Bridge School XVIII

It's that time of year again. My spidey sense always seems to kick in and say 'Hey, you need to keep an eye out for an announcement about the Bridge School benefit concert!"

Bridge School has been a yearly tradition since 1997, interrupted only (and bitterly, I missed ThomYorke solo) by unemployment in 2002. The Bridge School is a Bay area educational institute for kids with disabilities that keep them from fitting into the structure of the public school system. Neil and Peggi Young founded the school some time ago and the annual concert if the primary funding source each year.

Bridge School is always an eclectic mix. Usually eight to ten bands from many genres, all top names, all acoustic, and all of whom play each of day during the weekend. At $40 a day, it's the best value in live music entertainment anywhere. And since it's a Bay area hippy vibe, everyone is safely "mellowed out" by showtime to engage in wanton violence and mayhem. It's fun for the whole family.

Neil always calls out the big guns for this show, and acoustic jam-influence regulars like Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler. Pearl Jam is there every two years. Neil also likes to invite bands that you wouldn't think would fit into the scene, challenges them to adapt to the acoustic setting, and they all end up coming off great, and usually being heavily influenced by their senior colleagues. Green Day, Incubus, Billy Idol, Metallica, and Red Hot Chili Peppers come to mind. He also likes to break young singer-songwriters as the openers. The day usually starts with Neil saying hello and playing a song or two, and ends with most of the day's performers coming on stage for a grand finale. You've never seen so many people playing acoustic guitar at the same time before.

This year's lineup is:

Neil Young
Paul McCartney
Tony Bennett
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
Sonic Youth
Los Lonely Boys
Tegan & Sara

Legends, contemporary, alternative, latin-flavored, funk, pop, it's got it all. The Pumpkins were my initial draw, but it was such a cool show, I had to come back.

My one complaint is the lack of advance notice leading up to the show. The concert is usually announced just five weeks or so before the show, so it can be tough to find decent plane tickets and other accomodations. I missed the boat entirely this year, so we have only lawn tickets both days. I'll have to watch eBay for reserved seat bargains before the show. The lawn is a cool scene, but it's nice to have a seat at least one day.

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