Cream of the crop
I have now attended my first Farm Aid, and I have the pictures to prove it. Sure, a lot of them are of the giant screen next to the stage, but I can't help it if security wouldn't let me go up to take pictures of Jimmy Sturr when they took the stage around 1:30 in the afternoon (at which point there was almost nobody in the front section). Alas, this is the best I can do.
My seats were pretty good, though, and they oughta be considering what I paid for him. But half of what I paid went directly to Farm Aid, so I can at least feel good about my spending, as opposed to the time I went to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a wrestling convention. That one was hard to feel good about moneywise. But I did get better pictures there.
I did not, however, get the VIP treatment I got at Farm Aid, where I got to leisurely stroll backstage in the shade while bands I didn't care to hear played (there were a few). I wasn't mingling with any performers back there (though I did see the Ditty Bops and Mike Mattison from the Derek Trucks Band around), but I did get free, delicious, locally grown food. There was a bit of a logjam when dinner was finally served (forcing me to miss Warren Haynes's and Guster's sets...which I was absolutely fine with), but the wait was worth it. Food is good. Locally grown food is even better. And I'm guessing it was way better than Guster.
Unfortunately, my first few trips back to the VIP area resulted in me missing the starts of both Jimmy Sturr's and Billy Joe Shaver's sets, but I was able to race back and catch much of them. Unfortunately, there wasn't all that much to catch, as the bulk of the afternoon acts were limited to 15-minute sets. Of course, sometimes that was just fine. For instance, I was entertained by Montgomery Gentry for about 15 minutes, and particularly enjoyed the end-of-the-set breaking of the mic stand by Eddie Montgomery during "What Do You Think About That?" But then I was done. Luckily, so were they. But I could've stood to see some more from 40 Points (which featured two of Willie Nelson's sons), Matisyahu, and Billy Joe Shaver (below).
Of course, there wasn't just music at Farm Aid. There was a Homegrown Village where you could learn about biodiesel, composting, and eating locally, among other things. And if you got there early, you could also graze on the free food at various tables. I had some rice pancakes, salad, chai tea, chocolate milk, and yogurt as my sister and I made our way to the seating area. Plus, we got some other free stuff. Good move getting there early. Or should I say good mooooove? Maybe I shouldn't.
After an afternoon of listening, sweating, and taking full advantage of my VIP access, the evening provided an opportunity to finally relax on a full and contented stomach and watch the headliners. I managed to duck most of the Counting Crows' set. which, based on what I saw, was yet another solid decision, but I did take in the Allman Brothers' set, which was perfect for me because I got to see all the really good musicians play without having to sit through a 45-minute version of "One Way Out." In fact, it might have been the shortest version of that song since they recorded it. Fine with me. I can handle the Allmans in measured doses. And the acoustic version of "Midnight Rider" by Gregg Allman and Willie Nelson was cool to see. Here it is on the big screen.
And then after the Allmans it was time for Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, or as I liked to call it, time for dessert and then walking far enough away that I didn't have to hear any of the music. And this was as far away as I could get.
John Mellencamp was next and was sounding really good until he decided to sing "My Country." Maybe it's a good song, but hearing it during every other commercial break throughout the fall of 2006 killed any hope of me ever enjoying it. It's as if he came out and started singing the Alka-Seltzer jingle. Which, now that I think about it, would have been pretty cool. But the rest of the Mellencamp set was solid. Susan Tedeschi came out to sing "Pink Houses," which was one of the better moments of the day. And then at the end of the set, Mellencamp levitated up to heaven.
OK, he didn't really. But it's an entertaining picture.
Considering I once briefly fell asleep at a Neil Young solo show, I was a little nervous about the prospects of seeing Neil Young ten hours into the day. But I had no need to be nervous. It was actually my favorite Neil concert experience (aside from the solo show, which was actually good after the initial nap, I saw Neil and Crazy Horse from a seat in Madison Square Garden that couldn't have been much further away from the stage), and the highlight was a chill-inducing "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere." Neil was backed by his wife Pegi on guitar and Ben Keith on Dobro, and then Willie and Mickey Raphael joined him for "Homegrown." All right with me.
While a surprisingly cogent and coherent Neil was introducing "Homegrown," the young chap in front of me, who apparently only really knew one Neil Young song, was screaming out for "Rockin' in the Free World." That would've been odd with a Dobro and a harmonica.
By the time Willie Nelson took the stage for the closing set (around 11 p.m.) with both his family (sons Micah and Lucas and daughter Paula) and the Family, a lot of folks had cleared out. But they missed out on a good time, featuring a double flute solo from David Amram and a medley of "I Saw the Light" and "I'll Fly Away" that featured a stumpf fiddle player. That was something. I don't have a decent picture, so you'll just have to trust me.
After Willie and the family/Family called it a night with "On the Road Again," my sister and I headed back to the bus line and made the wise decision to forego the X80 going back to 125th St. (long lines) for the X81 to Woodside (no line at all). The bus ride was a little longer than the one to 125th would have been, but then we would have missed seeing the guy who stole a bale of hay to take back to his apartment in Queens.
If you want to catch any of it for yourself, you can go to the Farm Aid site starting Thursday to see a webcast of the day's events. I think it's supposed to be up for free for a week, and then you have to join Farm Aid if you want to see it after that. That wouldn't be such a bad idea. Somewhere in between all the music and stuffing my face, I decided to make a greater effort to eat more organic food and food grown locally. Also not a bad idea. That's as much of a soapbox as I'll get on today.