I just got in my car and drove. Saturday morning, I was up early. The first solo road trip since… well, that walkabout I took to Mojave a few weeks back. This was different though. Mojave was about the songs of nature and this was about the rock, acoustic style. I made great time to Sunnyvale, picked up a key at the desk that was waiting for me, dropped my stuff off and played some guitar until J and D arrived with food. It felt so good to be out. I’d been to Bridge a couple of other times, but if the beautiful drive up was any indication how the day was going to go, I was set.
Rolling with J [sic] is the best way to do Bridge. He works for Neil, so we enter through the artist area. Neil’s old black Cadillac is parked next to the gargantuan tour bus. There were many buses. J rushes to the stage to place Devendra’s pedal. He’d left it at the hotel and J grabbed it on the way out. Devendra’s a smelly hippy, but a very gracious one at that. We wandered around backstage before the show. Oh look, it’s Dave Grohl and there’s Elliot Roberts, Chris Shiflet – check, Jeff Ament – yeah, he’s here, hello Ben Gibbard, etc… I’m not boasting, just calling it like it was.
Devendra Banhart – I’ve never been much of a fan. It’s the warbley vocal thing he does. Reminds me too much of Tiny Tim. And fuck me, that group of guys needs a shower and some deodorant. I was impressed with the performance though.
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – What I wanna know is why the hell doesn’t David get billing. He’s he’s one of the most incredible guitar players on Earth. Gillian is a country music goddess. Her songs are a throwback of country’s finest roots and is always impressive. When Neil came out to play with her – WOW !
Death Cab For Cutie – I watched them from the side of the stage for a few songs and was wondering around a lot of the set. They tend to bore me a little, but they were in top form and put on a great set. I think they even made some new fans (in their 50s) that had never heard of them.
Trent Reznor – I was probably most impressed with Trent’s performance. He told a great story about how when he was asked to play, he was honored and aceepted immediately. What he didn’t know was that it was an acoustic show. He got some musicians together and arranged an entire set with acoustic strings and him on piano. It was so beautiful. He’s such a talented guy.
The Foo Fighters – They know how to put together an awesome acoustic show. Petra Hayden and Pat Smear in the ha-ouse! Seeing Pat Smear on stage is a treat. He always looks like he’s the happiest person in the world when he’s up there. The highlight of their set was seeing Dave play “Marigold,” which was originally recorded when he was in Nirvana and only available as a b-side on the “Heart Shaped Box” single. Nice to see him breaking this one out.
Brian Wilson – Incredible. The crowd was more into him than anyone I had seen all day or night. His band is absolutely stunning and they never missed a beat. Like David, the one complaint I had was “Johnny B. Goode.” Oh, and the fact that they played too long, but wow were people happy when he was performing. I smiled a lot during the set.
Pearl Jam – Wow. Just wow. I haven’t seen them perform in years and it was awesome. Eddie was totally on it. I didn’t have a reference point, but “Crazy Mary” was really powerful. The sincerity emanating from the stage during their set was impressive. Seeing Neil come out for some “Mirrorball” material was a real treat.
Dave Matthews Band – Say what you will about DMB (which I’m sure won’t be good), but they always put on an impressive show. It was the third time I’d seen him play and while I don’t care much for the music I have a lot of respect for the guy. All his players are tops and he sounded great. Neil came out for an impressive performance as well.
Neil Young – I was so exhausted by the time Neil came out, I wasn’t really all that into his set, but when everyone came out for “Rockin’ In The Free World,” you couldn’t help but sing along. Two funny side notes – 1) Devendra didn’t know how to play it, so J taught him. He wrote the chords on his hand so he could play along. 2) Grohl felt weird about going out there and J caught him back stage. He grabbed him by the collar and literally pushed him out there.