|Farm Aid 99||
Direct bookmark: http://HyperRust.org/Tour99/?R50
Well, back from Farmaid and I must say "what a fun day!" A great day to be out and sit in the sun (as us lawn people did) and see people and hear music. I was very impressed by the number of younger music fans there, although I suspect they were there for DMB and BNL.
It sure seems like Prince William Country has a healthy population of Lolita-like underage jailbait... Girls didn't dress like that when I went to high school! Lots of people walking around with faux-marijuana chains and lots of people sucking on the real deal. We must have seen a little bit of everything:
Mellancampy comes out and does his thing, reasonably well I guess.
Then Neil. I know it's him next because I see them wheeling out the same stage setup I saw in Nashville earlier this year. Is he really going to play all those instruments? 2 pianos, an organ, and many guitars? I dream of a 3 hour set... then he's ready and comes out to play.
I don't remember much of the actual experience, but I put it together in my mind afterwards and realize it's much too short. It seemed to go by in 10 minutes. Is that possible?
He talks to the audience before he plays a note... he is a man with an agenda tonight. Talking about weed, which elicits a big response from the audience.
Anyway he plays Homegrown, which doesn't surprise me, and then The Farmer's Song, which doesn't either. Though it is the first time I have ever heard it, I know exactly what song it is. What does surprise me is the level of emotion going into these songs. He's doing it for real, on live TV. There is no fancy production, no prerehearsed Mellancampesque "jams" no silly dance moves. And every note, every word means something. It seems like a lot of the younger people have cleared out by now, but those still in the lawn are affected. "This is why we came hear today," they think. Not to hear Neil play, but to feel for the farmer, share his loss, and help do something to protect him from the government.
Neil is extra animated tonight. He must have gotten the fire started during the athletic jam of Watchtower, and even now, sitting down, he is exuberant, chatty, and forceful in his opinions. He tells us he wants to be the one with the most pledges called in during his set. Next is Mother Earth, another appropriate song. "Oh ball of fire, in the setting sun" -- I realize what a beautiful day we have spent in the beautiful countryside, which is soon to fall victim to mass conglomerates, factory farms, giant strip malls, and freeway extensions... I am a "working man," and no, I will not let this be!
Old Man pacifies the crowd, especially my friend, a casual fan who hasn't recognized any of these songs yet. And then Daddy Went Walkin', which really gets to the crowd, although he doesn't do that high ukelele-type strumming I have heard on live tapes of the past tour.
And he's gone. I was just getting into it. It seemed like Mellancamp played for an hour, Neil can't have been more than a third of that. How unfair. A big group of younger males, college or highschool age mostly, start chanting the words to Powderfinger. "Look out mama there's a white boat comin' up the river..." but to no avail. He's done.
Then he's back -- to read a casual poem he's apparently just written. "Poems for bucks," he says. Still trying to get more pledges, and cracking me up at first, then making me thoughtful with his words on the farmer's plight. Wow, he's really on tonight, creativity channeling thru him so much, he even had time to write a poem, here and now at Farmaid.
I see him again later, at the end of Willie's weird and confused set of rambling guitar and slow "tear in the beer" rhythms. He's banging on the piano with Willie's sister, making me laugh as I get ready to leave.
All in all? His set was too short, and my friend almost got busted with the 2 joints he was carrying at the gate. But man... Even thinking about the show now brings back such a potent emotion. The lawn scene was very communal, very jovial, and very diverse. I was glad to be a part of it.
(More reviews to be added when I can... --RE*AC*TOR)