Farm Aid | 09.09.07 | NYC

Words by: Jessica Lopa :: Images by: Adam McCullough

Farm Aid 2007 :: 09.09.07 :: Randall's Island :: New York, NY

Matisyahu :: Farm Aid 2007
The 22nd annual Farm Aid benefit (subtitled "A Home Grown Festival") captured the essence of true giving with its focus on giving back to those who keep America's farming tradition alive. It was, at the same time, a festivalgoers' dream. With nonstop music and stage changes that were smoother than expected, day turned to night with few interruptions.

Matisyahu performed a short set but made a lasting impression. Taking the stage at 3:30 p.m., dressed in traditional Hasidic clothing, not only did Matisyahu rip through syncopated reggae phrases with technique and precision he offered translations of Hebrew text to share with the audience his deep-seeded humility for his maker ("My soul is thirsty for you in the giant marshland"). With timing and artfulness, Matisyahu's "Kodesh" blends ancient sounding chants with rhythmic fills. Upon listening to his melodies one can here how he strays from tradition, altering and flatting notes, combating the intensity of his backing band. His second piece featured him beat-boxing. Drawing upon his ability to hear and interpret cross-rhythms, Matisyahu can educate listeners and musicians alike with his rhythmic brigades, a powerful medium for his spiritual beliefs. Preceding "Indestructible," Matisyahu thanked farmers with sincerity, telling them that their hands in the soil proclaimed their individuality from the modern world. His songs were climactic and progressive, creating rhythmic and melodic peaks. His ability to sing with a richness of tone through an impressive range makes his message resonate.

Trucks & Tedeschi :: Farm Aid 2007
Derek Trucks' band with wife Susan Tedeschi offered up their soulful three song set in usual fashion. Later that night in a press meeting, Truck's described his band's intentions as more subdued than those of the Allman Brothers Band, referring to ABB as a "freight train" in comparison. There was nothing covert about Truck's playing on "Soul Serenade," encompassing a soulful blend of inspired licks and vibrato while touching down on the genre lines of soulful rock and blues. Lead vocalist Mike Mattison's shared verses with Tedeschi, using his falsetto with tasteful control. Mattison's presence remained in the background as the arrangement opened up to include a release in the drums accompanying Truck's precise guitar phrasing. It was truly an experience to listen to the sing-able nature of Truck's phrasing and the slow, steady buildup he guides into fruition. The band's second piece, "Sailing On," had a warm sound that reminded me of the Christmas song, "Silver Bells." Mattison's middle range vocals were less than memorable but probably because of the lacking nature of the melody itself. The last chorus taken by Trucks rose in intensity with changing textures as his slide guitar moaned to a great resolution. Backed by a more than adequate rhythm section of drums, congas, keyboards and rhythm guitar DT's band finished with "Key to the Highway." With Trucks staying true to clear, articulate phrasing, Tedeschi riffing blues lines to fill any vacancies and Mattison's impressive range, the Derek Trucks Band is certainly up and coming.

Counting Crows :: Farm Aid 2007
44-year-old Adam Duritz, lead singer of Counting Crows demonstrated that he still has a penchant for the dramatic, as well as a keen musical intuition. The founder of Counting Crows is still affected by his own words - a quality that the audience buys into and for good reason. Since their album August and Everything After, Counting Crows have created contagious melodies with a level of expression that is hard to match, elevating the pop song to new heights. One can easily reminisce watching Duritz perform. Not much has changed from the days of "Mr. Jones" and "Maria" when Duritz wore his heart on his sleeve, experiencing some sort of epiphany mid-song that brings the final chorus somewhere unexpected. The song "Washington Square" started with only Duritz and a piano, a fabulous pairing of instruments. Duritz later called on his guitarist for his musical input, sitting on an amp and listening to his band mate's solo. By their fifth and final song, "Long December," Counting Crows had proven several times over that they are not only back with an upcoming album but that they have preserved their fresh sound with a musicality that is well above par.

Warren Haynes played through his acoustic set with a recurring tenderness that was redundant to a fault. With a less than varying repertoire by the third song, a cover of U2's "One," one might have come to the conclusion not much has changed from the set's first song, a cover of Elton John's "Indian Sunset." Perhaps Haynes chose an acoustic styling for his set to parallel the concert's ideals of all things organic and un-engineered. Coming from a man that has an abundant amount of musical resources it would have been cool to hear him stray from the original melody of "One." Not surprising is the different impression created by Haynes during his acoustic set compared to the one as part of ABB. Haynes' forte is not solo acoustic performances, however, it seems to be one of his passions.

Haynes & Trucks - Allman Brothers :: Farm Aid 2007
Gregg Allman's set started with him on guitar accompanied by Willie Nelson for an arrangement of "Midnight Rider." Unfortunately, the microphone levels were not the only thing lacking. Nelson's harmonies were unheard for the first half of the song, and overall I think the song warrants a full band setting to capture the spirit that fans have come to expect. Dave Matthews inclusion on "Melissa" brought a sentimental quality that was well received by the audience.

The Allman Brothers' set lay second to none at this year's Farm Aid, compacting their electrical mayhem into a short timeframe. Starting with "Trouble No More" their entire set lie at a summit of creativity. Gregg Allman's high pitch keyboard hits during the intro to "Black Hearted Woman" gelled with the ride cymbal, showing Allman can blend himself with ease. What is so recognizable about the Allman Brothers is their affinity for in-your-face unison guitar riffs ripe with potential. These prominent guitar parts become entangled and eventually upgrade to vast possibilities with the monster rhythm section behind them. And you better believe this band knows how to work them out. Accented with cymbal crashes, Trucks' guitar solo on "Black Hearted Woman" drove into changing terrains, each more climatic than the last. You could hear ideas develop into recognizable bits like "My Favorite Things." Like John Coltrane, Trucks can find other songs in his own styling. Warren Haynes' solo was pure brilliance on "Whose Been Talking," where he played through the changes with a tremolo that was met by Butch Trucks' drumming note for note. This band is tight. Every nuance is layered and shared. The Allman Brothers' set also included "Statesboro Blues" and "Revival," a carnival for the ears.

Dave Matthews :: Farm Aid 2007
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds had what it seemed like all ears and eyes on them when they took the stage at 8:00 p.m. After a short explanation for his raspy voice, the two opened with "Lie In Our Graves." Matthews quipped at himself and Reynolds about being "the quiet acoustic set between the rock shows." All kidding aside, the two did not seem to need much more than each other and their set proved to be nothing short of dynamic. Reynolds supplied Matthews with masterful accompaniment, drawing upon his wide range of styles, techniques and dynamics. Reynolds molds pop rock chord progressions into etudes, an exercise for the fingers and the mind. On "Lie In Our Graves," Reynolds added a violin effect complete with double stops, expanding the texture as well as the harmonic potential of Matthew's material with a tremolo effect. Both "Lie In Our Graves" and "Crush" evolved into cadenzas where Reynolds used Middle Eastern harmonies, connecting with Matthew's progression and sending both songs over the top with the use of overtones. Most mild of the duo's set was their cover of Daniel Lanois' "The Maker," where Reynolds blended inconspicuously with Matthew's soft dynamics. One can speculate about the level of musicianship required to play a set with just two acoustic guitars and still attain the same level of intensity that a large crowd demands, but with their intuition and musical brawn Reynolds and Matthews are a pair who exceed at this task.

John Mellencamp :: Farm Aid 2007
This year's Farm Aid artists kept the focus on the importance of supporting local farmers. Every performer made this intention clear. Most notably John Mellencamp's set glorified the essence of what it means to live in Middle America - the family life and the workingman's dream, bringing them into clarity with his eloquent and substantial word choices.

Introduced by Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp started with "Troubled Land," an appropriate song on many levels. With its fitting refrain of "Bring peace to the troubled land," the song is about the bittersweet price we pay for peace, stating, "I'm deader than a hammer/ The eyes of heaven are upon you/ Cut off your fingers to bring peace to the troubled land." Mellencamp welcomed Derek Trucks for "If I Die Sudden." With a straight-up rock beat, Mellencamp's song paints a picture of the strong but silent man who, within his solidarity, accepts his impending mortality. Susan Tedeschi helped close Mellencamp's set, sharing verses on "Pink Houses." The descriptive verses about the lifestyles of Middle American families were complemented with a knee-slapping rock 'n' roll setting. Much can be said about the tribute Mellencamp pays to America within songs like "Pink Houses." Listen closely enough and the simple-yet-complex lifestyle Americans lead is poetically captured Mellencamp.

Young & Nelson :: Farm Aid 2007
Neil Young, one of the original founders of Farm Aid, graced the stage in a fashion that remained true to the beginning years of his prolific career. Accompanied by good friend Ben Keith (pedal steel) and wife Pegi Young (guitar, vocals), Young's set thrived delicately amidst a montage of soft strumming chords. The refrain of Neil Young's first song, "Human Highway," posed a rhetorical question - "How could people get so unkind?" - revealing Young's belief in peace and acceptance. His second song, "Silver and Gold," in a simple arrangement was an ode to lasting love.

Young then discussed the important role farming plays in proper nutrition. "Moms everywhere, they love to feed those kids the best food they can find. Try to get it from a sustainable farm," said Young. To the audience's delight, Young revisited "Heart of Gold." From its recognizable introduction, Young's treatment of the song was as stellar as in his earlier days. Most notable during Young's set was the inclusion of Willie Nelson for "Homegrown," a corker from Young's long-bootlegged, soon to be released Chrome Dreams. The song's double meaning did not take long to be discovered after Young's tongue and cheek introduction.

Willie Nelson :: Farm Aid 2007
Willie Nelson and Family came on at 11:00 p.m. Willie's daughter, Paula Nelson, started the ten-song set with a beautiful ballad about an exhausted love affair titled "Day to Day." Following this was a cover of Johnny Cash's "Jackson." Willie led the close of Farm Aid in non-stop fashion. Besides his family, Nelson welcomed up United States Service men, Native American Indians, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, the icon promoting a true sense of togetherness. With a repertoire ranging from the traditional ("I'll Fly Away") to newer songs ("Superman"), Nelson touched upon many sentiments. His comical nature was well represented within the witty verses of "You Don't Think I'm Funny Anymore," which he composed when he was supposed to be resting after carpal tunnel surgery. Like the patriarch of a large musical family, Nelson cued solos around the band, lending a jam-like quality to the final stage. Nelson's new song was treated to Trucks' styling on a song about a man realizing his prankster days are over. "I used to fake a heart attack and fall down on the floor/ But wait, did you hear the one about the dirty whore?/ You don't think I'm funny anymore."

It is inspiring for a younger generation to witness a singer-songwriter of Nelson's stature at the helm of a colossal awareness raising effort for such an important cause. For 22 years, Farm Aid and all its contributing artists have paved a way between celebrity and humanity by bringing the spotlight onto those who maintain America's farming tradition, proving everything, even music, must play second fiddle to tradition.

Continue reading for more images from Farm Aid 2007... Images by: Dino Perrucci

Adam Duritz - Counting Crows
Trucks & Tedeschi
Derek Trucks
Gregg Allman
Dave Matthews
Haynes, Allman, Matthews
Allman Brothers Band
Trucks & Haynes - Allman Brothers Band
John Mellencamp
Willie Nelson

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Treetophigh Wed 9/19/2007 07:49PM
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Bring this show back home


and bring the killer lineup with

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/20/2007 05:19AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

yeah.. mid west!!!

I could live with out dave, mellencamp, or counting crows,, but the rest is wonderful!!! go farm aid!!! always good reasons to spread knowledge and understanding. :)

johnnygoff starstarstarstar Thu 9/20/2007 07:57AM
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Food for the artists for this event all came from Finger Lakes and Southern Tier (NY) farms. Great lineup all around, including Counting Crows, Mellancamp and Dave. What is it about Derek Trucks? Will this dude look 18 for the rest of his life? What's his secret? Thanks for the coverage on this.

Marcsmall starstarstarstar Thu 9/20/2007 08:18AM
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Sounds effing amazing, especially Neil and the ABB. It would be worth it just for those two and Willie. And for one of the best causes imaginable, nonetheless.

gibsonguy87 Thu 9/20/2007 10:53AM
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i agree bring it back to chicago 05 wasnt too shabby, had widespread wilco but would love to see abb solo warren bring some keller in there with so jams as well

moejoerisin starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/20/2007 11:06AM
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great review.. even managed to say nice things about john cougar - not sure how he squeezed a later set than ABB, but whatev. great pics as well. miles - dave and tim live is way better than dmb live. this reviewer did a great job relaying the intricacies of reynolds' playing.

moejoerisin Thu 9/20/2007 11:08AM
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p.s. - i dig willie's shades in this bottom pic. what a baller.

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/20/2007 03:18PM
Show -7 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Treetophigh Thu 9/20/2007 03:32PM
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^^^^ i definitely had a blast at his show^^^

danced my ass off with everyone else on the lawn

i cant tell u many of his songs, nor many other folks songs

but i gotta stick up for him being a bigger contributer to good times than most jambands these days

hes been throwin parties for decades

good ones

Road To Shambala Fri 9/21/2007 06:18AM
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Road To Shambala

I must disagree with a few of your points USC. Counting Crows best song is "Murder of One" off of their first album. You can easilty find amazing acoustic liver versions they have done. And although Duritz is so cheesy he bleeds Velvetta he is not a bad songwriter, not great but not bad. The fact that they haven't done much other than a few covers since the late 90's and he's a bloated version of himself it makes it kinda sad and funny to watch.

What's with the lack of love for Neil and Willie? Although you know enough to be a fan of Mirror Ball I think you you give a listen to some other newer Neil. And live he is still amazingly poignant and heartfelt. Willie is the man. Musically he has never been either Cash or Monroe's equal but how many people are? Please don't get me started on JCM. I've been to his hometown and its not that small. He's a fraud. One OK album when Reagan was in office and we have to put up with that damn Chevy commercial incessantly 20 years late. UGHHHH!!!

peaton Fri 9/21/2007 10:23AM
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In response to Trojans comments. Yeah, I can see where you may not want to see the counting crows live, however lets take a trip back to the 90's. Popular music even just a decade ago was so much better than popular music today. Sure, the Counting Crows may not be spectacular, but I would still credit them for being talented. I guess what I'm trying to say is I would rather turn on my radio and hear the counting crows than fallout boy. What was considered pop in the 90's (especially early 90's) was not bad. Even though our nation's (as a whole) taste for music is going down the shitter, it is refreshing to see a band like the counting crows keeping at it. As for your other comments, neil young rules, so yeah, that comment sucked.

Marcsmall Fri 9/21/2007 11:17AM
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In response to NY not putting out anything decent since the 70's, both Harvest Moon and Greendale were great

hellyeah Sat 9/22/2007 02:54PM
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i love it when a guy whose favorite artists include amy winehouse and jack johnson insult living legends like willie nelson. i mean come on trojan, your old screen name is kellerhead. willie has more soul in his pinky finger than all the tattoos, and heroin in winehouses body or stale gimmicks in keller's loopy bag of tricks.

heygoat49 Sun 9/23/2007 02:41PM
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overall, great review, no mention of dave and tim performing "dreaming tree" for the first time ever, which was quite the treat

Astronaut Jones starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/24/2007 05:59AM
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Astronaut Jones

trojans4life--get real buddy. Willie had to sell most of those songs early on in his career to feed himself and his family. you are truly an ass for banging on him about that.

good review except for the comment about Trucks' Band being an up-and-comer. they have pretty well arrived imho.

cocheese starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/24/2007 06:32AM
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Trojanboy, you're an idiot. Willie is the man. i can name a lot more than 3, here we go: "Family Bible", "Hello Walls", "Always on My Mind", "Night Life", "Funny How Time Slips Away", "Crazy", "Good Hearted Woman", "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time", "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys", "Me and Paul", "Whiskey River" and of course "Beer for my Horses". He also had something to do with a lil' album called "Wanted: The Outlaws", country music's first platinum album and was at one time the best seller of all time, not sure if it still is. So, stop being such a prick and have a little respect.

guitardave starstarstar Mon 9/24/2007 07:58AM
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I bet USC is an awesome, genius musician in his own right, since he feels he can look down on Willie Nelson and Neil Young. I want to attend his induction into the rock and roll hall of fame. Where is your next gig? In your basement?

Astronaut Jones starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/24/2007 10:28AM
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Astronaut Jones

basement...HA! that's funny stuff right there. long live the Longhaired Stranger