Roostertail Music Festival

The Steel Woods band
to headline Saturday night

The band brings southern rock to the lineup

After earning a reputation as one of the fastest rising bands in the worlds of independent country and southern rock, The Steel Woods are set to rock the house during the 2021 Madison Regatta Roostertail Music Festival. With their balance of heavy blues-rock, southern poetry and outlaw country, they pay homage to their icons – Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings – on their albums and in their live performances.
Derek Stanley, the band’s manager, said of their music, “The Steel Woods are really tough to put into one bucket, but I would say that they are a blend of country, bluegrass, rock and blues. Being from the south, we often get categorized as “Southern Rock” but our music is truly a unique blend of genres.”
The band consists of singer-co-songwriter Wes Bayliss, bassist Johnny Stanton and drummer Isaac Senty. Their fourth member, founding guitarist and principal creative force Jason “Rowdy” Cope, diedw in his sleep at age 42 in January 2021. Many believe that Cope’s death was related to his Type 2 diabetes condition, which he’d only been diagnosed with in late 2018. After years of struggling, he had also overcome problems with alcohol and PTSD.
The Steel Woods will be the Saturday night headliner for the Roostertail Music Festival, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, July 2-3. They will perform from 10:30 p.m. to midnight on stage at Bicentennial Park in Madison, Ind.

Photo courtesy of Woods Music

The Steel Woods band are (from left) Johnny Stanton (base), Isaac Senty (drums), Wes Bayliss (guitar/vocals) and Tyler Powers (guitar).

“All band members live in Nashville, Tenn., although everyone hails from different parts of the country,” said Stanley. “The band was originally formed in Nashville by Jason Cope and Wes Bayliss.”
Bayliss, an Alabama native, first met Cope in 2015 when he was the guitarist for Jamey Johnson, a gig Cope held for nine years. Within three months of meeting one another, the band had cut the first half of their critically acclaimed debut album, “Straw in the Wind.” The other members joined a year later and an album was release in 2017, followed up with “Old News” in 2019.
The Steel Woods recorded their third album, “All of Your Stones,” in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 10 tracks it contains, six were written or co-written by Cope. The record also includes a cover of Skynyrd’s “I Need You,” featuring country music singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe.
Stanley said the band “takes a lot of pride in creating great art, so I would say that the number one thing audiences love about The Steel Woods is the music – lyrically rich songs with instrumentals that can cover a wide range of musical styles. A close second would be the live show that has been known to melt some faces.”
This will be the third Roostertail Music Festival. Begun in 2017, the event had to be canceled last year due to COVID-19. Festival coordinator Brent Turner said he doesn’t think missing a year will hurt the festival.
“People are ready to get back to it. This is for people who enjoy music and racing. We want people to take part in what we missed in 2020.”
Turnout in the first two years of the festival was “phenomenal,” he said.  “It was a more regional crowd; people came who hadn’t been to the Regatta before.”
The festival was added to the well-established Madison Regatta, which is now in its 71st year. Billed as “the party of the summer,” the event takes place the week of July 4 and features hydroplane racing, fireworks, a parade, and many more events in the week leading up to the rac weekend.
When the Roostertail Music Festival was added, Turner said, “We tried to add to the overall festival while introducing music fans to racing.” He said that 2017 was an experimental year with an expanded music festival, since there had “always been music at Regatta, but it was never really featured.”
That year the organizing committee wanted to add something new, and “it was well attended. In 2018, we decided to brand it. We put more into it in 2018 and 2019.”

Photo provided

The Wooks, a Kentucky bluegrass and mountain music band, will headline on Friday night.

As to the lineup, Turner said that “every year we do two locals. Everyone else is a national or regional touring act.”
Turner said diversity is the key to the music festival’s appeal. “Our committee discusses the acts and tries to provide something for everyone and not go down just one path.”
Past music genres have included bluegrass, southern rock, blues, country, reggae and alternative hip hop. One of this year’s bands, The Commonheart, is “an eight or 10-piece brass band, so you have several different sounds going on at one time,” he said.
The Steel Woods have “never played in Madison, Ind.,” said Stanley. “We are looking forward to playing the festival there this July. In Indiana, we’ve played Indianapolis, Evansville, Bloomington and Fort Wayne, but Madison will be a first.”
This will also be the first time playing the festival for the Friday night headliner, The Wooks. The band is scheduled to perform from 10:45 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.
Turner said The Wooks, who are from Cincinnati, “play a lot on the bluegrass scene. When you see them live, they have a lot of energy.”
The festival features a full two-day line-up. Friday night kicks off from 8:30-9:15 p.m. with Jordan Wilson, followed from 9:30-10:30 p.m. by Alex Williams. The Wooks wrap up the night.
Saturday’s lineup begins at 5:30 p.m. with Eric Bolander performing until 6:30 p.m., followed from 7-8 p.m. by Jimmy Davis. The Commonheart take the stage from 8:30-10 p.m. with The Steel Woods closing out the weekend.
One major change to this year’s music festival is that there will be no free Thursday night music this year, said Turner. In that sense, “we’ve scaled down. Also, Friday night will start a little later than normal because of the parade.”
The City of Madison-Madison Regatta Parade, presented by German American Bank, will take place at 7 p.m. on Main Street.
Admission wristbands for the Madison Regatta racing and Roostertail Music Festival range from $40 to $200. Access to the music festival will be available with a combo wristband for both. Music-only wrist bands will not be offered.
Turner said attendees can get wristbands at the gate. Bar codes will be scanned at the gates when ticket holders bring up their ticket email on their phone. “We’re trying to modernize,” he said.

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