice (vocals, keyboard), the band is rounded out by Kevin Early (bass, vocals) and Julius DeAngelis (drums). Watching them seamlessly move from song to song of their seventeen-song set, we couldn’t help but notice that they play together like they have been doing this all of their lives, and they genuinely look like they are having a spectacular time along the way. We found out later that the band had been in a life-threatening crash two years prior when their band’s van was t-boned by a semi- trailer truck while they were out touring. The scars and emotions of that day actually brought them closer, and propelled the writing and collaboration with Sadler Vaden to produce their six song EP, Ride With You. While performing all of the songs from the EP, including the title track, “Ride With You,” “Talking to Myself,” and “Our Love is a Fire,” followed by the powerful and compassionate anti-suicide song, “Stick Around,” they further impressed the crowd as Luke asked us if we knew any strong people who had survived or overcome a bad circumstance. With many nods in response, they launched right into “Still Kickin’.” They were new to us, but highly recommended by festival goers who had seen them before. We’ve actually followed them as they moved on with their tour, and were lucky enough to catch another show in Virginia that just happened to be a few weeks after the festival. Both times, they captivated their audiences with their passionate Americana soul sound. They were the perfect band to play out the first day of the festival. We knew after seeing how well it was run that the next two days were going to be incredible.
Friday had a wide variety of music on the line up. Everything from Pop, Rap, Dance and Honky Tonk Country music. Synth-pop group from Louisville, Kentucky, The Pass, were the lead-off band on Friday. The Pass has great, high energy music full of heavy guitar and synthesizer tones that got the crowd excited and moving.
Gaining popularity across the country, was another Louisville, Kentucky group, Frederick the Younger. Groove-pop sounds backing up the soulful harmonies of Jenni Cochran and Aaron Craker. This Indie Pop group performed songs that will be on their latest EP, slated to release in the fall, and also music from their 2017 debut album, Human Child.
Hailing originally from Philly, Pennsylvania, but currently located in Charleston, South Carolina, Alternative Hip-Hop/Rap duo, Little Stranger, energized the crowd with their unique sound and style. Their quirky originality makes them stand out among so many other Hip-Hop artists today. As a style comparison, they are somewhat similar to the Gorillaz. John Shields keeps the rhythm on guitar and sets the vibe on keys while Kevin Shields drops the provocative lyrical bombs. They incidentally have the same last name, but are merely brothers from another mother.
Bringing the Texas heat to round out the Friday acts were south Texas songbird, Jamie Lin Wilson, and Austin’s finest Honky Tonk band, Mike and the Moonpies. Joining Jamie on stage were electric bassist, Naj Conklin, Cody Angel on pedal steel and Giovanni “Nooch” Carnuccio III keeping the beat on drums. Wilson mixed the setlist up quite a bit between songs from her days with the female band, The Trishas, her solo EP, Dirty Blonde Hair, that was recorded during her time with The Trishas, and songs from both of her full-length LPs, Holidays and Wedding Rings and Jumping Over Rocks. Jamie kicked off her Friday evening set with a song called “The Being Gone” from her October 2018 release, Jumping Over Rocks- a lamenting tune about the worth of road life when you’re missing your family back home. A couple of songs from The Trishas were “Little Sweet Cigars” and “Drive” which Wilson co-wrote with Jason Eady and Kelley Mickwee. From the Dirty Blonde Hair EP, she sang “Dusty Shoes” and a favorite of hers to hear live with the full band, “Whistling.” A couple crowd favorites from the Jumping Over Rocks album were “Run” and “Oklahoma Stars.” Jamie Lin Wilson wrote “Oklahoma Stars” after her experience at Medicine Stone Music Festival in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. She had asked Turnpike Troubadours’ frontman, Evan Felker, to sing on the song for her 2018 album. He did just that and also added a verse to the song prior to recording it, this time with Wilson on background vocals for their own 2017 album, A Long Way from Your Heart.
Photos of Jamie Lin Wilson and Band Courtesy of Don Cornett Photography
The rest of the night belonged to Mike and the Moonpies. The hard-hitting Honky Tonkin’ group started their set off from the top of their highly acclaimed 2018 album, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, with “Road Crew,” “Might Be Wrong,” and “The Last Time.” We heard a couple from their Mockingbird and The Hard Way albums before going into their latest single, “You Look Good in Neon,” which has become a fast fan favorite. Nearing half-way into the energetic set, they went into their 2017 single, “Country Music’s Dead.” The title of the song is misleading because it is actually about how real country music is alive and well. You just may have to stumble into your local dive bar to hear real country music though. That song was a creative collaboration between the band, John Baumann, and their producer, Adam Odor. It was a testament to the real country music that is still being made and played all over the country. The crowd got a little shot of David Allen Coe’s “Willie, Waylon, and Me” that followed their 2012 track, “Me and Hayes.” A couple tunes later, frontman, Mike Harmeier, called out Jamie Lin Wilson to the stage to help on fellow Texan, George Strait’s “Fireman.” Next up was the crowd participatory song, “Beaches of Biloxi.” Bassist, Omar Oyoque, lead the crowd in perfectly timing their claps with the verses of the song. The Moonpies rounded out their set with a three-song medley of “Bottled Beer,” “We’re Gone,” and “The Real Country.” After a brief departure, the band reemerged on stage to the screams of approval from the crowd. Bringing with them, tambourine in tow, Jamie Lin Wilson, who sat in for a rendition of Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars and Cadillacs.” From there, Mike and the Moonpies did their cover of Fastball’s “The Way” which they released as a single earlier this year. Going out with a bang, they capped the night off with Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” Make no mistake, after electrifying performances put on by both Jamie Lin Wilson and Mike and the Moonpies, real country music is definitely being made and played and deserves all of the support it can get.
Photos of Mike and the Moonpies Courtesy of Don Cornett Photography
From across the Ohio River, Louisville, Kentucky native, Brent Mathis kicked off the festival with an Americana music set on Saturday afternoon. Brent brought with him, fellow Louisville musicians: Connor Powell, Paul Culligan, and Aaron Bibelhauser. Keep an eye out for this emerging musician and check out his single, “Rosalene.”
On the following set, also from Louisville, Kentucky, was 16 Bones. The duo of David “Sailor” Bryant and Bryan Fox brought a full band to Roostertail to rock the afternoon crowd. Bryant also fronts the metal band, SxWxP.
Kicking the late afternoon into high gear with loud, rowdy style was Edgar Red. This young band has a sound unique to today’s rock bands. Their sound is more of a throwback to the 90’s grunge rockers with a splash of classic 70’s rock. Complete with guitar riffs and Viking horns, Edgar Red brought high energy to get the crowd warmed up for a night full of great rock and country music.
Whether solo acoustic or with his talented band, Lexington, Kentucky’s own, Justin Wells is a powerhouse vocalist and poignant song writer. Today he brought his full band to include guitarist, Robert Frahm, bassist, Colin Kellogg, and Daniel Mohler on drums. Leading off their dynamic set in the park with a new one called “Screaming Song” which was written about the birth of his nephew and how lonely it must feel being born into this world. We heard several from his 2016 album, Dawn in the Distance like “The Highway Less Taken,” “Three Quarters Gone,” and “Going Down Grinnin’.” Appealing to his long-time fans, Justin indulged us with “Distant Memory Lane” which is a song from the 2010 album Dark and Bloody Ground from his former rock band, Fifth on the Floor. Be on the lookout for his highly anticipated next album.
If you’ve ever seen an American Aquarium show, you know you’re in for a treat. Their Roostertail Music Festival performance was no exception. Even with an ever-evolving band line-up, BJ Barham always brings together great musicians to form a tight band that always delivers a high energy, emotional roller coaster of a set. Barham, from Raleigh, North Carolina, has written and released 10 albums as American Aquarium since 2006 and has played well over 3000 shows in that time. As the sun was going down in Madison, American Aquarium started off the set with “Casualties” from their 2012 album Burn. Flicker. Die. Next, they headed into a couple from their most recent album, Things Change– “Tough Folks” and “Crooked+Straight.” The middle of the set was reserved for “Wichita Falls,” “Losing Side of Twenty-Five,” and the title track from Wolves. BJ ended the lively set with the crowd singing [screaming] the lyrics back to him for “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart” and “Burn. Flicker. Die.”
To help celebrate the Independence Day weekend, local guitar wonderkid, 10-year-old Jack Ziesemer, took the stage in between musical performances to perform our National Anthem. Jack wailed on his electric guitar for a Jimi Hendrix-style rendition of “Star Spangled Banner.”
Amongst touring with Chris Stapleton and Whiskey Myers this year, as well as headlining his own “Sucker for a Good Time Tour,” Brent Cobb brought his show to Madison, Indiana for Roostertail. Cobb is a fantastic singer-songwriter with lyrics rich in real-life narratives about family and roots. He opened his set acoustically with a song he dedicated to his children, “Keep’em on Their Toes.” From his album, Shine on Rainy Day, he gave us the self-deprecating, yet crowd pleasing, “Diggin’ Holes.” Other popular tunes off of his 2018 Grammy nominated album Shine on Rainy Day were “Down in the Gully” and “Let the Rain Come Down.” With a couple of years of nearly constant touring, Brent Cobb and his band, And Them, have honed-in on their groovy, soul-filled country-rock style. Guitarist, Mike Harris, lit up the stage with a few hot solos throughout the set. Bassist, Jason Kott, and Americana Award nominated drummer, Jerry Pentecost, round out the very talented three-piece touring band. Coming off of his highly acclaimed 2018 release, Providence Canyon, Cobb played “.30-06,” “Sucker for a Good Time,” “If I Don’t See Ya,” along with the album title track, to name a few. Staying true to his humble personality, Brent even stepped out after the night of music concluded to greet and chat a bit with fans. A fantastic display of fireworks could be seen, heard and enjoyed in the darkening skies all around the festival grounds. However, the real show-stoppers were on display over the Ohio River just beyond the festival stage after Brent Cobb And Them concluded their set.
The first bullet out of the chamber for Texas-based Southern Rockers, Whiskey Myers, was “Frogman.” They followed up the opening hit with a couple more off of the Mud album - “On the River” and “Deep Down in the South.” Much to the crowd’s excitement, Brent Cobb then returned to the stage to help rock out on “Bar, Guitar and a Honky Tonk Crowd.” The band slowed it down a bit with the emotional ballad, “Broken Window Serenade.” Right back into the rockin’ “Early Morning Shakes” before eventually slowing it down again, a couple songs later, for “Virginia.” From their highly anticipated forthcoming self-titled album, lead singer, Cody Cannon, ripped into their new single, “Die Rockin,” which Cannon co-wrote with the legendary Texas troubadour, Ray Wylie Hubbard. The song is a declaration of exactly what we expect from the members of this band, Hubbard, and their loyal fans – to die rockin’. In their performance ritual, guitarists, Cody Tate and John Jeffers burned up the stage and spilled onto the runway with face-melting instrumental guitar solos, mid-set. In the back half of the performance, setlist staples, “Ballad of a Southern Man,” “Trailer We Call Home,” and “Stone” found the fans cheering and singing along in gratification. John Jeffers took lead vocals to showcase the song “Bitch” which he wrote for the upcoming album. The song “shakes its fist” at the type of music that has dominated the country airwaves in the recent decade or so. Whiskey Myers finalized their dynamic set with Neil Young’s Rock ‘n Roll classic, “Rockin’ in the Free World” which was very apropos for the Independence Day weekend.
Official Roostertail Music Festival Photography Whiskey Myers 2019 Roostertail Music Festival Headliner Photography by Aaron P. Wood @DarkPhoenixProductionsDigitalLLC
The quaint and historic, Madison, Indiana put on an outstanding weekend of entertainment. The Independence Day weekend festivities were exciting, family-friendly, and extremely affordable. From our perspective, everything ran smoothly and efficiently. The Regatta on the Ohio River was exhilarating to watch, and the music performances were high-caliber. There were so many different activities and events throughout town to choose from that anyone could have found something to enjoy. The variety of musical genres performing for the festival was refreshing, as well. It’s pleasing to see so many local, regional, and national touring acts perform on the same stage. The event staff were friendly and helpful – you could tell they cared about the hospitality the city provided the attendees. The Roostertail Music Festival is definitely one to make plans for next year and any year after… We had a blast!
Thanks to Aaron P. Wood & Don Cornett Photography for the use of photos: