Winter Roots Concert
Red Wing presents
The Steel Wheels’ album release show
w/ special guest Lindsay Lou
Box Office | 4:30pm
Doors | 6:00pm
Music | 7:00pm
in the Warsaw Ave Parking Deck
A Winter Weekend in Harrisonburg, VA!
We are thrilled to partner with Hotel Madison for the Winter Roots Weekend! Use this link to book your special room rate at Hotel Madison for January 19 and/or 20th! Or call to book your reservation at 540-564-0200 and be sure to mention “Red Wing Winter Roots Concert” to receive the $109/night special.
Join us at Hotel Madison from 4-6pm on January 20th for a FREE PERFORMANCE with The Fly Birds at Quills Lobby Lounge before the Winter Roots Concert. With only a short walk between the venues, you’ll be exactly where you want to be for the winter weekend!
Winter Roots Weekend Line Up
Virginia-based folk-rock band The Steel Wheels have spent almost twenty years writing, recording, and touring, all the while constantly honing their evolving brand of American roots music. Additionally they are the founders and hosts of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, a beloved staple of the Shenandoah Valley. Through the years, The Steel Wheels have drawn on both traditional form and modern sounds to capture the beauty in all of life’s varied trials and triumphs. Their new album, Sideways, which releases on February 9, 2024 via Big Ring Records, is a meditation on resilience and survival. Trent Wagler, the band’s lead singer and primary songwriter, penned many of the songs in response to loss, and the uncertainty that comes with facing what we can’t control.
Sideways begins with “Wait On You,” bounding out of the gates with a fervor carried by The Steel Wheels’ signature close harmonies and propulsive mountain energy. Through a seemingly simple story of the naivety of youth, the belief that we can skate by without being prepared for misfortune and the unexpected, the album kicks off with a kind of emboldening invitation in the face of an unavoidable truth. The world doesn’t wait on us—it’s our responsibility to shore ourselves up, to show up, to be ready to be a part of it all.
In 2019, The Steel Wheels were blindsided by the death of fiddle player and vocalist Eric Brubaker’s young daughter to a sudden illness. This incredible weight inspired some of the lines of “Easy on Your Way”, an almost hymn-like anthem that speaks to the desire to find something to say or give in the middle of heartache. But in spite of the weight at the heart of the song, it still rollicks with energy like a barn dance dirge—it’s a call to just be in your grief and pain while holding on to hope that we are in it all together.
In addition to finding resolve in loss, many of the songs on Sideways heavily grapple with the experience of watching the suffering of those we love, but feeling unequipped and helpless to know what to do—or if there is even anything we can do. In the depths of a pandemic, mostly isolated and sequestered from the rest of the world, Wagler’s own child faced a serious mental health crisis and needed immediate treatment. Thankfully they were able to find a program to receive the help they needed. Still the complicated, unending journey of mental health, experienced from the inside and as a spectator, was at the front of mind as the songs for Sideways were written.
“We all cast ourselves in the leading role of our story. I wrote the song ‘Hero’ in the midst of trying to help my child, and needing to be okay with it being their story. The refrain ‘I thought I was the hero’ is poking fun at myself for thinking I should or could fix anything. I had to take a backseat to listen and understand exactly what they were needing in that moment. Many of the songs on Sideways, including the title track, were a reflection of my own emotional confusion and processing.” – Trent Wagler
Sonically, Sideways encapsulates the band’s most ambitious outing to date. At their inception, The Steel Wheels played exclusively on acoustic instruments, around one mic, drawing inspiration from the mountain music and string band traditions of Virginia, where the band was formed. But 2017’s Wild As We Came Here represented an evolution in the band’s sound. It was then they first collaborated with producer Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Langhorne Slim, Josh Ritter), adding sonic textures and pushing the boundaries of what the band’s sound could be. This same chapter also saw the addition of Kevin Garcia (drums, percussion, and keys) to the band.
“We’re more than a string band, what we do has fundamentally changed from four guys around a mic. This was clearest to me when we were writing Sideways. I realized we were being influenced by so much other music—psychedelic rock, pop, jam, you name it—just overall paying attention to a broader palette of sound, not so focused on our own little world.” – Trent Wagler
For the recording of Sideways in 2022, The Steel Wheels once again tapped Kassirer to help them bring the album to life. The band holed up together at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, ME, moving into the studio for a week, cooking their meals together around a woodstove in a farmhouse, and, most importantly, playing all together again—for the first time in over two years.
The result is at-once a powerful, anthemic, at-times joyous, and contemplative reflection on our shared human experience—both tapping into the personal and reaching for something universal. And all throughout Sideways, we hear and see the image of resilience, resolve, and strength despite the trials. We are reminded that we are all still here… pushed and bent by the wind, yes, but still standing.
As Wagler says, “It’s beautiful and crushing to be alive sometimes. We aren’t here to sing songs that only cut one way—but if they do, they’ll cut sideways.”
Guided by life experiences, Lindsay Lou‘s sound and songwriting continues to evolve and intertwine her sturdy Bluegrass roots with progressive Americana and Folk.” – PBS
“I saw a literal manifestation of the sacred feminine, and had this profound sense that I was meant to embody it,” recalls celebrated singer-songwriter Lindsay Lou after journeying through a hallucinogenic ritual that would inform the way she processed waves of grief in the sea of change ahead of her. The loss of her grandmother, the end of her marriage, and the overwhelming turmoil of COVID lockdowns found the Nashville-based artist on a spiritual journey of self-knowledge and healing with this gift from the mystic swirl. On her new album Queen of Time (due September 29th from Kill Rock Stars), Lou explores that quest across ten tracks of tender, heartbreakingly beautiful music.
With this new vision of womanhood in mind, Lou began to see a throughline from her grandmother, to herself, to the art she was creating. Her 2018 release, Southland (recorded with her former band, The Flatbellys), felt like the first chapter to a greater story that was unfolding;
with this release, the theme deepened. “It started with my grandma. She was the unattainable woman in a way,” Lou explains. “She had 12 kids and ran homeless shelters and was always taking people in. She felt that her calling was to be a mother to everyone – this communal caregiver – but it also meant that in belonging to everyone, she also belonged to no one. I realized that this is the catch-22 of anyone who is a woman unto herself. Women, first and foremost, belong to themselves, so nobody can really have them; but, there’s also this element of self-sacrificing and giving to the idea of the feminine.”
Lou’s vocals are a powerful companion to her songwriting. “In an era when style and trends can become genericana, [Lou] focuses on the song,” said No Depression. “It is infectious and joyful, soulful even.” The undeniable centerpiece throughout Queen of Time, Lou’s voice is a molasses-sweet instrument equally capable of clarion ache, slicing deep into the soul. The daughter of a literal coal-miner and millwright, and the granddaughter of a teacher gone Rainbow Gathering healer, Lou honed her honest and resonant style with her bluegrass-inspired band, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, and Michigan supergroup, Sweet Water Warblers (Rachael Davis, May Erlewine), excavating elements of bluegrass, folk, Americana, and soulful pop for their emotional depths. The Warblers’ debut album, The Dream That Holds This Child (2020), was dubbed “a testament to the trio’s range” by Billboard, running the gamut of blues, gospel, soul, and Appalachian folk.
On this latest record, Lou has refined those gemstones to a brilliant luster, holding the listener’s hand on the path filled with heartbreak, discovery, and resilience. On “Nothing Else Matters” (co-written by Nashville musicians Maya de Vitry and Phoebe Hunt), Lou blends those emotions into one vibrant present. The track features GRAMMY® Award winner Jerry Douglas, his immediately recognizable dobro work helping Lou tap into her bluegrass roots while she unravels this new vision of the world. “There is something incredibly iconic to Jerry’s playing; it’s unmistakable,” says Lou. “Like every touch of his bar to the string speaks exactly to the heart of the song. I feel really honored to have his musical voice among the players.”
Lou explores the continued theme of duality on lead single and album namesake “Queen of Time”, her limber, golden vocals backed by a suite of acoustic guitar, psychedelic synth and an energetic rhythm section. The song’s lyrics play out like zen koans. “I’ve spent years at this point, listening and reflecting on this record. ‘Queen of Time’ seems to embody the entire work’s theme of self-discovery in a way that almost feels like a wake up slap in the face; like if it was a snake, it would have bit me,” says Lou. “And I think that’s kinda the nature of self-discovery. It’s discovering something you knew all along.”
On the radiant “On Your Side (Starman)”, Lou sings to a loved one through rose-colored glasses, as if they were her hero. “You can be the starman/ The lightning in the sky/ I will be a shelter/ ‘Cause I am on your side,” she sings, a lithe mandolin bolstering her serene offer of support. Bathed in harmonies and supported by a honeyed troupe of pedal steel, guitars, and a splashy percussion section, Lou sounds like a heroine herself, a gleaming bastion of strength and love.
Elsewhere, “Nothing’s Working” finds Lou dueting with GRAMMY®-winning guitar virtuoso Billy Strings on their co-write. (You can hear String’s version of it, accompanying Lou, on his 2020 release Renewal). “This was another track that came together over the course of a few years; it lived as the first verse alone for a long time,” recalls Lou. “A suicide in our community stirred me to finish the lyrics, and pandemic gave Billy and I some extra time at home to flush it out.”
The message comes through in the lyrics as Lou sings, “Take time to listen to the quiet ones/ Watch how the rain gives up a chance to swim/ Burn the broken bridges and build them up again,” the duo crying out for change in the face of the endless pain and violence in personal lives and spread across the media. String’s flat-picked guitar ripples and writhes, a deep purple smoke pervading the track.
“I’ve been fortunate to have spent formative years surrounded by immensely talented friends and collaborators, who, like Billy, feel more like family at this point.” explains Lou. “Having them lend their voices to this record is very special to me.”
Lou’s devotion to understanding where she came from plays a central role not only in the ethos of Queen of Time, but in its sound. “I have 27 hours of conversations that I recorded with my grandma, her telling me her story and explaining how she developed her unorthodox, somewhat radical, somewhat fringe philosophy,” Lou says with a wistful smile. Snippets of those recordings are infused into the album, as in the delightfully Calypso-flecked “Love Calls”. And as the album nears its end, another call to grandma helps exorcize the pain of death. “Nothing can stay bad forever,” Grandma Nancy reminds us, and you can feel the tears being wiped aside and replaced by something new—hope and resilience.
Named among NPR’s “12 Best Live Performances” in 2015, Lou has long been beloved as a live performer, from Telluride Bluegrass Festival to Stagecoach, Celtic Connections to Australia’s National Folk Festival, and a “Can’t Miss Act” at AmericanaFest—not to mention acclaim from PBS, No Depression, Billboard, Holler, Paste, and The Bluegrass Situation, among other outlets. But on Queen of Time, Lou captures a new arc of haloed beauty, becoming unattainable in her own way—a vibrant, powerful woman who can share herself with the world, and yet define a mystic sense of inner self as well.
The Fly Birds are an award winning musical embodiment of Alternative Bluegrass & Appalachia based out of Winchester, Virginia. They’ve migrated the music industry for 7 years, their voices and melodies soaring to new heights together. This unique and original band is comprised of Elizabeth Baker on banjo, Mary Dunlap on bass, Sarah Twigg on guitar and Crystal Shipley on fiddle. They released their first full length original album “The Band is Causing Problems” in 2020 and are working on releasing their second album “The Band is Playing Covers” at present. Together they make a memorable sound certain to make you tap your feet and sing along!
*1st place bluegrass band at 2021 Watermelon Pickers Fest
*1st place winners of the 2019 DCBU Mid Atlantic Bluegrass Band Contest
Winter Concert Sponsorship
WILSON HALL PARKING
FREE Parking in the Warsaw Avenue Parking Deck directly behind the Forbes Center. Handicapped parking is on each floor next to the elevators. Exit the parking lot on the ground floor and follow signs to campus. Walk through the tunnel under South Main Street. Wilson Hall is the building at the top of the Quad with the clock tower. Alternatively, a free shuttle will run from the Warsaw Parking Deck to Wilson Hall starting one hour prior to the performance and returning immediately following.
A limited number of additional handicapped parking spaces are available in Lot A behind Wilson Hall, accessible via Bluestone Drive. All laws pertaining to proper use of disabled parking placards or license plates apply.
Physical address for Warsaw Avenue Parking Deck: 157 Warsaw Ave, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Physical address for Lot A: 981 Madison Drive, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Physical address for Wilson Hall: 951 Madison Drive, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Night-of Box Office / Will Call is located at Wilson Hall.