Farm Aid 30 started with farmers, advocates, activists joining the Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews on the Farm Aid stage. Monica Eng, WBEZ agriculture correspondent, moderated the presentation asking the farmers, advocates, activists and artists what they have done and how that is making a difference today.
Willie Nelson, president and founder, stated, “Farm Aid called on America to stand up for the family farmers. They showed up then, and they’re still showing up. All different types of people are coming together for family farmers, and we’re making a difference.” John Mellencamp dismissed his question from Monica to talk about what he wanted. John thanked the board members, artists, farmers, advocates, activists for all the work that they have done, the changes that have been made and that this work must continue. Neil Young discussed the issues with Monsanto, GMOs, big box stores and what needs to be done to correct those issues. Dave Matthews affirmed Neil’s statements adding that corporate farms are enslaving farmers and we need to assist new farmers who are starting their own farms.
Along with informational and educational video presentations, the farmers, advocates, activists shared their own stories and experiences for what they have done to inspire action and influence policy changes. Even though there has been big changes since Farm Aid started in 1985, the family farmers are still experiencing the same corporate influences and policies as before. Every one acknowledged that this work must continue, to protect the earth, our food and put the power back into the hands of the family farmers.
Located behind the seating area of the venue was the HOMEGROWN Village where concertgoers were able to experience hands on activities. Several artists gave presentations to discuss some of the issues facing the family farmers today. The HOMEGROWN Skills Tent featured workshops that discussed beekeeping ,cheese making and composting. Students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences sold local fruit and bakery in the HOMEGROWN Youthmarket. Family farmers were able to sell their produce and food at the Farm Aid HOMEGROWN Concessions. These concessions promoted zero waste as trash was separted into landfill waste, recyclables and compostables. All compostable waste will be turn into material that can be reused to help the health of farming soil.
1:10 p.m. – Ian Mellencamp
During his set, Ian proclaimed, “It is a thrill for me to play at my first Farm Aid”. The electronica style artist played a couple of his own tunes and did an awesome psychedelic cover of Steve Miller’s “Fly like an Eagle.” I enjoyed his short set and would have liked if he was given more time so I could hear more of his experimental rock style.
1:35 p.m. – Insects vs Robots
This year marks the third year in a row that Insects vs Robots have played Farm Aid. The band, led by Willie’s son Micah, drifted from their usual psychedelic punk sound to play more a electrified set. They still captivated the crowd even with the lack of unusual instruments such as the charango, kazoo, harmonium, and sitar that they usually play during their songs.
2:00 p.m. – Holly Williams
The granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr. and the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., Holly Williams made her first appearance at Farm Aid. A majority of her set consisted of songs from her most recent album, The Highway. The audience was very receptive to her closing song, “Waitin’ on June,” which tells the story of her grandparent’s life together until the end.
3:00 p.m. – Old Crow Medicine Show
The Old Crow Medicine Show brought the festival atmosphere to the stage with their highly energetic set. Starting with “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer,” they kept energy going with “Alabama High Test,” as well as “8 Dogs 8 Banjos”. The Old Crows also had surprise guests such as David Amram join them for “I Hear Them All”, “This Land Is Your Land” and “Wagon Wheel.” Mickey Raphael played harmonica on “City of New Orleans” which is a cover of the late, great Chicago songwriter Steve Goodman.
For The Old Crow Medicine Show photo gallery, click here.
4:20 p.m. – Kacey Musgraves
For her second Farm Aid appearance, Kacey came out dressed in a frilly, fluffy blue prom dress. This was appropriate as her set consisted of majority of material from her latest album Pageant Material. Kacey got the crowd stomping with her country version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin” to close out her set.
For The Kacey Musgraves photo gallery, click here.
5:05 p.m. – Jack Johnson
This year marks the third Farm Aid appearance for Jack Johnson. The crowd was dancing along to his folk rock hits “Taylor,” “Bubble Toes”/”Not Fade Away,” “Banana Pancakes” and “Flake.” He ended his his song with a new song that he wrote the night before called “Willie Got Me Stoned and Stole All My Money.”
For The Jack Johnson photo gallery, click here.
5:55 p.m. – Mavis Staples
Chicago’s own gospel/soul great Mavis Staples made her first Farm Aid appearance. Mavis gave the crowd songs from her entire career, Staple Singers’ gospel days, the Stax days as well as new material. Her classic songs “Freedom Highway” and I’ll Take You There” really got the crowd grooving.
For The Mavis Staples photo gallery, click here.
6:45 p.m. – Imagine Dragons
Making their Farm Aid debut, Imagine Dragons started their pop rock party with “It’s Time” and then going into “Shots”. They surprisingly did a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Wont Back Down” which turned into a crowd sing along. This was an appropriate tribute as Tom Petty played at the first Farm Aid. Their high energy set included “I’m So Sorry”, “Gold” and “On Top of the World.” A heavily percussion infused “Radoactive” ended their set with the crowd wanting more.
For The Imagine Dragons photo gallery, click here.
7:45 p.m. – Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds
Dave Matthews performed an acoustic set of his material with his musical partner, Tim Reynolds. His set consisted of favorites “What Would You Say,” “Satellite” and “The Space Between.” What was a little bit of a distraction during Dave’s set was his banter about a spider building a web on his face. Besides the weird stage banter, the guitar dueling between Matthews and Reynolds made songs like “So Damn Lucky” and the closer, “Crush” more awesome.
For The Dave Matthews photo gallery, click here.
8:45 p.m. – John Mellencamp
John Mellencamp’s set consisted of his hits which were appropriate for the Farm Aid cause. These included “Lawless Times,” “Small Town”, “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Pink Houses.” Mellencamp did a nice cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in my Passway.” The projections of small towns and farms on the big screen behind the band added to the sentiment of his set.
For The John Mellencamp photo gallery, click here.
9:45 p.m. – Neil Young and The Promise of the Real
Neil took the stage with the Promise of Real, Lukas and Micah Nelson’s band that collaborated with Neil on his latest release The Monsanto Years. It contains songs which addresses the issues with Monsanto, Starbuck’s, GMOs and big box stores. He opened his set with the protest songs “Workin’ Man,” “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop” and “Big Box.” He also debuted “I Won’t Quit” later in the set which shows his ongoing support for the family farmer. A hugh surprise in the set was “Alabama” from his Harvest album, a song that has not played live since the 70s. They also played two Crazy Horse songs “Western Hero” and “Love and Only Love” in their ferociously fiery set.
For The Neil Young photo gallery, click here.
11:00 p.m. – Willie Nelson and Family
Farm Aid’s co-founder closed the day starting off his set with “Whiskey River” and then going into “Still is Still Moving to Me.” He covered Toby Keith’s “Beer for My Horses” and did a touching tribute to Waylon Jenning’s with “Good Hearted Woman.” Willie then performed a medley of his hits “Funny How Time Slips Away””, “Crazy” and “Night Life.”
Lukas Nelson took the vocal spotlight on their cover of “Texas Flood.” After that, Lily Meola came out to perform “Will You Remember Me?” with the band. The remainder of Willie’s set was devoted to what he likes the most which is gospel music and weed. Most of the day’s artists joined Willie and Family for the next song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” They then performed “It’s All Going to Pot” from Willie’s recent album with Merle Haggard. The Blackwood Quartet came out to perform a gospel version of “Family Bible.” Willie ended the evening with “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and finishing off with the Hank William’s classic “I Saw The Light.” Willie made sure that Farm Aid 30 definitely ended on a high note.
For The Willie Nelson photo gallery, click here.