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Backstage At Farm Aid
(Columbia, SC, October 12, 1996)

by Wayne P.

Hello: I'm back at work after a great weekend. The Farm Aid show sucked except for a few exceptions. I was lucky enough to score a couple of press passes so I was able to attend the early morning press conference.

It started around 8:30am and featured public figures and farmers. Then around 10:30 or so they announced that most of the performers would come in. As I was waiting around I saw some activity behind the blue curtain so I went behind it and made it into a small room in back (I learned later that this is the "holding room.") It was the size of a small kitchen. Hootie people were there, as were members of Rusted Root and Sun Volt and . . . . Willie Nelson.

I guess I kind of fit in with the two twenty-somthing bands 'cause nobody seemed to think it was wrong that I was in there. I introduced myself to Willie, shook his hand (he was very nice). Everyone was waiting around for Neil to show up so the press conference could begin.

Then the back door opened and in came Elliot R. and Neil, with his sunglasses on, and hat on backwards. I was so excited -- with Neil and Willie in the same room, it's like a cultural iconic overload! I walked over to Neil and introduced myself and he shook my hand and said, "How ya doin'..." Then I pulled out my lyric sheet to the MirrorBall vinyl album (did I come prepared or what?) but alas, it was already too late.

They were all being pushed into the press conference hall (they were already late). At that point, one of the PR people saw that I had a press pass instead of an artist pass and I was told politely to go back into the main room. But I went through the wrong door....and if you go through the wrong door at these places you could never get back to where you were.

After ten minutes or so I found the press hall and Neil was giving his we shouldn't have to have Farm Aid speech. It was actually a great speech, from what I heard. I didn't have a tape recorder -- hopefully TNN will broadcast it next weekend.

Then it was over. I took a couple of good photos of Secretary of Agriculture Dan Gleckman and Neil in what seems to be a pretty heated discussion, as they walked out.

Later in the day I learned that press people are NEVER allowed in the "holding room" and that I commited the ultimate press faux pas. But I've never had press passes to anything and I didn't know at the time that I was doing anything wrong. And it was so easy. Perhaps I should have left Neil alone during his probable stressful moments before the press conference, but I wasn't thinking straight. Anyway, that's the story of how I finally met Neil . . .

By the way, Neil and Crazy Horse were definately on that night. Let's all hope TNN doesn't cut or fade out Big Time or Slip Away. (And we can all hope for world peace as well . . .) I was in the photo pit (press passes are cool) during the performance and I took some photos but only a handful came out even remotely good (I'm not a professional). Sorry about the length here, hope it was interesting,


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