The 26th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert. Been a huge Neil Young fan since I was 15 years old, and I've been wanting to go to these Bridge School Concerts for many years. Well the stars came into alignment and I got to go this year.
A little background. Neil had two kids, by two different wives, and they both had Cerebral Palsy. So he thought it must have something to do with him. It didn't though - it was just a strange coincidence. Cerebral Palsy is not a disease; it's an injury to the brain caused by a shortage of oxygen before or during the birth process. It causes motor impairment that can be fairly minor or very severe. It is sometimes mistaken for retardation, even though the person has normal or above normal intelligence. Neil couldn't find a good school to send his kids to, so he started one. Not just for his kids, but for other kids with Cerebral Palsy. The Bridge School. Every year he holds a benefit concert to raise money and awareness. It always features some of the coolest artists in the land. It's a labor of love. Neil's kids are grown, now, but he and his wife Peggi are still involved with the Bridge School and are still holding the concerts every year. That is super cool.
The concert was held at the Shoreline Amphitheater, in Mountain View, California, in the shadows of Google, Nasa, Ebay, and other CIA like entities. Traffic was horrible. They search you like terrorists. They are searching you mainly for alcohol. Not because they don't like alcohol, but because they want to sell it to you for obscene/crazy prices once they get you locked down. Friends, we screwed up -- Between the traffic and the frisk down we missed the opening act - Neil Young. We could hear him clearly, because the Shoreline sound system is truly great, and we caught glimpses of him on the wide screens as we were running to our seats but, alas, we missed his opening set. Oh well, we got to see him again at the end of the show.
The official opening act was Gary Clark Jr. If you haven't heard of him yet, you will. Gary is destined to become a huge super star, and he is one of the reasons we came. He has a new album out, and I guarantee you he sold a busload of copies this night. He's one of the coolest blues rock guitarists ever. There's a period at the end of that sentence.
We went out to get held up at gunpoint and ripped off for a couple 12 dollar beers and were watching a truly weird and garish act on the widescreen. To their credit, Shoreline has wide screens all over the place so you can wander around and still see the concert. Finally, I said something like, "I believe that is KD Lang..." "No!!" Well, it really was. Proof that life on the road can kill you, folks. Be forewarned....
We made it to our seats to catch Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. All Steve has to do to get a big hand is to walk out on stage. And he's earned that. Super great bluegrass band and great Steve Martin patter. We loved it. I prefer my bluegrass bands in torn jeans and flannel shirts, as opposed to suits an Mormon haircuts, but I'm just a hippy, I guess...
Lucinda Williams came out for her 3rd Bridge School appearance and I have to give her street creds for refusing to age gracefully. Damn she was great, weird, and standin' tall like John Wayne against the Indians. Radiant beauty, prima donna crap and all. A sight to be hold and heard.
Then there was Foster The People. Time for another rip-off beer. Nothing to see or hear here folks. Move along.....
One of the high points of this show was Sarah McLachlan's set. Totally righteous. No sidemen. She did a solo set. One song on acoustic guitar and the rest of the set on her grand piano. The songs, the chops and the voice that made her famous. The audience went nuts.
Ray La Momtagne has been around for awhile, but I never paid any attention to him. I will now, because he turned in a really fine set. He's a great song writer and a great performer. I am now a fan and will seek out his records (assuming I can afford one) and go see him again when I get a chance.
The Flaming Lips. An exercise in musical masturbation. I never saw anyone command an audience to applaud and get way with it. Hey, I got to witness that phenomenon 3 times. Nice work if you can get it, I guess....
Jack White is truly a rock and roll genias, with a small g and the word genius spelled wrong... Dude did his Art with a capital A. His roadies were all dressed in black suits and fedoras. I thought it was him and the band setting up their own equipment. But when the lights went down he came out with an all women band. He wore a black suit, like the roadies and the chicks wore white dresses. I'm talking about the outfits because i don't like bands that wear "outfits" (cross-reference Jason Isbell,) but I dig Jack anyway and his set was another high point. Out and out rock and roll with "acoustic" instruments. If you haven't checked out his new album, Blunderbuss, you're square, out of touch and wasting yer life.
Before the headliners came out we were treated to an impromptu performance by Eddie Vedder. Apparently he was there volunteering, helping out the kids, and they asked him to play a couple songs. It was another high point of this mini festival. I have a lot of respect for this dude. His solo set of two songs was right on. Acoustic guitar and vox. All he needs.
And so the "Headliner" turned out to be the ghost of a once great band with a guy named Axl and without a guy named Slash. It was a Public Service Announcement to remind you that Government Death Panels are not necessarily a bad thing....
But the real headliner, of course, was Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They know what to do. I had heard that shows at the Shoreline had to finish by 11:00 or pay a big fine. But nobody's going to tell Neil Young and Crazy Horse to stop playing and nobody's going to fine them. Play as long as you want, Neil. We're here to raise money to help cool people who are trapped inside malfunctioning bodies and can't get the special attention they need in regular schools. One of the coolest things about the concert was that the Bridge School kids got to sit right there on the stage through the whole show. The show was for them and they were the stars. And Neil Young and Crazy Horse burned.
PS All the acts were great and we enjoyed the whole show. Rock on! Learn more about the BridgeSchool at: