Concertgoers embraced the late summer heat on Sunday, Sept. 9 as they left New York City and headed towards Randall's Island for the 22nd annual Farm Aid Music Festival. With a lineup of 21 musicians, 25,000 fans who paid anywhere from $52 to $1,502 for tickets gathered in the huge field to help support family farms and enjoy some all-natural local foods and homegrown musical vibes.
Headlined by musicians Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Willie Nelson, the festival was a noon-to-midnight celebration of organic foods and beverages produced by local farming families. The Allman Brothers, Counting Crows, Guster, Matisyahu, the Derek Trucks Band and Warren Haynes also contributed to the 12 hours of live music.
With temperatures nearing 90 degrees, spectators relaxed in the autumnal grass, mingling and dancing as they awaited their favorite musicians. In such a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, even the lesser-known bands received huge applause and encouragement from the crowd, a motley crew ranging from ex-flower children to second-generation hippies and young kids.
Originally pioneered by Mellencamp, Young and Nelson in 1985 and joined by Matthews in 2001, Farm Aid, America's longest continually run rock festival, has raised $30 million in support of family farms and local agriculture. Artists donate their time and money to help keep farmers on their land and chemicals out of Americans' bodies.
One of the unique pleasures of the festival was the chance for different artists to perform together. As the sun finally began to fade over the New York City skyline, Haynes, Nelson, Matthews and Gregg Allman played a memorable rendition of "Sweet Melissa." The Allman Brothers followed, pumping the entire venue with energy as they played live benchmarks "Whipping Post," "Statesboro Blues" and "One Way Out."
Matthews and prolific guitarist Tim Reynolds took the stage later, perched on stools and played an acoustic set of favorites including "Lie in our Graves," "Crush" and "Ants Marching," displaying Reynolds's talented slide guitar and distortion effects. Mellencamp followed, performing a Springsteen-esque set revolving around America's heartland. The crowd seemed to be losing energy in the waning hours, most of them settling calmly in the grass until Mellencamp finally rocked out his classic, "Small Town."
Young and Nelson wrapped up this amazing lineup, stressing the importance of supporting America's family farms in tunes like Young's "Homegrown" and "Everyone Knows This is Nowhere." With a mix of wholesome organic foods - even organic beer - an eclectic collection of fans and rockin' musical vibes, there was no better way to spend a sizzling Sunday in September than at Farm Aid.