INDIANAPOLIS – Farm Aid IV may have limited its participants to two songs each, but fans weren’t shortchanged on rousing moments Saturday.
The schedule intertwined country acts intertwined with rock acts throughout the exhausting more than 12-hour music fest.
At one point, John Hiatt, punkster Iggy Pop, rhythm-and-blues band Was (Not Was) and country balladeer Ricky Van Shelton all performed within a 40-minute period.
Then, after an appearance by country’s K.T. Oslin, came Guns N’ Roses.
Easily the most anticipated performance of Farm Aid IV, Guns N’ Roses sent the capacity crowd of 48,000 into a frenzy.
Guns N’ Roses’ two raucous numbers – “Civil War” and a cover of the obscure hard rock song “Down Here on the Farm” – featured singer Axl Rose’s whirling stage antics and torrid guitar playing by Slash.
Pity the acts that immediately followed Guns N’ Roses – talented songwriter Lyle Lovett and homey John Denver, both of whom played acoustic songs.
Farm Aid IV’s length forced some performers get the opportunity to play one song. Using a rotating stage (adorn with black and white pictures of farm families), the concert had relatively short breaks, about two or three minutes, between acts.
Performances ranged from the exotic, Dennis Alley and the Wisdom Dancers (native American dancing) to the nostalgic, Carl Perkins.
Farm Aid IV also featured several fine combinations performing together, including John Prine joined by Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne and Nanci Griffith and John McMurtry.
Elton John performed as Farm Aid IV’s special guest, dedicating a song to AIDS sufferer Ryan White who’s hospitalized a few blocks from the Hoosier Dome.
Backstage also contained its mixed bag of stars, including Dick Clark who served as one of the six hosts, and boxing heavyweight champion James “Buster” Douglas.
Indiana native John Cougar Mellencamp was expected to close the concert in Saturday’s wee hours.
April 8, 1990
Farm Aid message is loud and clear
INDIANAPOLIS – Like many of the 70 or so performers at Farm Aid IV, Bonnie Raitt would rather not be singing the praises of farming.
“I wish we didn’t have to come here,” the Grammy Award winner said flatly. “I hope this is the last (Farm Aid), and we can eradicate the problem.”
That might be wishful thinking.
But musicians from bluegrass legend Bill Monroe to Russian heavy metal group Gorky Park gathered at the Hoosier Dome on Saturday to do the next best thing – turn up the volume in hopes of raising support for struggling family farmers.
Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson, who opened the 12-hour concert, has spearheaded the event four times, including the first Farm Aid at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Sept. 22, 1985. Since that initial concert, U.S. farmers have experienced four straight record-earning years of more than $50 billion in income.
Still, nearly 750,000 farms have been lost during the 1980s, Nelson said.
“It’s definitely a lie that the farm crisis is over,” said Jim Hightower, Texas agriculture commissioner.
Former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, wearing a Farm Aid jacket, hat and T-shirt, said the crisis in rural America, if anything, has worsened in the face of rising total farm income.
“When the numbers are adjusted for inflation, farm income during the last decade was at its lowest since 1910,” Jackson said. “The farm crisis still exists. It is expanding. Rural farmers are stricken with increased poverty.”
Various Farm Aid events have raised from $500,000 (Farm Aid II in Austin, Texas) to the record $9 million taken in at Farm Aid I. Those funds have been distributed to more than 100 farm organizations.
The Hoosier Dome has been sold out (about 48,000) at $30 a seat. Donations also were being taken throughout the show, which was telecast live by The Nashville Network.
Nelson wouldn’t estimate how much this year’s event would net, and he downplayed the importance of fund-raising at Farm Aid IV. Others said the concert provides an important forum on farm issues.
Outspoken singer/songwriter Neil Young, for instance, lashed out at the use of chemicals in farmland.
“We live in a country where a farmer can’t get a loan unless he uses chemicals on his farm,” Young said. “That’s the truth.
“We’ve got a long distance fight, and we’re not backing down.”
Arlo Guthrie, who has appeared in all four Farm Aids, applauded the attempt to address a broader range of issues.
“This feels different than the other Farm Aids,” he said. “We’re focusing on the family farms as well as environmental concerns.”
Before his Farm Aid appearance, country singer Garth Brooks performed a benefit concert in Oklahoma for Future Farmers of America programs, raising $20,000. Brooks, who will perform at Taylorville’s Nashville North theater Saturday, said Farm Aid can serve as a vital boost to farmers.
“This brings attention to the problems that we’re having in the backbone of America,” he said. “I’ll be down to earth honest with you, partner, I’m just damn flattered to be on Farm Aid. If there’s some way my being here helped, that makes me feel great.”
Pam Baldwin of Meridian, Idaho said Farm Aid IV might help other farmers avoid her recent problems. A dairy farmer, Baldwin and her husband had to sell 150 dairy cows last week to keep their operation going.
“You can only operate at a loss for so long without finally going under,” she said. “We need better prices for our products. We’re hoping what Farm Aid will do is draw attention to the fact that family farmers are on the land to save it. Once corporate America takes over the farms, you’ll pay what corporate America wants you to pay for the food.”
Concertgoers also were asked to sign cards distributed by about 100 volunteers of the National Family Farm Coalition. The cards will be sent to individual congressmen with the coalition’s appeal for aid to family farms, reduced use of farm chemicals and price supports in the 1990 farm bill.
“(The fans) have been absolutely supportive,” said NFFC’s Glen Wallace of Blair, Okla. “They’ve taken the time to fill out the cards. Some don’t know who their congressman is, so I told them to put mine down.”