For me, the end of every October is not capped off with a hot, fun, horror filled Halloween bash. For the past 11 years running, the end of October means one thing for the Sweat Family: Neil Young and the Bridge School Benefit. It’s a family tradition to come out annually every Saturday night near the end of October to hear an eclectic mix of modern and classic bands play an acoustic set for a good cause.
The 23rd Bridge School Benefit is organized by Neil Young and his wife, Pegi, to raise money for Bridge School – a school ran for children with severe speech and physical impairments cofounded by Pegi. It’s the best family music concert event in the best venue in California.
My siblings and a few friends got to the concert two hours early to make sure we could find prime real estate on the famous steep hilled Shoreline lawn. We found the perfect spot, stage left, middle of the way up with easy access to the bathroom (planning ahead for the multiple bladder filled booze trips). We spread out 3 huge blankets, plopped down more folding chairs than a flea market and staked our claim on the big grassy hill. We sat down, and cracked a beer, soaking it all in as we observed the pre-concert buzz from the flood of people coming in with anticipation. Eclectic mix of teens, tweens, hipsters, milfs, joe the plumbers, blue collar dads, tech geek pops, and middle class families – this was the place to be Saturday night in the Bay Area.
I must preface this review by stating that over the years the Bridge School Benefit concert has turned from a “nice family festival with garlic fries” into a “slosh fest, don’t stray from the blackness but accept it” benefit concert for my family. We state that our intentions are never to get too wasted, but it now inevitably happens that way, as we’ve all reached our 20’s and (more importantly) realize that life is coming on fast with more responsibilities than we can handle (or want).
Saturday night meant music, family, friends and booze; those were our only responsibilities. Not even the steep, overpriced $12 Tecate tall-boys could stop us from moderating our responsibilities. Besides, it should be noted, every tall boy drank was for a good cause.
So, to make me feel better and less of a total degenerate…. Tonight the Sweat Family drank for the kids of Bridge School.
The lineup is always a meat mix of bands straight from the past and modern top 40 charts. Some lineups are way better than others. And some are just down right dry and bare. Here’s a list of bands/artists that’ve played in years past: CSNY, Phish, the Who, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Tom Waits, Wilco, Sonic Youth, Beck, Thom Yorke, REM, Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Springsteen, Dylan.
Saturday night, 2009 – we got: No Doubt, Chris Martin, Sheryl Crow, Fleet Foxes, Wolfmother, Monsters of Folk, Jimmy Buffett, and Gavin Rossdale.
Enough said, right?
Whether the lineup is dry, barren or down-right miserable, we were going to have a good time because Bridge School is one of the only concerts where you feel like these bands are playing on the lawn in your own backyard.
Here’s some quick thoughts on their bridge school performance:
Gavin Rossdale (aka Bush, aka that Glycerin song, aka Gwen Stefani’s boy-toy/babysitter) – played his little ditties from the glory days of his 90’s past with no soul or creativity. The word on the street is true: Rossdale has no talent and is best suited to take care of Gwen’s baby. (0 Guns)
Wolfmother (aka Aussie stoner rock band, aka band born in the wrong era) – enjoyed this band’s modern take on classic rock; people were generally digging this band and my family and I were too (probably due to the buzz we were starting to build from the booze, but still). I have to admit: “Woman” was actually a pretty catchy tune when played acoustically. (3 guns)
Fleet Foxes (aka King Harmonizers, aka the band that every indie kid HAS to like, aka you don’t like these guys? what’s wrong with you, aka I’m glad you came to your senses and now own everything they’ve recorded… on vinyl of course) – easily the best band of the night (sans Neil); great vocals, great sound; a band that epitomizes the cool, peaceful, Indian summer spirit of Bridge School. But… to be honest… can sometimes be a snooze fest with some of their songs sounding too similar. Overall, solid band with a lot of talent. Played right as the sun was beginning to set. Sky was redish-orange and Fleet Foxes were too. (3.5 guns)
Monsters of Folk (aka Super Group Indie Country Band thingy, aka the band Conor Oberst and that guy from My Morning Jacket are in, aka Really? That’s their name? sigh) – they played a nice blend of folk/indie rock that sounded really nice in the cold Mountain View air. Little bland at times, but mos def better than most of the other “bands” at this thing. (3 guns).
Sheryl Crow (aka Lance Armstrong’s Dumped Sweater Dumpling, Miss Grammy’s) – Sheryl Crow was fine. That’s it. She played her Grammy staples and sang normally and fine. Ummm…. Yeah. (1.5 guns: half-off for me having that fucking “Soak Up the Sun” song stuck in my fucking head today).
Chris Martin (aka Coldplay singer dude, aka Thom Yorke was here first guy, aka Gwyneth Paltrow’s man, aka the guy who named his kid ‘Apple’) – played a fair amount of Coldplay staples and had most of this mainstream listening crowd in stitches. For me, I was about 7 beers deep and a half-a-joint in, and all that was troubling me was not being able to remember the name of that dude in that Shakespeare movie Paltrow was in. (2 guns)
Jimmy Buffett (aka Margarita Cheese Burger Dip Stick Douche Noggle, aka this guy has made a career on lame retired post-9to5 joe schmo, jack schmucks, and jane soccer mom poor taste, aka Hawaiian shirt faux pas old creepy guy) – FINALLY… My drinking problem came in handy. I’m so glad I was too busy getting another Tecate tallboy for this ass clown hack: spending 26 bucks on 4 beers for missing this joke of a set was well worth it. Also, during this set, I realized that it was Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love. (0 guns)
No Doubt (aka the band that Gwen Stefani was in, aka the band with the album with peaces on it, aka the band with that Bananna Hollaback Girl) – No Doubt put on a classic set that had everyone in the crowd smiling and tripping back to 1995. They played staples like Just a Girl, Don’t Speak and Spiderwebs. It was a pleasant trip back to my teen years. (4 guns)
Neil Young – best performer of the night. Played classic songs from his legendary archive: Comes a Time and Harvest Moon were lovely standouts and capped the night off effortlessly and majestically. (4 guns)
Overall, some ups and downs with bands and beer buzz… but no matter what the lineup is, Neil Young will always be there; and that alone makes Bridge School worth going. That and knowing my family and 12 beers await me next year on that big blanket covered backyard lawn.
4 guns (2 for Neil and 2 for my family)
I swear, weed smells better at Shoreline. It smells how I imagine Woodstock pot would’ve smelled. Anybody out there go to both Woodstock and Bridge School? Might be a tough find…
Told my sister’s friend that her “pinky is gross.” Not sure why I said that and she actually has a normal looking pinky. I’d even go as far as to say it’s a rather nice looking pinky. I’d like to take a moment right now to apologize to that person: I’m sorry for insulting your pinky.
Final beer count: 6 tall boys (12 beers) and probably a joint (or two). Didn’t see the “I Survived Bridge School ’09” t-shirt at the merch table.
I have to get this off my chest: Neil could be doing a better job at getting a higher quality of bands for this lineup. A sort of dream, quite possible lineup I can foresee at bridge school: David Byrne, Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Mangum, and throw in Foo Fighters and Taylor Swift for the kids and Starbucks drinkers.
Maybe I was a little harsh on the ol’ Buffett-ster back there… wait, no. That dick wad needs to GO AWAY!
All proceeds from the concert go into that school. It’s an amazing school with great people. If you’d like to donate, just go to this page and donate.