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Monday, August 08, 2011

Farm Aid Memories Over The Years



The Farm Aid 2011 Concert is this coming weekend in Kansas City, Kansas on August 13.

In the spirit of the event, we bring you Farm Aid Memories from one of our dear friends, Kevin "Union Man" Woodard. we've known "Union Man" for a long time now and go back in the years of seeing Neil Young concerts. Kevin aka "Union Man" has been to more Farm Aid concerts than just about any Neil fan that we know. This year will mark his ~19th Farm Aid concert -- a remarkable achievement.

Here are some of Kevin "Union Man"'s Farm Aid memories based on attending the concerts over the past 25 years including the first concert in 1985 in Illinois.

---

I first started watching Farm Aid in 1985. I am a huge Neil Young fan. That is what first got my interest. It soon became a yearly ritual with my wife and I. We would donate fifty dollars and get a t shirt. I got the odd years she got the even years. We became very interested in the cause.

I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In 1999 Farm Aid came to Virginia. I had to go! My brother, David went with me. My brother Chuck and his wife Terri also went. I attended this Farm Aid and caught "The Fever" ! I told myself that I would not ever miss one.

farm-aid-2008-john-dave-willie-neil.jpg
Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Neil Young


The next year it was back in Virginia, no problem! I had a great seat. I think it was fourth row on the aisle. I was approached by security early on and was told that they would give me a concert t-shirt to move to seats further in. I said I didn't want to and they said they weren't asking! My wife and I took the shirts and moved. A little while later Tipper Gore and her entourage came in and took our seats! That was pretty cool!

In 2001 came my first challenge. I had only flown once in my life. I was flying to Indianapolis alone! Then came 9-11. Made me a little more nervous about flying but I had to get to Farm Aid. I was fortunate to have met a friend through the Neil Young Internet community who lived near Indianapolis. He actually picked me up at the airport, took me to his home, kicked his kid out of his room and treated me like royalty all weekend. Thanks John!

farm-aid-2005-neil-young.jpg
Neil Young on "Southern Man" - 2005
Photo from FarmAid.org


Then came Pittsburgh. We drove to this one. My wife and several friends attended.

Some old friends of mine, Cope and Diane, attended and have gone to every one since with me! I think this might be the year that my friend Kathy Popple brought Chief Dennis to dinner and I got to meet him. One thing I remember about this show is purchasing my STOP FACTORY FARMS shirt directly from Roger Allison and the folks at Patchwork Family Farms before they were sold by Farm Aid. One of the highlights for me every year is stopping by to chat with Roger and eat some of his great food. This is usually the first thing I do when I arrive.

farm-aid-2005-neil-young-willie-nelson-press-conf.jpg
Neil & Willie - 2005, photo from FarmAid.org


In July of 2003 I broke my leg. Did this stop me? No way! My wife and I flew to Columbus, cast and crutches and all. Cope and Diane drove. A volunteer met me at the venue gate with a wheelchair and took me down to my seat.

The longest trip came next, Seattle! We decided to turn this into a vacation and stayed a few days longer than usual. My wife, Suella and Cope and Diane went along this time. Seattle was awesome! We had a little incident with parking downtown. A tow truck and a long walk in the rain was involved!

farm-aid-2005-neil-young-john-gress.jpg
Neil Young - 2005
photo by John Gress


The 2005 show was particularly special for us because our oldest daughter, Rachel, then 15 years old went to Chicago with Suella and I for her first Farm Aid. She has not missed one since. Rachel is a vegetarian but she goes to see Roger with me and he gives her a roll! Cope and Diane were with us and Chuck and Terri were back on board also! They have not missed one since!

We drove to the Camden show. Cope and Diane and Rachel and I. Chuck and Terri went also. Rachel and I rode to NYC with Chuck and Terri. Cope and Diane drove separate. My brother David made this one with his wife and nine year old daughter. I got my picture taken with Al Sharpton in front of my hotel and Rachel got to get her picture taken with one of the guys from Guster, one of her favorite bands!

farmaid2006-press.jpg
Neil Young at Farm Aid Press Conference
Neil Young - 2006
Photo by Kim Buchheit


Then came Mansfield. By far the best trip! After a great deal of consideration we decided to drive. Diane borrowed a conversion van and drove the whole way! Over 400 miles! Cope sat up front and David, Rachel, Rebecca (my other daughter) and I sat in back. We laughed and carried on the whole way. Stopped in New Haven for pizza and ended up turning a long drive into a very long drive!

The girls got their picture taken with Carson Daly and with Steve Earle. Then they convinced Steve Earle to get a pic with me and one with David. Fun memories. Neil performed " A Day In The Life " at this one. A performance that I will never forget.

farm-aid-2007-cartoon-fred-harper.jpg
Illustration by Fred Harper


Last year, Cope, Diane, Chuck, Terri, Rachel and I flew to St Louis. We attended
the Homegrown urban county fair and I got to meet Cornelia. What a pleasure!


Phish & Neil Young - "Down by the River"

Every year I look forward to seeing other regulars. There are several of us who met through the Neil Young Internet community that usually get together the night before and at the show. I have met several others such as Roger Allison and some farmers from Virginia, Debbie and Jackie Seale.

farmaid2003NeilWillie.jpg Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Inc. via Farm Aid press page

Farm Aid 2003


The whole atmosphere at the concert appeals to me. I love being there. I have hardly mentioned the music. As you know it is always fantastic. I love hearing the guys talk about the issues etc. I would love to get a chance to attend the press conference one year.

Looks like my regular gang, Chuck, Terri, Cope, Diane and Rachel will be going to Wisconsin with me this year. In my wife's defense, we have been putting both girls through college and she elects to stay home to save the expense. I on the other hand don't have that choice. I HAVE to go! :-)

farm-aid-2008-neil-young-press-conf.jpg
Neil Young at Press Conference
Photos by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Inc. 2008


I am 53 years old and work for a large grocery chain. One of the Farm Aid enemies sort of. As produce manager I do however continuously expand the offering of organic produce as well as purchase everything I can from local family farms. Try to make a difference in my own little way...

I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it! I could go on and on...

See you in Milwaukee and thanks for all you do,
Kevin "Union Man" Woodward

Thanks Kev "Union Man". You're the best.

No farmers, no food.

farm-aid-founders.jpg

More on Farm Aid 2011 and Lineup.


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7 Comments:

At 8/08/2011 09:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff Thrasher!

I have a bunch of Neil Farm Aid videos on you tube, including this one from 1992 with the Stray Gators:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYQRWbIh1x8

you can find all of them here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RustedTelevision#grid/user/0D100B7CD116FCC8

 
At 8/08/2011 07:40:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

Thank you, 'Union Man', for allowing us to be passengers on your trip down memory lane. Neil's audience is probably only second to 'The Dead' when it comes to having a 'cult following' for lack of a better definition. I've had simular experiences in meeting people who are 'regulars' and crossing their paths at other shows. I've never attended a Farm Aid, though over the years it has attracted it's own share of regular followers such as you and your friends. May you and your family and friends enjoy many future Farm Aids with more memories to share, as bittersweet it is that there's still a need for the event.

 
At 8/08/2011 09:34:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

... I've had 'similar' experiences too!

 
At 8/10/2011 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Sail Away: Part One

Do not disturb
My waking dream
The splendor of
That winding stream
Flower in my canoe
Her eyes they looked me through
That someone there
With golden hair
Is very much like you
--A. P. Carter


Wonderful writing and memories of so many Farm Aid concerts...thanks for sharing this with all of us! I was at two of the shows you mention and wish that it could have been more. The Virginia show in 1999 was the first one and it didn't disappoint. We drove down very early that morning and arrived very late that night at a wonderful B & B in Washington, VA. During the interim, we heard ten hours of incredible music, including Steve Earle & The Dukes, Tricia Yearwood, Dave Mathews, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and especially Neil Young, who performed solo that year.

Neil played many of the songs that would end up on Silver and Gold. His performance was captivating and probably the most haunting concert I've ever heard him do. He introduced Daddy Went Walking with a nice story about his dad and the farm in Omemee...if I close my eyes at just the right time, I can still see and hear him doing this song and it makes me very thoughtful.

The other show was at Mansfield in 2008. You said this was the best one and I sure won't argue with you there. The encore of Day In The Life completely took me by surprise...one of those concert moments when you are captivated and transported to a special place where the best music and performances can bring you. I'm so, so happy not to have known ahead of time that Neil was performing this for his encore; the complete and utter sweet surprise made the experience even better and more alive.

So enjoy the show in Kansas City and let us know everything about the day and the music...we'll be thinking of you. And make sure that you stay hydrated. I've spent lots of time in KC, especially during the July and August heat waves, and the old saying is right...it's hotter than a couple of rats in a wool sock!

I won't be able to make this year's show, but hope to be there for the next one. On Friday night (aka Farm Aid Eve), I'm going to see Wild Flag and Sonic Youth at the Williamsburg Waterfront and it should be an incredible show. I'm going with my son, and we're both looking forward to a night of fun and music in NYC. During this year's Solid Sound Festival, I was able to speak with Thurston Moore and told him that we'd be at the show. He signed an LP to my son and then I took pictures of him with several fans. Couldn't get mine taken because my cell phone battery was dying...one of those Gift of the Magi moments you just have to smile about.

 
At 8/10/2011 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Sail Away: Part Two

A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a house concert where the headliner was Steve Wynn & The Miracle Three. They played an immensely rocking set; there were maybe 250 people there and everyone loved it, even though the temperature was around 100 and the humidity was borderline unbearable.

Steve introduced a song toward the end of their set, telling a story about going to see Paul McCartney at Yankee Stadium with two of the three other members of his great 80's band The Dream Syndicate. He said at the show, he realized that some of Paul's songs were almost fifty years old, and then also realized that some of his own songs are now thirty years old. And then the band played "Tell Me When It's Over", which is the opening song on the first album Days of Wine and Roses...and a song which he had written and recorded thirty years ago. They played it like it was the only song in the world, and it again made me realize why it's so great to be there at just such times as these...nothing better in the world.

Monday night I was down at the beach. A local spot often has open mic sessions, and I hung out there for awhile listening to the music and watching the Sox game. Jackie and Michael (who was running the session) were doing a very nice version of Heart of Gold, which I like very much and I've heard them do before. They started to extend this version a bit, and it was right at that point that the Red Sox rallied and ended up winning the game. The power of Neil comes through again!

I was talking with a very nice couple who said they were on vacation from Maryland, and she said "I love Neil Young" after they finished doing HOG. So I mentioned Thrashers Wheat and all the great fans that visit there, and suggested that she check it out sometime. I also said that I'd have a comment out there soon...so if you're reading this Megan, hope that you and the hubby are having a great vacation in New England! And you should definitely go to Farm Aid sometime...you'll love it.

So keep on rockin' Union Man, thanks again for some great stories and I hope that Neil plays some of your favorite songs!

And thanks as always to Thrashers Wheat for doing all that you do. Keep on the sunny side....


"I tell you what...I wish I had that boat again.... Man, I wish I had that boat! I'd get in my car, with Annette, I'd drive down to the pier, I'd get on that boat and I'd go. I'd go. East, West, North, South...nobody would ever find me."
--Lefty (Al Pacino) to Donnie (Johnny Depp) in Donnie Brasco


I gotta go somewhere
I gotta go
Wasting time
Standing here
I gotta go
--Robert Earl Keen

 
At 8/10/2011 05:25:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

Thanks RustedTV!

@BigChief - Yes, 26 years later, farmers need FA more than ever sadly.

@Mr H - Thanks, as always for your thoughtful comments. Definitely lots of good FA memories over the years.

Also, thanks for TW shoutout.

Enjoy Wild Flag and Sonic Youth on FAE!

 
At 8/11/2011 12:09:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Thanks for the note! In the immortal words of that great philosopher Derek Zoolander, "Just thinking about it was the most rewarding experience I've ever had".

I should be home Saturday night in time to catch Neil's set live. Any ideas which direction he might be headed in? Should be innarestin'....

 

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