If there was one show I really wanted to cover to this summer, it was Farm Aid…even writing a letter to the Farm Yard advocating for myself (which proved unnecessary anyway when you have Billboard in your corner). For those of you unfamiliar with this annual event (calling it a concert just doesn’t do it justice), here it is in a nutshell: “Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep family farmers on their land.” Rock legends Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid show 22 years ago in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise money so that family farmers could keep their land. Dave Matthews joined the board of directors in 2001. Over the past 2 decades, it’s turned into a huge, all day affair that includes incredible musical performances, delicious food (all organic and family grown, of course) and information about how we, as music abiding citizens, can help support Farm Aid’s “Good Food Movement.” As a lover of both good music and good food (those of you who know me know that one doesn’t necessarily supercede the other), there’s no way I was missing the chance to blog about Farm Aid, especially since this was the first year it was going to leave its footprints on New York soil! Rather than staging this “longest running benefit concert series” somewhere in America’s heartland, as it has more often than not done in years past, Farm Aid’s board decided it was time to bring their big show to the Big Apple. Woohoo! I’m not the biggest fan of festival type shows (usually feeling cheated by the shorter set times, overwhelmed by the massive crowds and frustrated with the usually restricted general admission view), but Farm Aid is different…aside from the obvious (i.e. great music and food), it’s for a good cause and there’s a great “we’re one big happy family” vibe in the air. Quite simply, it’s just a really fun day! Oh, and Randall’s Island has actual seats in addition to GA lawn.
Setting up shop at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island was the perfect choice, allowing the perimeter of the open field to be lined with concession stands of organic, family farm grown goods. From healthy versions of concert staples like French fries and chicken tenders (my personal concert meal of choice) to falafel, chicken kabobs, Cliff bars, granola and yogurt…us urban folks had a virtual smorgasbord of fresh, delectable choices to sustain us throughout the unusually hot September afternoon. Even the performers weren’t immune to temptation. Early in the day we spotted Tim Reynolds sampling some of the eats, and mid his acoustic set, Dave suggested we get some of the organic corn dogs, admitting that he “already had five.” Umm, perhaps a night I’m not tempted try to sneak onto his bus after the show. See, I’m not completely insane ;-).