Home Music therapy Farm Aid 2021: 14 things that have changed (or not)

Farm Aid 2021: 14 things that have changed (or not)


Here are 14 things that changed – or didn’t – at Farm Aid 2021.

Neil Young bows out

Citing his concerns about “the outbreak of the COVID pandemic,” Neil Young announced on August 18 that he would not be joining his fellow Farm Aid board members – Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and Margo Price – at this year’s show, having played every Farm Aid since it launched in 1985. “I don’t want to let anyone down, but I still can’t help but think that maybe it’s not safe for everyone, ”Young said in a statement. “While I respect Willie, John and Dave’s decisions to stick with it and play, I’m not of the same opinion. It’s a tough call. He added,“ We ​​will be back. work to do together.

Proof of vaccination or COVID testing was required

In mid-August, Farm Aid announced that festival-goers would be required to show either full proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test result within 48 hours of the show. (With the option of a quick on-site test for $ 39.99). With spectators lining up early in the day for the festival to start at 1pm, admission to the 30,000-capacity amphitheater went smoothly.

Instead of a press briefing, the artists gathered to talk

Concerns over COVID led to the cancellation of Farm Aid’s annual morning press conference on stage. Instead, the artists took part in small backstage roundtables in the local Farm Aid village. Price remembered when she was a member of Future Farmers of America when she was young and attended a conference on the future of farming. Allison Russell participated in a session on the Past and Future of Black Farmers. Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff commented on the fires and drought that have swept the West during a discussion of how family farmers can help fight climate change. Acknowledging Young’s absence, Rateliff echoed the singer’s frequent advice: “If you see a market or a farmers’ stand, stop by. Buy something. Establish a connection.

Sturgill Simpson called sick

In a second setback to Farm Aid’s lineup, Sturgill Simpson announced via Instagram on September 22 that he had been forced to cancel tour dates, including Farm Aid, due to viral laryngitis “or the inhaling treated wood from a backstage campfire at Merlefest or something so stupid. Missing shows. Feel horrible. Sorry Farm Aid. “

But an agricultural superstar has arrived

One of the big parts of Farm Aid takes place the day before the music starts, when activists come together to deepen the challenges facing family farmers. This year’s town hall meeting has gone virtual to address topics such as corporate concentration and farm consolidation across the country, farmer debt relief, racial equity and climate change. Participants in the Zoom call included US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack – the country’s top agricultural official. In January, Farm Aid published an open letter to the new Biden / Harris administration titled: “Our vision to fix the farm and the food system.” Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid communications director, said the day after the Zoom session that she believed farmers could expect “communication and transparency – coming from the top”.

You can always follow the money

It never changed. Since the first Farm Aid in 1985, the organization has raised some $ 60 million to support family farmers and the creation of a sustainable farming system. The organization has obtained an “A” grade from the American Institute of Philanthropy charitywatch.org. Its annual reports provide a transparent overview of how the money raised each year by the festival benefits family farmers. And Willie signs the checks.

The festival honored the first farmers

In recent years, the Black Lives Matter movement has also raised awareness of the discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples in America. But Farm Aid, for over a decade, has opened every festival with indigenous performers, recognizing the country’s early farmers. On Saturday, Rachel Sayet of the Mohegan Nation of Connecticut greeted the crowd on behalf of all the native tribes “who still occupy this land,” offering a blessing and introducing the Indian Dancers of Wisdom.

Farm Aid is fed by its first family

While many Farm Aid fans still come to hear Nelson (whose sister, Bobbie, is his longtime pianist), the singer’s two sons had an imposing stage presence. Hair dyed pink, Micah Nelson cranked up the decibel level early in the day with his band Particle Kid and songs like “Everything is Bulls —“. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real have fiercely supported Neil Young at Farm Aid in recent years. Their Saturday set was one of the highlights of the day with songs like “(Forever Is A) Four Letter Word” which echoed Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” perfectly.

The musical future takes root here

After 36 years, Farm Aid continues to showcase new talent. On Saturday, the crowd applauded the touching songs of Allison Russell, including the album produced by Joe Henry, Outdoor child, arrived in May. And Tyler Childers has proven to be a powerful protégé of Simpson, who co-produced his latest release, Country squire, and closed her covering set “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by Kris Kristofferson.

Bettye LaVette is a rising star – again

Bettye LaVette’s career as a soulful vocal stylist dates back to 1962 and her debut single, “My Man – He’s A Loving Man”, on Atlantic Records, which reached No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart. Riding a career resurgence, LaVette on Saturday took the stage all in black and opened with a sultry and good-humored “Things Have Changed”. Proving her talent as a songwriter, she gave a slow and captivating rendition of “Memories” by John Prine. It was breathtaking.

Farm Aid favorites are back

Saturday’s festival brought back several favorite artists who have performed the event over the years. Blues-rocker Jamey Johnson performed a solo set, underlined by the bittersweet “Give It Away”. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats set the stage ablaze with their R&B with horns, tambourines, handclaps and kicks. And Price, the newest member of the Farm Aid board of directors, presented “a new one,” the “Light Me Up” blues jam.

Matthews looked to the future

Matthews’ Farm Aid acoustic set, accompanied by Tim Reynolds, was, as always, alternately haunting, passionate and downright wacky, ending with the classic “Ants Marching”. In the day’s most expansive stage commentary on Farm Aid’s mission, Matthews said, “We need the right people to grow for us. And it is certainly not the factory farms and the big industrialized farms. They are family farmers, small farms, people who care about the land. This is where the future lies.

Mellencamp debuted with “I never speak to strangers”

Mellencamp generally limits their Farm Aid sets to their classic hits. “Rain on the Scarecrow” captures the 1980s farm crisis that inspired Farm Aid more than any other song. But he’s working on new tracks with Bruce Springsteen among his studio guests. On Saturday, after lightly berating the crowd – “you don’t know me” – Mellencamp performed what he said was the first live performance of “I Never Talk to Strangers”, a slow and dark confessional that concludes the world “is ruled by men more twisted than me”.

Willie Nelson sat down, leaned over and inhaled

What other festival features an 88-year-old headliner? “He’s the guy who keeps it all together,” Mellencamp said, introducing Nelson. At Farm Aid, as with this summer’s edition of his Outlaw musical tour, Nelson was at the top of his game. First performing at Farm Aid while seated, with his sons Micah and Lukas flanking him on stools, Nelson was a vocal and guitar powerhouse nonetheless. His set featured songs that have become classics: “Whiskey River”, “On The Road Again”, “Always On My Mind” and many more. Yet in a Farm Aid rarity, his set also included a new song, written by Micah. Her son recounted a family chess game during the pandemic when Willie uttered a line that became the song’s refrain: “If I die / when I’m high / I’ll be halfway to Heaven.” At the end of the evening, Nelson called in his colleagues for the traditional Farm Aid encore, combining “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” with the 1929 anthem “I’ll Fly Away”. For another year, Farm Aid has recalled that Willie Nelson is a national treasure.