With new issues plaguing independent American farmers in recent years – particularly Midwestern dairy providers -- Willie Nelson is bringing his annual Farm Aid concert to the Upper Midwest for only the third time in its 34-year history.
The all-star fundraiser pickathon will hit Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis., on Sept. 21 with a lineup that includes its four cornerstone acts – Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews – and two legendary women from the original 1985 Farm Aid lineup, Bonnie Raitt and Tanya Tucker. Younger stars on the bill include Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Margo Price, Jamey Johnson, and Willie’s sons Lukas Nelson and and Micah Nelson and their respective bands, Promise of the Real and Particle Kid. More names always get added as the day nears.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday through Ticketmaster for $55-$250. Pre-sale options start Tuesday.
About a five-hour drive from the Twin Cities in southeastern Wisconsin, Alpine Valley’s 37,000-capacity amphitheater is on a rebound after many relatively quiet years. This weekend, the venue is hosting a three-day bake fest with Phish.
Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, Wisconsin was picked by Farm Aid organizers specifically for the struggles faced by farmers there. The state has led the nation in farm bankruptcy filings over the past three years as dairy prices have fallen by more than 40 percent.
Also due in Minneapolis on Aug. 2 for his Target Center concert with Alison Krauss, Nelson launched Farm Aid in reaction to a comment Minnesota boy Bob Dylan made at the 1985 Live Aid mega-concert (“Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?”). Since then, the organization has raised more than $57 million in farmers assistance, plus it has raised awareness and lobbied for better legislation on behalf of independent farmers.
As Mellencamp told this reporter back in 2000 before the event’s 15th anniversary, “Where the [bleep] is Live Aid? Where is Hands Across America? There are still kids starving in Africa, just as there are still American farmers who need help. God bless Willie. When he made a commitment, he stuck to it.”
Intentionally moved around from city to city as part of its awareness-raising efforts, Farm Aid has previously only been in the Upper Midwest twice before: The 1993 installment was held at Jack Strice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, and the 2010 lineup was hosted at Milwaukee’s Miller Park.