Monday, September 10, 2007


Farm Aid was great. Great bands, great cause, great day. A few things I took home from the day:
  • Neil Young still rules.
  • The Allman Brothers Band members are great individually, but together they are truly awe-inspiring.
  • I'm psyched to hear John Mellencamp's new album.
  • It's worth going through the extra effort to use organic or locally grown foods. I am definitely going to try to search out locally grown when and where I can. I could write more about this, but you can get all the info you need at Farm Aid's web site.

  • The music: unfortunately, I missed The Supersuckers. Fun band, but I think they only did three songs, and I've seen them twice this year. When I got there, Matisyahu was playing. That was OK. Then The Derek Trucks Band went on. Although I was blown away by Derek's guitar playing when I saw the Allmans earlier this summer, I didn't think I'd like his own band. I thought it would be a bit too show-offy and not song based enought. His band didn't play for long, but it wasn't like that at all. His wife, the excellent singer Susan Tedeschi joined him for most of his set, and it was really good: they did a great version of the blues classic "Key To The Highway." He also has a great singer in his band.

    After that was some band called Guster, who didn't really capture my attention much. Then another Allman Brother, Warren Haynes, came on for an acoustic set. He opened with a super-obscure Elton John cover, "Indian Sunset" (from Madman Across The Water). Honestly, I recognized it, but couldn't place it until I read someone else's review. He also did U2's "One" and his own classic Allman/Gov't Mule song, "Soulshine."

    Counting Crows tried to throw some "Thunder Road" into one of their songs. Nice try. Then Gregg Allman came out. His set was billed as a special set with Willie Nelson and Dave Matthews. It wasn't quite that: first Gregg and Willie did "Midnight Rider," which was rough but cool, then Gregg, Warren and Dave did "Melissa" which was great. They should put those on iTunes, I'd buy 'em. Then the rest of the Allmans came on: phenomonal. I know there's people who will scoff at them for having young guys who weren't born when the band started (Derek Trucks, bassist Oteil Burbridge, percussionist Marc Quinones), or because they're a "jam band," or because they're "old." Or for firing former guitarist/singer Dickey Betts a few years back. The latter I get: but the fact is, the band sounds incredible, and they probably wouldn't be around anymore (at least not with Gregg) had they not fired Dickey. I'm not saying that I was glad he was fired, but I am saying that the band's current incarnation is incredible. I imagine in a few years, Gregg and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe will retire - I expect that Warren, Oteil, Marc and Derek will keep the music alive in a dignified manner (but they probably will change their name).

    Dave Matthews did a duo set with Tim Reynolds: I'm not a huge Dave follower, but I'd seen him with his regular band, once with his "Dave Matthews & Friends" group and at last year's Farm Aid, he played solo acoustic. Last night was really good. I like Dave, I don't love him, but I think he handles his fortune and stature with incredible humility and grace. And he's written some very good songs.

    John Mellencamp has become something of a hit machine in recent years, although at last year's Farm Aid he opened with a then-unreleased song, "Our Country." This set was a bit adventurous. He opened with a song from his next album, "Troubled Land," and he did another one from that album, "If I Die Sudden" (with Derek Trucks). He had a small tight band - guitar, upright bass, organ, drums, and they did tightened, rocking versions of "Rain On The Scarecrow" and "Paper In Fire," which were great. John did two solo acoustic songs: "Our Country" and "To Washington." He noted that "To Washington" got him booed at Farm Aid a few years ago, because it calls Bush to task for the war. In New York, it was a different story: we know the deal, and the song got cheers. Well done, John.

    I've seen Young Neil many, many times, but last night's set was a different thing: just Neil, his wife Pegi on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, and his longtime sideman Ben Keith on dobro. Other than "Heart Of Gold," he avoided hits as usual: an unusual move for a concert like Farm Aid, but that's Neil. He also did "Human Highway" (from Comes A Time), one of my favorites - "Too Far Gone" (from Freedom) and "Silver And Gold" (from the album of the same name). Willie and his harmonica player Mickey Raphael joined him on stage for "Homegrown" (a song originally about... well, anyway, now it's about organic farming) and a cover of Ian & Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds." I recall Willie joining Neil for the same songs last year, but Neil had a much bigger band, it was a different deal.

    I have to confess, I left before Willie went on, but I've seen many Willie performances and hopt to see many more.

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