Lovers Lane
In The Flesh

Farm Aid 2010

| October 6, 2010

The 25th annual Farm Aid took over Milwaukee’s Miller Park Saturday for an 11-hour beer, cheese, and music fest. We sent photographer Brian Ormiston to investigate.

This originally started back in 1985 after some comments made by Bob Dylan from the Live Aid stage that something should be done for our own farmers here in America. Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young took it to heart and assembled a 50-artist concert before 78,000 in Champaign. The original concert raised $9 million and brought attention to the challenges facing family farmers. Twenty-five years and some $37 million later, close to 35,000 fans packed Miller Park to see more action than the hometown Brewers could offer.

Random thoughts and observations from the photo pit:

• Band Of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell has some weird art tats on his neck. With their new album, Infinite Arms (Fat Possum) on the charts, a tour that is bringing in some cash, how about spending a couple of bucks on those teeth?

• Farm Aid president Willie Nelson came in and out with various artists through out the day. Ever popular at 77, he’s showing his age. He looked a bit shaky, faked lines in songs, and at some points seemed lost. Not that his contributions to this cause are to be diminished, but it looks like the lifestyle has worn him out.

• If Farm Aid is for the farmer, why is it that it’s held during harvest? Aren’t they busy this time of year?

• Early acts like the BoDeans, Robert Francis, and Amos Lee played to a sparse crowd. There was a steady stream of late arrivals but the park didn’t start filling up till Norah Jones took the stage around 6:30.

• Speaking of Jones, being one of the few female performers, she made quite the impact with her 25-minute set and her short black dress and red cowboy boots. That voice will melt butter, too.

• With the weather a blustery 56 degrees and sporadic rain, the roof on Miller Park was closed. I could only imagine what a mess this would have been if this was in Chicago. A novel idea this domed arena thing: Warm and sunny, it’s open. Cold and rainy, it’s closed. How come someone in the Windy City couldn’t figure this out?

• Third-time Farm Aider Kenny Chesney flew in from Los Angles after stumping for his new project Hemingway’s Whiskey. Notably high-note hoarse from a summer of touring, he pumped out a 30 minute acoustic set. Casually sitting on a stool, he made up the set list as he went along and even took a few requests.

• Dave Matthews just pounds the crap out of a guitar. With the scruffy, five-day beard being the look of the day, he riled up the crowd with a loud and passionate rendition of “All Along The Watchtower.” Going over his scheduled time, he jammed for almost 45 minutes and was joined by Nelson for his last song, “Gravedigger.” Probably had to ice down those hands afterward.

• John Mellencamp arrived with his full band and did what he does best. Looking like the tough guy of old with just a few more years under the belt, he came out jumping with old standbys “Pink Houses” and “Paper And Fire.” In an odd move, his set dragged after that big start when he went acoustic for a few songs. If you are getting the band back together, let ’em play and why not use them? He ramped things back up with “Rain On The Scarecrow” and finished very strong with “Crumblin’ Down,” from 1983. The night really should have ended there but no, it wasn’t that simple.

It took a 20-minute stage turnover/ smoke break/beer run/port-o-let experience before “Debbie Downer” Neil Young’s lecture. Take the guitar out of his hands and put him at I-55 and Cicero Ave. and I swear people will flip him change. Sure he’s a Hall Of Famer, has written some iconic songs, and does some admirable charity work, but no one wants a sermon on a Saturday night by some angry old hippie. He was in his own world and, by the way, while creating feedback with his guitar knobs made it feel like he was just out there to annoy the paying crowd.

— Brian Ormiston

Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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