Under a star-laden sky we all watched, eyes glued to Neil Young as he strummed Heart of Gold on his guitar. It’s a song we’ve all heard a million times on the radio, but this time it was different. It was uncle Neil himself, in the flesh, performing for the students of Bridge School who were all on stage elated and completely mesmerized by the experience. But who wasn’t?
Neil Young was only one of the nine artists who took the stage at the 28th annual Bridge School Benefit concert. The concert is an annual, all acoustic, non-profit charity event held every October at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. All proceeds directly benefit the operations of The Bridge School.
The Bridge School was founded in 1987 by Pegi and Neil Young, whose son has cerebral palsy. The schools mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies.
The first Bridge School concert was held October 13, 1986. Since then, many memorable acts have graced the Bridge School stage including Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Guns and Roses, Jackson Browne, Robin Williams, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack Johnson, Mumford and Sons, and Beck.
The 2014 lineup included:
- Neil Young
- Pearl Jam
- Florence + The Machine
- Brian Wilson
- Tom Jones
- Norah Jones and Puss N Boots
- Band of Horses
- Pegi Young & The Survivors
Following short performances by Pegi and Neil Young, indie-rock and alt-country group Band of Horses took to the stage and had concert-goers captivated. Fourth-time Bridge School performer Norah Jones was up next and played an astounding “Down by the River” with no one other than Neil himself. Soundgarden, headed by Chris Cornell, amazed everyone and, truth be told, had a number of grunge-lovers in tears with his Black Hole Sun. Sixties legend Tom Jones, whose vocals are still extremely impressive, enchanted the audience with his classic It’s Not Unusual.
Beach Boys founding member and icon Brian Wilson, who would inspire music trends of the 60’s and 70’s, belted out “Good Vibrations,” and needless to say, had everybody feeling good. Next on stage – and arguably best set of the night – was Florence and the Machine. Her powerful voice commanded wide-eyes and had everyone wonderstruck, especially during Dog Days are Over.
After Florence was Pearl Jam. It was their 9th time performing at the benefit show, yet Eddie Vedder relentlessly poured his heart and soul into the performance. Cornell joined their set for a Temple of the Dog reunion with the song Hunger Strike
As the clock struck midnight Young took the stage gracing the crowd with classics including Heart of Gold and Pocahontas. He also strummed tracks from his soon-to-be released album Storytone. While every act was absolutely breathtaking, it was how emotionally moving the whole experience that was so influential.
Whether is was the phenomenal lineup, mind-blowing performances by all acts, the friendly and respectable crowd, or the fact that the concert supported such a moving cause, everyone who walked out of the amphitheater was radiating. What a magical, mesmerizing night.
I hope you join me next year!
Written by Riley Hubbell, LoaTree. All photos by Dirty Rock Magazine.