The 16th Annual Bridge School Benefit shows took place last weekend at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. The Bridge School is a school for severely disabled children started by Neil and Pegi Young, and every year they bring together a diverse line-up of musicians to perform two mostly acoustic shows, capped off by a Neil Young set each night. This year’s shows featured such varied acts as the Foo Fighters, LeAnn Rimes, Thom Yorke, and the post-Grateful Dead The Other Ones. I bought tickets to the Sunday show. Of course there was another big Bay Area event on Sunday, and I spent the morning looking for a portable television to watch Game 7 on during the show.
We missed the Vanessa Carlton and arrived just in time to catch Tenacious D. Joke music isn’t really my thing, but these guys are hilarious. They played the Fat Albert theme song as well as various songs about Sex and Rockin’. Real high energy (which was not a prevalent theme at this show) and pretty inappropriate given the group of Bridge School kids gathered on stage – but funny as hell.
Next up was Ryan Adams. He’s a great songwriter and a pretty good singer, but his music is pretty melancholy. He even did a song entitled “Sylvia Plath.” Adams informed the audience that he is only funny after he has three beers, and then proved it by attempting some jokes. He was well short of three beers, apparently.
Around this time, the game started, so I pulled out my little TV. Unfortunately, the amphitheater setting wasn’t conducive to TV reception. And have you ever tried to watch baseball on a one-inch square picture? Not easy. Fortunately, I had back up in the form of an even smaller radio. At least I was spared Tim McCarver. So I spent the next three sets half listening to Jack Johnson, LeAnn Rimes, Thom Yorke, and half listening to Livan Hernandez lose the World Series in the first two innings. All I can say is that Jack Johnson is OK, LeAnn Rimes has a great voice and sings lame songs and I will not be rushing out to buy any Radiohead CDs. And Dusty Baker should have started Kirk Reuter.
Next up were The Other Ones, comprised of ex-Dead members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman along with Jimmy Herring (formerly of ARU, now playing with every band from the Sixties that’s still around) Rob Barraco from the Zen Tricksters and Bill Payne from Little Feat. I was a huge Deadhead back in the day and have spent many hours (and dollars) watching these guys play at Shoreline. I’ve followed their post-Dead careers a bit and have been (usually) less than impressed. They opened with Truckin’, played at about 1/2 normal speed, with the vocals about 1/2 step off key. At this point we’re in the sixth inning, so I head down to the bar. Along with a lot of other people.
The main bar at Shoreline turns out to be a great place to watch baseball – lots of little TVs, one huge TV and the music from the show being pumped in. The Other Ones improved steadily as their set wore on, but I have to admit I really wasn’t listening all that carefully. The game was pretty exciting, with both teams pitching and playing defense really well. But in the end, the Giants couldn’t pull off a win. They should have won the day before.
Now drunk and depressed, I made my way back up to the lawn just in time for James Taylor. If you only have one way to get over your team losing the Series, make it a JT performance. How perfect. He stuck mostly to the hits, Carolina In My Mind, Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby James, etc. The guy’s voice has not changed a bit and he has to be the most relaxed, laid-back individual on the planet. He closed his set harmonizing with Neil on Heart of Gold and then left the stage to Mr. Young.
Neil Young never disappoints. Whether he is playing hard-driving electric rock or mellow acoustic stuff the guy is simply amazing. He followed up Heart of Gold with Old Man and Don’t Let It Bring You Down, and then moved over to his old pump organ for Mother Earth and After the Gold Rush. His voice contains more raw emotion than just about anyone else. The show closed with most of the performers joining Neil and Pegi for Comes a Time.
The sets by JT and Neil more than made up for the crushing loss of the Giants. And while some of the performers didn’t really do it for me, it was a great time, supporting a great cause.