BRISTOW, Va. Normally, Farm Aid is held somewhere in the
Heartland, within spitting distance of the family farms the annual
concert is intended to benefit.
On Sunday the festivities which this year featured the Dave Matthews
Band, Barenaked Ladies and Steve Earle along with Farm Aid mainstays
Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson moved to within 40
miles of the nation's capital and the legislators the concert is intended
to send a message to.
"It is wonderful to have this event here, so close to Washington, D.C.,"
Neil Young said during a press conference before the show. "I say we keep
having this thing here until this gets resolved!"
On the minds of Farm Aid organizers this year was the 1996 Freedom to
Farm Act, which removed some price guarantees for farmers. "This act was
written by big corporations for big corporations," Travis Leeder,
an Iowa farmer, said. "We're always getting screwed. That's why Willie and
everyone is here today. We got to get the word out."
Nelson, who closed Sunday's show, and Young, who sat in for a song with
Matthews and did a half-hour acoustic set, were scheduled to attend a
rally in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning (Sept. 13).
A good chunk of the nearly 30,000 people that attended Sunday's daylong
show at the Nissan Pavilion were clearly there to see Matthews, a resident
of Virginia. "It's so nice to have this here," Matthews said. "This is
my home, and it is really nice to be doing something that is so clearly
on the right side."
"This is what we came for this and Dave," Sarah Bott, 18, of
Alexandria, Va., said as the Barenaked Ladies took the stage at 5 p.m.,
following afternoon sets by country singer Deana Carter, rockers the
Supersuckers, blues singer/guitarists Keb' Mo' and Susan Tedeschi, and
the Hogwaller Ramblers, a band from Matthews' hometown of Charlottesville.
The Barenaked Ladies took the still-growing crowd into its first real
frenzy with songs such as "It's All Been Done" (RealAudio
excerpt). As large, robotic television cameras roamed the stage
the concert was broadcast live on Country Music Television
the Canadian rock band danced, hooted and hollered up a storm to the
Matthews and his band followed the Barenaked Ladies and raised the
excitement level another notch. They played tunes new and old, including
"What Would You Say?" and "Don't Drink the Water" (RealAudio
excerpt). Matthews slipped into a chilling version of "Halloween,"
from Before These Crowded Streets (1998), before bringing Neil
Young onstage for a set-closing cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the
About a quarter of the crowd left after Matthews' set, leaving Mellencamp,
who re-recorded several songs for his new Rough Harvest album, to
play his set of country-tinged rock to a diminishing audience. "Jack and
Diane" seemed to keep the largely high-school- and college-age crowd
happy. But still, fans kept heading to the parking lots.
Young took the stage alone around 10 p.m., settling into an easy chair
with an acoustic guitar and harmonica. "You people at home send
money!" he screamed to the TV cameras.
During his short set, Young played "Homegrown," which, he said, "used to
be about growing weed. Now it's about helping the American farmer."
Afterward, Young introduced Willie Nelson, who closed the show. "Thanks
to everyone who helped to make this happen," Nelson said before kicking
into "Whiskey River." The amphitheater was half-empty by then, but you
could hear the remaining young fans chanting, "No more factory farms!"
At press time, figures for the amount of money raised at this year's
Farm Aid had not been released.