“There were plenty of paper cowboys in attendance on Saturday — people donning the hats, boots and denim of country-western dress-up — but most were good ol’ boys (and girls) dressed for a moderate September day, lounging in a sea of captain’s chairs and picnic blankets. Most opted for T-shirts dedicated to musicians, college sports and the American flag, but there was also a smattering of political messages, befitting the final stretch of the 2016 election: a Donald Trump shirt here, a Bernie Sanders shirt there, and even a few Ronald Reagan shirts.
But by wearing a Reagan shirt to Farm Aid, one is perhaps missing the point. The concert was born of the farm crisis that accelerated during the Reagan years; weeks after the first Farm Aid, Neil Young took out a full-page ad in USA Today that asked the president, “Will the family farm in America die as a result of your administration?”
That kind of disconnect was an undercurrent of the festival. Concertgoers sang along to John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” and rocked out to Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” but did they understand that those songs are sarcastic critiques about the death of the American dream, not rah-rah anthems about patriotism? When Young told the crowd that Farm Aid is a “revolution” wherein we “let the Earth bring us all together,” were they getting the message? Environmentally, perhaps not — at least judging by the empty beer cans and cigarette butts that littered the lawn.”