Farm Aid 2:
A Summer of Musical Bliss and Unforgettable Encounters
Growing up, backstage experiences were second nature to me, thanks to my father’s remarkable involvement with iconic bands from the ’60s to the ’80s. He was not only a member of the Grateful Dead’s legendary Pleasure Crew but also served as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s trusted tour manager. However, amidst these incredible moments, one experience held a special place in my heart: Farm Aid 2 in 1986.
Stepping back in time to the summer of ’86, I find myself immersed in the vibrant chaos of Farm Aid 2 at Manor Downs, just east of Austin, Tx. This historic event, brought to life by the indomitable spirit of Willie Nelson, Farm Aid, and my dad, promised to be a symphony of music, adventure, and unexpected encounters.
Amidst the swirling chaos backstage, my youthful spirit gravitated toward the oasis of a pool, a sanctuary where laughter and splashes intermingled with the grooves of the live performances. A teenage boy’s dream turned into reality as I swam alongside a dozen Playboy Playmates, who lent an ethereal allure to the water. Jon Bon Jovi and Vince Neil from Mötley Crüe injected the scene with their rock ‘n’ roll charisma, amplifying the energy and youthful enthusiasm.
The performances on stage were nothing short of breathtaking. X created an undeniable energy that pulsated through the air. Waylon Jennings embodied the essence of the working-class hero, resonating with farmers and music lovers alike. The late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan unleashed his guitar prowess, each note carrying the weight of his virtuosity. The Possum, George Jones, a living legend, whose timeless voice transported the audience to a bygone era of country music. His presence was a testament to the enduring power of his craft. And then there was Willie Nelson, the heart and soul of Farm Aid, whose poignant lyrics and unmistakable voice are always a warm embrace, uniting us all under the banner of love for the land.
But it wasn’t just the musical titans who left an impression on me. In the midst of this swirling vortex of talent and celebrity, my friend Rory Milikin and I found ourselves unwittingly entangled in a humorous encounter with none other than the charismatic Rob Lowe. It all began when we watched, both bemused and amused, as Lowe attempted to charm Rory’s aunt Alexa, only to meet with a resounding rejection. His ego, slightly bruised, led him to drop his backstage pass during his retreat toward the stage.
In an act of good intentions, we retrieved the fallen pass, eager to return it to its rightful owner. However, Lowe, still nursing the wounds of his rejection, hurriedly continued his journey, seemingly oblivious to our presence. It was then that Rory, in a moment of mischievous brilliance, shouted after him, “Good luck getting on that stage without your backstage pass!” It was an unexpected jolt of reality for Lowe, who suddenly comprehended his loss. His demeanor transformed in an instant, shedding his initial disappointment and replacing it with an air of congeniality. We exchanged a few words, and in the end, he proved to be kind-hearted and genuine.
Reflecting on that extraordinary summer, Farm Aid 2 remains etched in my memory as a mosaic of music, camaraderie, and unexpected twists. The ambiance was a fusion of diverse talents and personalities, united by a shared purpose of supporting American farmers and championing sustainable agriculture. It was an immersion into a world where the power of music met the determination to make a difference.
As the years have slipped away, Farm Aid 2 still resonates as a defining moment. The melodies of SRV and countless others continue to echo within me, reminding me of the transcendence that music can bring. The chance encounters and amusing escapades, such as our rendezvous with Rob Lowe, serve as enduring anecdotes that I recount with a smile. It was a summer that nurtured my passion for music, shaped my understanding of community, and unveiled the transformative potential of extraordinary experiences.
Farm Aid 2 was not just a concert; it was an awakening, a tapestry of unforgettable moments that will accompany me for a lifetime.