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September 16, 2007

9/9: Farm Aid @ Randall's Island, NYC

Typical of festival type shows, the earlier part of the day was reserved for shorter sets, by less mainstream names like Polka rocker Jimmy Sturr, country crooner Billy Joe Shaver, rock n' rollers the Supersuckers, and The Ditty Pops, who proved their devotion to preserving the environment by biking over to the show (so said Darryl Hannah upon introducing them). 21st Century country stars Montgomery Gentry kicked off the transition into longer stage times with a 4 song set that included "Hillbilly Shoes," "Daddy Won't Sell the Farm," "What Do You Think About That" and "My Town."

Hassidic rap wonder Matisyahu stole the still sun-drenched afternoon portion of the show by bringing his religious infused rhymes to the mainstage. "Kodesh" aptly paid homage to the water, but it was his off the hook beatbox jam that was most inspiring and had us singing his praises! Derek Trucks took his own band out on the stage for a soulful set before joining the Allmans and then Mellencamp later in the night. The guitar phenoms wife Susan Tedeschi lent her harmonizing vocals to "Soul Serenade" and "Key to the Highway." Alterna pop/rock band Guster followed with a longer set filled with their put-a-smile-on-your-face-make-ya-wanna-bop-up-and-down organic tunes.

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Guster Set List:  Captain, Manifest Destiny, Satellite, Amsterdam, Airport Song

One of the busier men of the night, Warren Haynes, treated us to a solo acoustic set, highlighted by an emotionally sung version of U2's "One" and topped off with his signature classic "Soulshine."

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Warren Haynes Set List: Indian Sunset (rare Elton John cover), Ballerina, One (U2 cover), Soulshine

I was psyched  when I heard Counting Crows were hitting up Farm Aid. They're one of my absolute favorite bands who don't hit the road as often as this fan would like. Thanks to a new album under their belts and perhaps Farm Aid being hosted in their hometown, the Crows perched themselves up on the stage for a 5 song set that mixed old and new. High energy old school classics like "Rain King" (which sounds way better live than as my ring tone) and "A Murder of One" had frontman Adam Duritz running and leaping (and on occassion miss-stepping...ouch!) all over the stage and speakers. Unfortunately though, the "get on up" vibe was cut short with a slow "Washington Square," the first single off their new album called Sunday Mornings, and a somewhat depressing "Long December" which seemed ill-placed on such a steamy Septemeber afternoon. Regardless of ending their set on a more sedate note, I still love these guys!

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Counting Crows Set List:  Rain King, Recovering The Satellites, Washington Square, Murder of One, Long December

Gregg Allman's short acoustic set, accompanied by Willie Nelson on "Midnight Rider" and Dave Matthews and Warren Haynes on "Sweet Melissa," was a rare treat before the rest of "The Brothers" joined Gregg on stage for a full on Southern Rock fest of greatest hits that lasted nearly an hour (one of the longer sets of the night).

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Gregg Allman Set List:  Midnight Rider, Sweet Melissa, Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Allman Brothers Set List:  Statesboro Blues, One Way Out, Trouble No More, Who's Been Talking, Revival

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds..."Dreaming Tree"...need I say more!?!? NO WAY anyone could have predicted that one...a rare tune in and of itself at any DMB show (that's fortunately infiltrating the set lists more and more this summer) and one that Dave and Tim have never played together before (perhaps Mr. Yee called in a favor for us from Michigan). Definitely one of the most beautiful versions I've ever heard, especially considering Dave's admittedly hoarse voice after DMB's show the night before in Atlanta. His vocals sounded great! Giving the whole audience a glimpse into the intimate dynamic at a D&T show, Dave treated us to some lighthearted, inter-song Davespeak. Despite being one of if not the biggest draw of the night (and that's not me being biased...the crowd went nuts when he and guitar extraordinaire Tim Reynolds took the stage), Dave poked fun of his own guitar (in)abilities by joking that he "only knows one" song (while longtime touring mate Tim knows a lot), so he has to keep switching guitars so it sounds different.

"I love a good tomater! Not just a round thing, look like a ball that'll break if ya chuck it, but a big, lumpy, voluptuous joyful and almost rude tomato...ymmm...make your mouth hurt it tastes so good!" (Think he's got a thing for tomatoes?)

No doubt the funniest part of the night was when Dave accidentally started "LIOG" again after opening the set with it only 5 songs prior! "Just kidding! (laughs) I wasn't actually. I was gonna go ahead and play it again. Must have been something I smelled earlier."

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Dave & Tim Set List:  Lie In Our Graves, Gravedigger, Crush, The Maker (Daniel Lanois cover), Dreaming Tree, (LIOG tease), Ants Marching

John Mellencamp's set was one of my favorites of the night, as it was the previous year as well. Sing-a-long hits like "Scarecrow," "Paper in Fire" and "Small Town" got everyone on their feet and were complemented by new tunes "Troubled Land" and "If I Die Sudden." Highlights of the night included stripped down, slower solo acoustic versions of Chevy theme song "Our Country" and "To Washington," which Mellencamp ironically wrote 8 years earlier before the war even started. Truck's wife (and Mellencamp ex) Susan Tedeschi helped Mellencamp close out his set with a rockin', fist pumping version of "Pink Houses."

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John Mellencamp Set List:  Troubled Land, Scarecrow, If I Die Sudden (w/ Derek Trucks), Paper In Fire, Our Country, To Washington, Small Town, Pink Houses (w/ Susan Tedeschi)

In true Farm Aid tradition, Neil Young and then Willie Nelson ended the evening with a little help from their families. Neil Young, along with wife Pegi, lived up to his legendary status as "one of rock n' rolls' most prolific songwriters" by serenading us with beautiful classics like "Human Highway," "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and my personal favorite "Heart of Gold." Willie accompanied him on Farm Aid mantra "Homegrown" before closing out the whole show with a 10 song set that blew past the 11pm curfew.

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Neil Young's Set List:  Human Highway, Silver and Gold, Beautiful Bluebird, Too Far Gone, Everybody Knows..., Heart of Gold, Homegrown, Strong Winds

Backed by a band filled with mostly his own children, Willie played probably the longest set of the night. The proud papa let his kids steal the spotlight on tunes like "Day to Day" and "Whiskey River" before bidding us goodnight with a full stadium sing-a-long of his signature set closer "On The Road Again."

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What a day! 12+ hours, 20 performances and appx. 87 songs later...when's the next one??

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