Farm Aid: A review complete with videos

I drove and drove and drove and drove and on Saturday morning I finally arrived at Miller Park in Milwaukee for Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope For America.

The show kicked off at 1 p.m. but I was hungry and my buddy was grilling up a whole mess of organic turkey burgers and I figured, when in Rome.

After my lunch, which was tasty, fresh, produced locally and very healthy I made my way inside the hallowed grounds which normally host the Milwaukee Brewers.

I spent most of the early sets talking to Wisconsin farmers about the dangers that factory farms of all sorts produce. They pollute, the drain natural resources, and workers are an issue, but I digress. Let’s get to the tunes.

I walked in and called my friend from DePere who dropped his kids off at a babysitter and brought a big ol’ group for the Green Bay area. I haven’t seen him in what’s felt like five years but there he was in section 429. I trekked up four flights of stairs from my comfy 117 seats.

We caught up and saw the set of Jeff Tweedy, Wilco front man. I honestly wasn’t that impressed, sure he sounded good but it was slow, depressing music, kind of like he ripped off Bright Eyes.

My buddy in 429 told me while I was burning off the turkey burger walking up all those levels I missed the end of a great set by Amos Lee which he described as kind of a country voice, which the ability to croon a little jazz.

Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, played next and was unreal. I saw the kid back at Farm Aid 20 and he was ripping off some killer blues then. Like a fine wine age has done Lukas well. It must have been the part where he was flipping the guitar between right-side-up and up-side-down that really brought my house down. He was one of the better acts during the concert.

Band of Horses also played somewhere in there and if you know what a hipster is (therefore you are a hipster) you would dig this band. It’s hard to describe but I’d say it was a modern rock sound with the traditional instruments, check them out.

The big names started coming out next, Jason Mraz is an avocado farmer as well as radio hit wunderkid. He really enjoyed playing for Farm Aid 25 and it could show, his set was great even though it was a lot of poppy radio play.

He was followed by the always delectable Norah Jones, who proved why her sweet, soothing voice is next to that of a muse. It seemed the whole ball park quieted down when she played, kind of like Emmylou Harris at Farm Aid 20. She also did a duet with Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson. I think I would either be way more productive at work if I had my own personal Norah Jones to sing to me.

Kenny Chesney followed Jones and this was a great time to use the bathroom, get a drink, buy a T-shirt and not listen to country music, which I all did. But the country fans were hootin’ and a hollerin’ so he must have been lights out.

Next up was Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, hands down my favorite set. Dave and Tim went duo-virtuoso, which was mind blowingly awesome. It was only two people dueling their guitars but if you closed your eyes at times it sounded like four. I’ve seen the pair once before but Dave believes in the cause and he played his heart out, again hands down favorite set.

For the old-timers who read this blog I should probably mention John Mellencamp. He played almost all the same songs he did at Farm Aid 20 but the man has a stage presence unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. He whipped the crowd up, played his hits and rocked Miller Park.

The reason I felt generally disappointed with the show was the following artist and my favorite, Neil Young. Young played a solo set for the most part featuring songs from his new solo album, which I am not fond of. It’s like the basic elements of his music without all the parts that make them fun to listen to. He also went a little overboard with a message I’ll sum up here. We are all going to die and kill this country on the way because the vegetables in your can of Chunky Soup aren’t locally produced.

But that’s the legacy of Young, take what you can get, when you can get it, because he has historically released some pretty poor albums over the years, which tend to be followed by genius.

Now the final set Willie Nelson, as soon as Young was over I told my ride to give me 10 minutes because the line for the bathroom was really long. I come back and the ride is gone. People from Milwaukee we knew down there told me they had left. RIGHT BEFORE WILLIE!

I missed what I was told was the best set of the night because someone in the group couldn’t handle organic food, or someone was too drunk, or it was late at night, or I was being a prick who wanted to see Willie. It was probably a sick combination of those factors and many others.

But there it is my Farm Aid 25 experience in a nutshell. All in all the 35,000 plus tickets sold raised $2 million to help family farmers, I’m glad I went and if I get the chance to do it again I will.