A night with Neil and the gang

So, here we are again with another Bridge School “not-quite-review”(I correctly predicted last year that I’d be back for more) and let me first get this out of the way: HOW HAVE I GONE THIS LONG WITHOUT BEING A TOM WAITS FAN? I’m so disappointed in myself! He was there in my dad’s record collection all along, but somehow I never ventured down that path. That said, I think seeing him perform live was the best possible way to get introduced to this guy…and watching from backstage wasn’t too shabby either!

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A pretty sweet view.

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[Backstory:] I was totally going to buy lawn tickets to the Bridge School concert this year, but before I could, it turns out that my work was giving out free tickets (in prime seating, no less) to employees. Win #1.

The lineup for the Sunday concert included CSNY(!), Fun., Elvis Costello & Diana Krall, Tom Waits, and Heart. Win #2.

Aaaaand, without going into too much detail, Alex and I happened upon two VIP passes thanks to an awesome friend, and got to spend all of Tom Waits’ set backstage brushing shoulders with the artists. MAJOR WIN #3.

So, with that out of the way, here’s a quick rundown of this year’s concert, from what I saw:

Heart.
So freakin’ good! I was unfamiliar with most of the songs they played, but WOW, Ann Wilson’s voice sounds better than ever. “Crazy On You” was the crowd (and my) favorite. 10/10 would see again.


Fun.
I applaud fun. for doing a super exposed, bare-bones set (seriously, setup took like <5 minutes). And I guess I can forgive Nate Ruess for calling Mountain View the East Bay, haha. Their set was super short and they kept it to the hits, but ALSO, they played Queen’s “Somebody to Love” which was amaaazing.

Fun.! Throughout their set I kept getting distracted by what was unmistakably David Crosby watching from the side of the stage (can you spot him?). 

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Diana Krall / Elvis Costello.
We missed part of Diana Krall’s set, but came back in time for a couple duets with Elvis. Wasn’t aware that they were married, how cute! Elvis Costello got the crowd really hyped up – it was a great set and made me realize I need to start listening to more of his stuff! 

My Morning Jacket.
Had never heard much of these guys before last night, but really enjoyed their music. Neil joined them for “Harvest Moon,” and at the end, they did a wonderful tribute to Lou Reed (R.I.P.!) by bringing everyone out for “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”

Tom Waits.
Oh my goodness, what can I say. Tom absolutely stole the show. Everything was so entertaining: the band, the music, the rambling anecdotes (there was a story about borrowing a bunch of money from Neil Young in the 70s to start a restaurant, which was planned to serve gluten-free eel, donuts, and fish scales…what.). What a character! I couldn’t name a single Tom Waits song before this show, but I became an instant fan of the vaudeville style rockers (e.g. “Singapore”) and unexpectedly genuine ballads (see “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” complete with pre-song banter). And I got to watch it all from backstage, which was a trip. Without a doubt the best part of the night.

Queens of the Stone Age.
Sorry guys, I was still reeling from the previous performance to hone in on your set. Kudos on the vibes-work, though!

and lastly…

CSNY.
First of all, I’m SO GLAD I got to see this. I saw Crosby Stills & Nash at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert in New York, which was great, but there’s something about that 4th voice that just makes it so much better. Legendary. Their set was pretty short, and I’m still a n00b so I didn’t recognize them all. I thought the a cappella version of “What Are Their Names” was cool. And loved the added harmonies on “Long May You Run,” as well as the “Within You Without You” homage in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”! But maybe my favorite part of the whole thing was the image of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash standing at their stationary microphones with their black suits, and Neil Young stomping around in the background with his hoodie and ripped jeans, looking like a bona fide hobo. Love it.

So, I’ve decided. As long as I’m living in the bay area, I’ll be going to this concert every year. I feel like a jerk for waiting until the end of the post to mention it, but the Bridge School is really what this concert is all about. By attending, you’re supporting the school, its teachers, and most importantly, its students. That’s reason enough to go, but of course, experiencing an awesome night of music doesn’t hurt either! I’m grateful to Neil Young for putting together the show, and also grateful to Salesforce for supporting the organization!
Now…..off to listen to more Tom Waits.

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A not-quite-review: The Bridge School Benefit Concert

Considering I didn’t even know this concert existed before reading Neil Young’s book (crazy, since it’s been going on for 26 years), I didn’t have super high expectations going into it. Which is why I had a great time. A whole afternoon/evening of music, picnicking, and joining together for a cause – what’s not to like?

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I couldn’t bring my camera into the venue because apparently it was too fancy and I guess they thought I’d try to sell my photos for money or something (little did they know how much of an amateur I am). So anyway, bummer. Will make do with YouTube videos, I guess. A few highlights:

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. One of my favorite sets, for sure. Bluegrass just makes me so happy. And Steve, of course, was hilarious. They did a funny song about atheists and another one about Paul Revere’s horse.

Foster the People. These guys were fun, and Lauren and I were excited that they had a marimba and chimes in their set. Still get uneasy about “Pumped Up Kicks” ever since learning that the song is about a school shooting (umm, this was a special needs kids’ school benefit concert?), but nevertheless I enjoyed it.

Kinda zoned out during Sarah McLachlan and Ray LaMontagne, oops…

Flaming Lips. I had heard some bad reviews about their set but hey, I liked it a lot. Especially the appearance by Reggie Watts, who did some sweet beatboxing. You have to admit, 8 hours of acoustic guitars can get a little old, so the Lips’ unique (although not really ‘acoustic’) sound was refreshing. They finished with a cool rendition of “A Day in the Life.”

Jack White. FAVORITE set of the concert. I actually don’t know anything about Jack White’s solo career, but umm I obviously need to get on it. I loved his version of “You Know That I Know” (wish I could find a good live version on YouTube). The band was great, the music was great, and everyone was so into it. Thanks, Jack!

Guns & Roses. This was….strange. Axl Rose appeared: sunglasses, potbelly, and all. I heard he was much more embarrassing on Saturday; this time he was a little more together (i.e. on time). It was amusing hearing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” on acoustic guitar…will probably never get to see/hear that again! Neil joined them for a song, which happened to be while I was in the bathroom, laaame.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
Have to admit, we didn’t stay for the whole set because 8 hours later we were a little burnt out. I actually liked Neil’s acoustic opening the best, he played “Heart of Gold” and “Long May You Run.” My Neil repertoire is still pretty limited (“just the hits!”), so unfortunately I can’t remember a lot of the Crazy Horse songs. I’m bummed I missed the finale of “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Good thing for YouTube.

This show has featured tons of huge names (Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, S&G, The Who, Jay-Z, No Doubt), so I’m hoping for the Stones to make it onto the bill sometime soon. In any case, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back at Shoreline next year for the 27th Annual. :)

The Many Faces of Neil Young

My rock & roll autobiography collection is slowly growing…

The latest book I’ve been reading is Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace, which has been thoroughly entertaining. I love the lack of linear story; instead Neil just tells whatever stories come to mind to him as he writes. It’s pretty great. Nothing too deep or cerebral (which I feel Pete Townshend’s book is going to be like)…it’s just a good read about making music and being on the road. One of my favorite parts so far has been the chapter “Stories from Topanga,” because the stories are amazingly very similar to my own experiences in Topanga Canyon (in other words, it hasn’t changed since the 60s).

Before reading this book I knew maybe two (or three?) Neil Young songs by name. Now I’m slowly becoming more familiar with his solo stuff, and even went to see him play at the Bridge School Benefit Concert this past weekend (more on that to come). Ahhh, I love becoming obsessed with musicians.
In honor of this, I’ve put together a video collection that I shall call The Many Faces of Neil Young:

Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth.” Check out Neil’s crazy sideburns at 1:50:

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, “Down by the River.” This is just sooooooooo 60s:

Solo Neil, “Heart of Gold.” His stage banter is so rambly and excellent, I love it. This is probably my favorite song and era:

“Transformer Man” from the experimental album Trans. I’m at that stage where I don’t know the comprehensive history of a rock & roll artist yet and get really surprised when I see what they were doing in the 80s (same thing happened with The Who). So yeah, this is…different! Power to ya, Neil.
Super rock/grungy Neil with Crazy Horse:
So there you go, my first foray into the world of Mr. Young. Excited to read Pete Townshend’s book next; I have a feeling it’s going to be very different, haha. I love you Pete!