WINSLOW, VIRGINIA—Neil Young looked out into the crowd, then pointed at someone and declared from the stage, “I like that shirt over there! Fuck Monsanto and Bayer!”, worn by one of 26 Farm Aidians who traveled from Canada to Virginia to the annual event, the shirt cut to the chaste.
Adding Bayer to the mix due to their recent acquisition of the fallen conglomerate and its plunging stock cast further light on the “fuck Monsanto” movement that was spearheaded by grassroots organizations, citizen Joe’s nationwide and Farm Aid proved one thing: You don’t mess with a pissed off hippie whose recent album, Monsanto Years, turned the nasty corporation into a running joke with its wicked ways.
At this year’s Farm Aid, politics kinda took a backseat to the holistic healing powers of the good food movement, whose heroes are ultimately this country’s family farmers. The music, however, is what ultimately prevailed at Jiffy Lube Live stadium, located an hour south of Washington, D.C.
Co-founders Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp played strong sets to the faithful. Board member Dave Matthews played an acoustic set with Tim Reynolds, who added color and finesse to Matthews’ jumpy jive. From Nelson’s homegrown outlaw country to Mellencamp’s arena rock anthems and on down to the carnal thunder of Neil Young And Promise Of The Real, the chairmen of the board delivered the goods.
Young sandblasted his set at the crowd, starting off acoustically with “Heart of Gold” and “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” with Willie, and ended his hour-long set with a blistering “Rockin’ In The Free World” complete with four endings that left the crowd howling for more.
Young twisted and torqued notes out of his guitar like a grandmaster of fuzz and thunder as Willie’s son Lukas poked and prodded the rock and roll icon into psychedelic overtures of blood-curdling wretch.
Sturgill Simpson and Nathaniel Ratcliff played brassy sets, adding horns to their countrified sounds that sounded right out of Muscle Shoals. Jamey Johnson was joined by Alison Krauss for his set. She added a feminine touch to Johnson’s sad-eyed tales.
On “Make The World Go Away,” Johnson sang plaintively as Krauss tweaked out some plaintive melodies on the fiddle. Alabama Shakes were a bluesy romp in the woods who added a soulful vibe to the day’s music.
Nelson opened with “Whiskey River” then laid down the hits like a human jukebox, proving the 83-year-old badass still has what it takes. For the grand finale of “Amazing Grace” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light,” everyone joined in on the choruses, ending yet another Farm Aid.
Monsanto’s been put in its place, but how about our elected officials, who let them get away with this nonsense in the first place? As Neil Young put it so eloquently, “We’re gonna win in a weird way!’
Show date: September 17, 2016