Farm Aid 31- (Under A Harvest Moon) by JamBandPurist
I got to the venue late and parked in lot F- for f**ked. I walked about two miles to get to the ticket booth but was immediately handed a free ticket from a stranger. Miracles do happen folks just keep a positive attitude! As I was walking into Jiffy Lube Live-not one of my favorite venues by any means- Nathaniel Radcliffe was covering “The Shape I’m In,” a Band staple. It sounded great and I was excited to get into my seats but then the set was immediately over so, I hopped in a really long line for a show poster. There, I was accosted by a seventy-year-old woman, who threatened to beat up everyone around her if anyone tried to cut in line; brandishing her fully tattooed arms like wrinkly stubs, thrusting them in innocent merch booth patrons faces, including mine; then she let four of her friends cut in front of her. I got out of that line as soon as possible to catch Sturgill Simpson who was on next. I had been hearing such a buzz about him lately but hadn't really heard much of his stuff. Frankly, I was very unimpressed. I couldn't understand a word he saying. He sang like some hillbilly with a mouthful of marbles. What I was impressed with was his backing band. They had a hard country southern-rock feel but with the horn section to boot. Now that was something I could dig into.
Some people actually started standing up at this point and cheering but when Alabama Shakes came on the stage things changed. I was completely blown away by the lead singers vocal prowess and the way she wielded her SG supreme with such ferocity. “Sound and Color” was the most popular song that I had heard by them and it was very good live. It has a very slow R&B style that I think really captured the talent of this band. They certainly took things to a new level as the dusk began to fall on the Farm Aid Stage.
I'll say this first, to get it out-of-the-way. Where I am from, which is about 45 minutes away from where Dave Matthews is from, we do not like him. He is not popular in our community. So, being raised with this mentality and hearing all the Dave stories for my mother and her generation, I can say I have always had a strong aversion for Dave Matthews. Add this to my non-interest in grunge and 90s alternative rock, he has never intrigued me in the slightest. Dave Matthews is much more approachable with Tim Reynolds by his side. Tim has a style all his own and he was rocking a Hunter S. Thompson “Gonzo” T-shirt with the fist clutching a peyote button. His guitar style was different than anything I've heard and he seemed to make his guitar sound like a violin at times with special use of a pedal.
I was very surprised that I didn't vomit in my own mouth when they played “Crash” and some other song that accentuated Dave's Kermit the frog voice stylings. I would see him again...maybe, for free.
I turned up the FM Radio for the John Mellencamp show; He had since dropped the cougar grrrr. What a beautiful thinning bouffant.
Now came Neil Young, who I've been waiting for my whole life. Neil came out swinging with “Heart of Gold” and “Fuck Monsanto” was his slogan. One of my favorite Neil Young songs is “Harvest Moon” and they played that to my delight, as the harvest moon shone behind us. Neil jumped to life like a young man again when they played “Rocking in the Free World” which seemed to be extended forever and ever, but the band kept playing and Neil continued his slow and harsh, heavy guitar riffs.
I was truly impressed with Lukas Nelson. He personifies everything that could be of new country/rock, not this pop/rap country BS. Lukas Nelson can take his father's legacy to the next level or take a nosedive straight into crap-country; either way, it's all up to him but look out because he is what is next.
This was my third time seeing Willie Nelson and he still proves that 83-year-old can rock out, with his worn acoustic, holy to the works of country and rock alike. He is an American legend. He keeps that Texas swing music alive. He may be senile but he is still swinging and no one plays guitar like Willie. Willie mumbles out commands in between breaths and the band follows, trying to keep up with the “boss.” “You Were Always on my Mind” had the whole crowd in tears, especially me. But Willie, he goes on, tuning on the fly, never stopping before the next song. He is the real talent here, even if he gets a bit confused or rambles off the beat on some wild tangent. He is the man we all came here to see. There will never be another like him.
Everyone came out onstage for the traditional gospel hymn, “Ill Fly Away.” At the end of the show, the stage was packed with performers, most of whom I was unfamiliar with. I walked out under the harvest moon, into the cool air of the September night. Farm Aid was a concert that brings many different people together but what did it mean to me? I wasn’t sure then, and I'm not sure now, but I really enjoyed the farm pictures used as the backdrop.
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.