Two thirty-somethings with no kids. We don't dislike kids, we just don't have them. This is our life.
HIS: Works in publishing by day and is a writer/comedian by night.
HER: Works in advertising by day and a food-, wine-, media-, and cat-lover by night.
The Bridge School Benefit is an annual two-day concert held in Mountain View, CA to benefit a school for disabled started by Neil Young and his wife. Each year a cavalcade of big names take part in the acoustic concert and this year was its twenty-fifth anniversary and my second. Last year’s edition was highlighted by Pearl Jam’s set of rarities and low-lighted by Elvis Costello being Elvis Costello and delivering a shit storm upon my ears that can only described as audio rape. Despite that experience, my lady friend and I went back for both shows again this year.
For this purposes of this review I will just got through each band in the order they played on Sunday (the artists were the same for both nights with the exceptions being Tony Bennet and Foo Fighters, who only played on Sunday).
We were a little late and arrived to see Norah Jones and her side band, The Little Willies, a country band that does a lot of covers. They brought some levity to the show (side note: a lot of the kids from the school and their parents sit on a riser behind the stage so it is a pretty heavy scene) with a song about spotting Lou Reed cow-tipping. Sure, after hearing Lulu it is obvious Lou Reed is used to being around cowshit, but I am not sure if Norah Jones knew that. And the song had this funny interlude, “Norah: ’I thought Lou was a vegetarian.’ Guitar player: ‘He’s just tipping them, not eating them.”
Beck came next and did a set consisting mostly of songs from ‘Sea Change’, which is the last I heard from Beck, so for me it seemed like he was playing the new album. Apparently Beck has hit the skids financially because when Beck was on stage his kids kept running on stage. You would think the dude that wrote ‘Where It’s At’ could afford a babysitter. He was the first of many artists that did a song with Neil Young.
Mumford and Sons are huge. Who knew? If I had a vagina I would have known. But I don’t, so I didn’t. The place went apeshit for them. It seemed like indie-rock by the numbers to me. Slow build where you stare off into space, then explode in a big chorus where you yell (these dudes took an affinity to the phrase ‘lend me your hand’), and then bring it back to down to get all emotional. It’s like nu-metal for Dave Matthews fans. Neil Young played with them too. For better or worse, they stole the show.
Santana is a legend and it was neat to see him but I am not going to run out and steal his music. Each band did thirty minutes and during Santana’s set there was, I shit you not, a drum solo. This is part where I should tell you that the drummer was Santana’s wife, which goes to show that even if you write ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Evil Ways’, some broad will still nag you until she gets her way.
And now the reason we are here, Eddie Vedder. I knew full well he was only going to do thirty minutes but I still bitched like a 13 year-old girl when his set ended ‘way too early.’ He has played the benefit more than anybody other than Neil Young so he shared many memories. He also had a shit-ton of the other artists join him. Some chick from Arcade Fire for ‘Tonight, You Belong to Me,’ Jerry Hannah for ‘Society’, Beck for ‘Sleepless Nights’, and the inevitable Neil Young duet.
Let me interject here for a second and talk about fedoras. It is officially the essential wardrobe for the aging, rich hipster. The following artists wore one: Neil Young, Norah Jones, her band, Beck, one Mumford, Eddie Vedder, members of Tony Bennetís band, some of the Arcade Fire, fuck-ton of audience members. It must be a difficult transition for a hipster in their 30’s to leave behind the skinny jeans, wire-rimmed glasses and the messenger bag with the seatbelt clip, for the sportcoat and fedora look.
One 90’s rock messiah leaves the stage and is replaced by Foo Fighters who treated the show like it was Madison Square Garden. Most bands are slowing things down, doing some covers and experimenting with their sound. The Foo Fighters did a rock show with acoustic guitars. It was refreshing and gave the show a shot of adrenaline. I had never seen the Foo Fighters before (though I did see Grohl drum for Queens of the Stone Age when they toured ahead of ‘Songs for the Deaf’) so at least now I am a compliant 35-year old white male (official membership comes in an hour when I see Dave Matthews for the first time).
You know who is old? Tony Bennet. You know who was next? Tony Bennet. Yup, Santana, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters, then Tony Bennet. Even if you do not like this music, you should admit it is a rather eclectic lineup. Most bands, if not all, referenced the magnitude of the show and played up to the kids. Not Tony. When you are a zillion, you stick to what you know and Tony made it feel like a Vegas show, complete with everyone over 50 overzealously getting into the show. To be frank, I’m not convinced he knew where he was. But hey, it was different.
There are still three more bands to go. It was a long day. Dave Matthews is next. Again, no vagina, no Dave Matthews for me. But the lady friend was excited (y’know, the vagina thing). He was there with Tim Reynolds, not his whole band and it was a fine enough set. Marcus Mumford from Mumford and Sons joined Matthews for a cover of ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ At that moment, 10,000 women orgasmed at the same time. If you don’t know what that sounds like, it sounds like Jimi Hendrix rolling over in his grave to shoot heroin again. The closing number? A Neil Young duet.
And now for whom I expected to steal the show, Arcade Fire. I am a fan, especially of their first two albums. They Elvis Costello-d the shit out of their set. They were bad, the crowd hated them, and they looked bored. It was a trifecta of disaster. At one point, in a way only a pampered art-school shithead could say such a thing, the lead singer apologized for “being too loud.” At that point The Foo Fighters and Mumford and Sons could be heard laughing their ass off at such a notion. I had to listen to ‘Black Mirror’ this morning just to wash the bad taste of seeing them suck live out of my mouth.
And your headliner is Neil Young. You create the show, you headline, that’s how it works. He just did a short set of hits, ‘Sugar Mountain’, ‘Comes a Time’, ‘Heart of Gold’, plus others. It is a long show, but a really cool experience. And to close the show all the bands come back out for a final song (‘Get Together’ by The Youngbloods), but it has been ten hours, time for some In-n-Out Burger.