Martinsville, Virginia


Not-So-Quiet Revolution Brewing

Today's guest blogger is Lisa Lynn Snedeker, contributor to the Danville Register & Bee, and an advent music fan. Lisa shares her enthusiasm for Rooster Walk and the music scene at the Rives Theatre with the following story from the Danville Register & Bee.

Locals and visitors are used to hearing the roar of NASCAR engines in the spring and the fall around here.

What they don't hear nearly as often is live music. But that's changing thanks to volunteers at the nonprofits Arts at the Rives Theatre and Rooster Walk.

There's a not-so-quiet revolution brewing in this southwest Virginia town if you stop and listen. Some folks in neighboring Franklin County heard it last Memorial Day weekend during Rooster Walk 5, according to one of its co-founders and organizers, Johnny Buck, who is also on the ART Board. "We put in a new sound system and apparently the sound carried and there were complaints about the noise," he explained with a chuckle. "They couldn't tell where it was coming from."

That secret is out. And Dean Johnston, president of the ART Board, couldn't be happier. Also a member of the Rooster Walk board, Johnston says the Rives Theatre, 215 E. Church St., is part of what locals hope will catch on as a community revival. The volunteer-run ART is dedicated to preserving the historic Rives Theatre and transforming the former two-screen movie house into a live-music venue and a community arts space.

"As we attract live music to Martinsville, some of the bands who are playing at the Rives also play at Rooster Walk," Johnston said. "It's great for the area. We got tired of hearing people saying there's nothing to do here. And the community is taking ownership of these events."

In fact, a number of Danville residents who attended the Friday series kickoff at the Rives Theatre said they wish that Danville had a similar offering. But until it does, they are content with making the drive to Martinsville.

"I came to hear Yarn and to check out the Rives," said first-time Live at the Rives Theatre Series-goer and Danville resident Danny Reynolds before Friday's show. "This theater is a great experience. Danville needs something like this."

Yarn was the featured act at the 2014 Live at the Rives Theatre Series Opening Party, sponsored by ART. Also performing before and after Yarn was the acoustic trio Idyle Wood from Charlottesville.

"We just want a cool place for people to come," Johnston added.

And come they did. Buck estimated it's the biggest crowd the Rives Theatre has seen so far as part of its music series. The 200-seat theatre was standing and dancing room only for the New York City-formed Americana band that will return to Martinsville for two performances during Rooster Walk 6 set for May 23-25 at the Blue Mountain Festival Grounds.

"The Live at the Rives Theatre Series has definitely grown in popularity and not only in the attendance of our key events," Buck explained. "Folks are also showing up for bands that are new to Martinsville and that they have never heard perform. When you are doing 10 shows per year in a concert series, there's no reason you can't have a great band playing a different type of music every month."

Season tickets for the Live at the Rives Theatre Series, which includes nine additional shows, are still available for $75, which breaks down to about $8 per concert, according to Buck. Upcoming shows include the rocking blues of legendary Washington, D.C.-based blues band The Nighthawks on Feb. 14, Rooster Walk's and Merlefest's jazz/bluegrass fusion band the Jon Stickley Trio on March 7 and one of America's finest African-American sacred steel ensembles, The Lee Boys, on April 11.

Tickets are available at Daily Grind Coffee House & Cafe - Martinsville, Woodall's Music and Sound, or the

About the Author: Lisa Snedeker has been writing about music for more than three decades for numerous media outlets including The Associated Press. Now a freelance writer who calls Madison, N.C., home, she has interviewed hundreds of artists ranging from Taylor Swift to  Rickey Medlocke to Steve Earle to Sam Bush and reviewed even more concerts and music festivals including MerleFest, Floydfest, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Rooster Walk. Follow her on Twitter @lisa_snedeker