5) The Festival & the Learning experience of Farm Aid
“Eating Healthy foods, spreading the word about the climate crisis and helping the little guy, that is what Farm Aid is all about,” Neil Young instructed the sold out 25k crowd at Saratoga Performing Arts Center last night, on Saturday, September 21st, 2013. Neil continued his speech with a few nail ins about government owned farming and brought the climate crisis and global warming to center stage. “If you don’t think it’s happening, it is,” he continued. “We saw it in New Orleans in 2005. In New York & the East Coast in 2010 & 2012, Colorado & the west coast, and most importantly the Midwest in recent years. If you don’t think it’s happening, it is. We need to help bring the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere back into the Earth to help these farmers continue to grow sustainably. These farmers need your help to battle Climate change which is the number one issue of the 21st century.”
Neil Young spoke of issues reflecting the 21st century & farming, but as most people that follow music know; Farm Aid has been going on for dozens of years now. It originally started in 1985, making the annual event 28 years old now. This year, the festival was in Upstate NY for the first time, making a historic appearance at SPAC, better known as Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY. Naturally, the event was sold out-making it the most crowded event ever recorded in recent years at the venue. Many came to the festival because of the star featured line up, which included:
Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Jack Johnson, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Amos Lee, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sasha Dobson, Carlene Carter, Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real, Bahamas, Peggi Young, Jesse Lenat, Insects vs Robots, The Blackwood Quartet.
The festival was set up so everything there was organic and green friendly, which was greatly impressive & rather interesting to see at a concert event. For every trash can there was two more, one for recycling, one for landfill, and one for compost wastes with even volunteers instructing at some of them telling fans which one to throw out there trash. All the food, and even the tshirts & hats the festival sold, was organic. 100% and more like super green friendly, Farm Aid truly showed concert goers that being Green maybe the new cool. The event turned SPAC into an Eco friendly event Saturday night, and hopefully more venues & concert tours will make the effort and help save the environment like Farm Aid is doing.
The crowd at Farm Aid was surprisingly a mixture of both young and old music fans. The young fans showing up for Amos Lee, Jack Johnson & Dave Matthews, while the older peeps swarming into the concert for John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson & Neil young, who was the main draw of the show.
4) Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real
Country fans should know by now already that Willie Nelson has a son, and his son has been performing music since he was very young. Even in his teens, he started performing nationally in his father’s band and performing alongside stage with Willie. Having Willie Nelson as a father sure must be incredible, and even now, you can tell by listening to his son and his new band, the Promise of the Real, his father is still very influential. There’s even a few songs Luke sings that mention smoking a doobie with his father and being stoned on the tour bus. But being Willie Nelson’s son isn’t all about smoking doobies and being in his father’s shadows.
Lukas Nelson is actually an incredible guitarist, and his guitar solos rang out at farm aid Saturday afternoon. He even picked his guitar with his teeth for a good five minutes during a solo to the joy of the crowd. His guitar work also blended in well with the other musicians of the group. Throughout the day, Lukas also showed up during several other artist performances, including Jack Johnson. Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real does have country sounds to their music, but with the many power behind the guitars and instruments displayed & Farm aid prove that rock and roll are a driving force behind the group. Lukas Nelson is an extremely talented up and coming musician, and the future of Farm Aid itself.
Farm Aid Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ****
3) Neil Young singing Old Man & Heart of Gold & A Surprise visit from Pete Seeger.
It was down pouring rain by the time Neil Young came on stage at Farm Aid 2013. Not alarmingly, Neil was late by at least ten minutes, so this of course put everyone on the lawn at SPAC on edge, muttering. “Come on, Neil, Hurry up, were all wet,” grumbled fellow concert goers at SPAC. It would have been fine of course in the summer, but now, the fall is here, and this was unfortunately a chilling and unpleasant rain. However, the rock and roll legend made up with it singing two of his most famous songs during his performance.
These two songs of course being “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold”. Everyone in the crowd frantically cheered as Neil began performing these two classics as they began to sing along to the familiar choruses. Neil performed both songs perfectly & to a T, showing Farm Aid that he isn’t done yet, and it was an honor for everyone there to see a legend. Everyone at that concert knew they were extremely lucky to not only be at Farm Aid, but most specifically to see Neil Young perform, as his appearances are rare these days and even rarer in Upstate NY. Neil even got to the crowd to boo during his anti political and anti big corporation speeches for the event. It was truly a sight to see.
However the best part of Farm Aid was even before Neil, when John Mellencamp introduced the artist that inspired most of his work, Pete Seeger. Seeger was a great surprise to Farm Aid as he wasn’t billed on the original line up. The crowd fell in awe as the old man limped on stage with his banjo, announcing to everyone that he can still play & sing at 94 years of age. However, he had a little help with the crowd as they sang along side him. An extra emotional moment happened when Pete brought up on stage with him Willie, Dave, John & Neil to sing a heart warming version of “This Land is My Land,” which, he even changed the chorus around to, “NY is meant to be frack-free!” (Frack is a farmers term)
Farm Aid Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ****
Set list For Neil Young @ Farm Aid:
1) Blowing in the Wind
2) Early Morning Rain
3) Old Man
4) Heart of Gold
5) Since I Met You Baby
6) Reason to Believe
The best performer at Farm Aid 2013 by far was Hawaiian singer songwriter & guitarist, Jack Johnson. The moment he came on stage, everyone stood up, cheered, and shouted their heads off. “Jack, Jack, Jack!” sang the crowd as he got a warm farm aid introduction by his friend and colleague, Dave Matthews who introduced Jack to the event. Instead of showing videos and images of Farms on the giant screen behind the stage, Farm Aid went Hawaii to show instead spans of surf & Hawaii. Jack Johnson’s performance was because of a number of reasons, one of them being that it was still late afternoon or early evening when he played and well before the rain started down pouring.
Another reason, and most entertaining, out of everyone performing, Jack Johnson got the crowd dancing the most. Everyone seemed to be getting up, dancing and swaying their hits as he played song after song. After each one, the crowd cheered for some more. Young and old joined together for some fun for the Jack Johnson concert, who seemed to turn SPAC into Hawaii for a few treasured moments.
Jack himself was great, singing all his songs greatly and much, much better live than on the album. His musicians in the band were just as great, and some of them had their own extremely interesting musicians they had created just for themselves. For example, the pianist had a special built piano that had a harmonica tube that flowed out of it, so the musician could play both instruments at the same time.
Last but not least, Jack’s set list was simply amazing. He performed all his hits, and everyone in the crowd seemed to know everyone of his songs as they sang along to “Banana Pancakes” and “Better Together,” and many more. Out of everyone there, Jack Johnson seemed to have the most time, performing for about an hour where as everyone else had around 45 minutes to play a set. Over all, he was the best performer at Farm Aid 2013.
1) Better Together
2) Sitting, Waiting, Wishes
4) Bubble Toes
5) Banana Pancakes
6) Shot Reverse Shot
8) Whole Lotta Love>Staple it Together
9) At or With Me
10) Crosstown Traffic
Farm Aid Rating: 5 out of 5 stars *****
1) Press Conference
The best thing about Farm Aid 2013 wasn’t necessarily the performances or the venue itself (although both were fantastic), but the Press conference before the event. All media at Farm Aid 2013 were requested to be present at the Press Conference held at the Little Theatre, a small one hundred seat room on the SPAC grounds. Here, the creators of Farm Aid came on stage bringing with them Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Neil Young & Jack Johnson along with several farmers in the area to discuss the event. It was an incredible experience to be up close & personal with these famous rock and roll stars.
Each artist had something to say about Farm Aid and how their changing their community around them. A media representative would ask each one individually what they thought of a certain topic or event, and the artist would continue the discussion for around fifteen minutes or so. For example, Dave Matthews discussed Food & dieting and how people should be eating more healthy, while Jack Johnson talked about his education program he started with his wife in Hawaii. Even sitting in the back, you would be no more than one hundred feet away from these artists.
While the press conference didn’t involve any singing or performing, it was an extremely interesting & wonderful learning experience to hear what these artist were doing and why they were at Farm Aid Festival. Willie Nelson discussed how he started the event with John Mellencamp so many years ago to help the small American Farmer when he learned over a lunch in Illinois with the state governor how so many of them were in a crisis and nobody was bothering to help them out.