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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thoughts on Bridge School Benefit Weekend 2009

Pegi & Neil Young
Photo frame Video Highlights of Bridge School Benefit Concerts - 2009

There are many, many things which strike us after attending the Bridge School Benefit shows this past weekend.

There's the friends. There's the music. And then there's the kids.

First, our friends.

- Scott "Surfer Joe" - a real thrill to meet the editor of NYAS's Broken Arrow. Truly enjoyed catching up.
- Tom on "Sugar Mountain" - a bit brief but good to finally meet up
- Roel of "Rust Radio" - great meeting you as well. Sorry on your luggage and hope it turns up eventually.
- Sheila "Lookout Mama" - thanks for making Rust Row happen and all of your hard work. In Rust we Trust.
- The IRF Organizers - Thanks for all you do each year. A lot of hard is appreciated by all.
- Kathy "Hippie Girl Smile" - good to see you coming along and not letting anything keep you from BSB. Thanks to you & Raffle Crew.
- Kathy "Summer of Love" - so nice to see you again. Thanks for all the IRF work!
- Mike "Expecting To Fly" & Pat "She who shall remain handle-less" - what a fun weekend together. Thanks for flying us out and giving us the 1st Class treatment.
- Chris "CW Cannoneer" & Paula - thanks for bringing the Bruce book. Winterland stories live on.
- Mary Marr - we're so sorry on the loss of your husband Johnny this year. Johnny's spirit was at Bridge. You're so strong and anything we can ever do for you and your family,please don't hesitate to ask.
- Archives Guy - It was great to finally meet up and put the face with the handle. ;) Thanks for the tour. Way cool.
- HarryO - thanks for the Seattle newspaper. We'll try and get up on TW soon.
- Miron "Stub Man" - your mission to ensure that everyone is in the 100's for Neil is truly heroic. Thank you.
- Karen "loveandaffection" & Tim the Roadie - "Drifter" by request?! Wow. Nice.
- Jim B - nice to see you & your puppy.
- Laurie from Long Island - thanks again for the MSG, NYC pix.
- Paulette - as always, it was too brief.
- All IRF Musicians - you guys kicked out the jams. KORITFW
- Jeff `Hip Drag Queen' - great music
- Jules "Neil Jagger" - now which era does Neil sing like that?!
- Andy "Cutlass Supreme" - "Cannons don't sink ships, Pirates with cannons sink ships" Arggggh.
- Jill "Sweet Sweet Smile" - your donation to BSB was generous beyond words
- Kathy Dx3 - again, too brief
- Deb "Rewriting Rules" - now I know why you have your handle. Just kidding.
- Chuck "Mo the Sleaze" - You were so right on Neil playing with Sandler! You must have contacts.... ;)
- Chuck "Fireman" - good to see you again. been a long time
- Guy "Volume Drinker #1" - there's a Motel of Lost Companions t-shirt somewhere in Japan with your name on it.
- Paul "Volume Drinker #2" - it takes bullocks to make unscheduled pitstops. Cheers.
- Marilyn - you, my friend, need yourself your own band to lead. You rocked sister.
- Bill "Tired Eyes"- why are you at every concert I go to?
- Rick "Rockin' on the Porch" - you sir, are very funny. Thanks for the patch!
- Nan - Great jams! Hoping for no ice storms this season. See you in Kansas.
- Trish - again, too brief
- Paul & Meleya - nice to see you again paul and meet your fiance after hearing so much about your legendary courtship to a Neil soundtrack. have a happy wedding!
- Robert "Stringman" & Kaz - thanks for your kind words of support. It's appreciated. Hope to see you both down under someday.
- Paul T - So NoCal weather beat's Seattle's?!
- Brad "More Barn" - enjoyed catching up at IRF dinner and hearing the story on the making of the immortal t-shirts
- Glenn G - enjoyed the jams
- Robert S. from France - Merci for all of the hard work making videos of the weekend. Hope you managed to have some fun between filming. Bon jour!
- Linda N. - again, all too brief
- MikeVolt - cool shirt
- Mary & Rick - you guys are a great couple
- Cyril from London - great Maz stories! Thanks for sharing.
- Christina "Little Wing" - thanks for convincing Julia to attend. Wouldn't be the same without the alter egos. Too unbalanced.
- Julia "We're Not Helpless" - Sorry about your folks. Hopefully, the weekend helped. Bummer on backpack but cool on Warren
- Jackie - congrats on MB mirror!

And Hi to everyone else that we missed this weekend!

And all the Bridge kids & parents who are so strong

Of course, Thrashette - Couldn't do this without you. Loved hearing Harvest Moon with you.

And then there's the music.

It's not a Neil Young concert, but a celebration of a diverse range of bands of up and comers like Wolfmother, edgy experiments like Monsters of Folk, to established veterans like Jimmy Buffett. Much has been made of how "weak" this year's lineup was. So we would just like to call bullshit when we see it. Frankly, we see some elitist musical snobbery going on here.

We'll admit at first glance the names Buffett, Adam Sandler, & No Doubt didn't exactly send us into an orbit of anticipation. It seemed to be a pretty widespread consensus that this year wasn't going to be up to par. No Pearl Jam, McCartney/Springsteen/Dylan/Bono type superstars.

And judging from some of the negative reviews like San Jose Mercury News by critic Jim Harrington, it was as if since Paul McCartney didn't appear and duet with Tony Bennett than it was a boring, ho-hum affair.

But you know what? Just about every act thanked Neil & Pegi and said something to the effect that it was an honor, a career highlight, their favorite gig or something of that sentiment. So who are we to complain when we hear a world class professional musician say they are humbled to be on the stage while we gripe about the quality of the acts?

As Gwen Stefani said after performing, “I can’t believe this is my life.”

But that's OK we didn't have "top caliber acts" because these high profile superstars so overshadow everything else that it becomes hard to appreciate all the other acts. We found something to enjoy in virtually every set.

Gavin Rossdale trying to be known as something more than Gwen's husband and former Bush front man. Wolfmother's acoustic assault that really got things going each day and their cover of "Don't Let it Bring you Down" was quite respectable. Fleet Foxes soaring harmonies reminded us of some other group we can't recall. ;) Monsters of Folk trading off each others solos in supporting each members' songs. Chris Martin's absolutely charming silliness and incredible piano chops. Sheryl Crow who plays for the heart and takes your soul.

And then the heavy hitters. Jimmy Buffett of Margaritaville drinking songs fame. OK, so definitely not everyone's cup of beer, but folks just love to sing his songs at the top of their lungs. That's cool. It's all about having fun. We always love it when the audience singing drowns out the performer. Buffett did a Grateful Dead cover that seemed to be worthy and "Come Monday"'s ode to the Bay area was quite sentimental.

Adam Sandler & Neil Young perform "Powderfinger"
Photo Gallery by Tim Mosenfelder

Adam Sandler. Talk about low expectations. Jeez. What's this guy doing here? Which is exactly what Adam said when he walked on, clearly awed by the whole experience. And you know what? It was freakin' hilarious. yeah, bizarre and lewd. Did seem to be pretty inappropriate with a bunch of children onstage. But then Neil comes onstage for "Powderfinger". While certainly not music history in the making or one of the all time great moments in rock history, it was still pretty memorable and something that we're sure folks will talk about for years to come.

Which leaves us with No Doubt. Again, wasn't sure quite what to expect. You could hear the 'tweens on the lawn just squealing in delight for Gwen between every quiet moment. Say what you will about Gwen Stefani and her music, but we'll challenge anyone who saw her perform "Just a Girl" on Sunday to not admit it was pure magic.

Gwen Stefani & Bridge Kids
Photo frame Video Highlights of Bridge School Benefit Concerts - 2009

You had to be there to really get it. But what she did was quite wonderful as she strolled amongst each and every kid onstage and sang to them. Watching the kids faces just burst into joy was worth every penny of the trip. It really was that great. And besides, all you could think about was how in the hell wearing those crazy shoes can she even move without toppling over? But she hopped from riser to riser and wheelchair to wheelchair with out missing a beat or breaking leg. After No Doubt's set, we overheard what appeared to be a die-hard Gwen fan say that it was the most awesome thing in her life. Which we guess is lofty praise.

So that brings us to Neil Young. You never really know what to expect with Neil and these annual benefits like Farm Aid. Some years Neil definitely plays things safe and you get the "Sugar Mountain", "I Am A Child", etc. kid/family friendly type sets.

While this year certainly wasn't a risky adventure, it was richly rewarding. This was the first time we've ever made it down into the 100's for a BSB so that was cool thanks to some of the hard working Stub Crew who epitomize the spirit of the Neil community by sharing that which brings others pleasure in such an unselfish fashion.

Back to Neil's sets. How about "Harvest Moon"? We have to say that we called this the year of the "Harvest Moon" and this weekend we got the super grand HM treatment. Pegi & Sheryl Crow on backup vocals just absolutely soared. Larry Cragg on broom. What can you say? Well fuck U2 & Bono and their spaceship laser 3D special effects and give me Larry on short bristle broom handle any day. It just blows the mind that 8 hours into a star studded concert with the hippest VIPs in the San Francisco music industry being treated to some guitar tech support dude with a broom doing a sweeping solo.

Sheryl Crow, Pegi & Neil on "Harvest Moon"
Photo by Randi Lynn Beach/LA Times

So as we listened to a magical version of "Harvest Moon" on warm evening by the San Francisco Bay, we squeezed the hand of the one we love and thought about our friends Gavin, Liza, Steve & Danielle and Mary who all lost loved ones this year. (And we feel very sorry for folks who just don't get the whole Neil & Pegi thing.)

Thank you Neil & Pegi. You made Thrasher & Thrashette's weekend dream come true.

And -- lastly -- the kids. We all say that it's all about the Bridge kids every year. Not the music but the cause. And you just can not come away from the weekend just totally in awe of the spirit and strength of these kids and their families. The struggles they face make our problems meaningless, although that don't make them go away. Which is why we try and take a portion of this sites revenue and donate to the Bridge School.

Wrapping things up here, we really were touched by all of the folks who thanked us for what we do here at Thrasher's Wheat. As we said, it's really not us that makes TW what it is but you -- the readers of this blog. It's your stories, reviews, videos, photos, links, etc that make this Neil community what it is.

So thanks everyone for a truly beautiful uplifting weekend. We love you all.

btr, btc, btw,
thrasher & thrashette

Also, see photos, reviews, videos of 2009 Bridge School Benefit Concert.


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At 10/29/2009 08:16:00 AM, Blogger rdvdijk said...

Hey Thrasher,

It was so cool to finally meet you at IRF and BSB! Great to put a face to a name. It was great talking shop with you.

I've got to plan trips to east coast Neil Young shows now, and meet you yet again :-)

Rust Radio

At 10/29/2009 10:30:00 AM, Blogger karen said...

yes, more east coast roel would be good! hope to see you when you are in nyc my friend, it was great to spend time with you in cali, x karen

At 10/29/2009 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You met Archives Guy??!!

He is a real person???

At 10/29/2009 12:55:00 PM, Anonymous expecting2fly said...


You're the best, man. It was great spending the weekend with you and Thrashette. Thanks for the great summary of the event-filled Bridge School Benefit. It was one of my favorite experiences in my life and a large part of it was being able to spend some quality time with you guys.

Expecting To Fly

At 10/29/2009 01:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher, thanks for the warm, heartfelt descriptions of the event. Your words make it clear that the Bridge show in particular is about much more than music... Your rich commentary has made me put attending a Bridge show on my "bucket list." Thanks again.


At 10/29/2009 02:27:00 PM, Anonymous Liza said...

Thrasher, thank you for your thoughts on BSB. It's great to have some insight because of your description. I just read, that you also met Mary Marr. Since she suddenly lost her husband, just like I lost Michael, I often think about her and I send her my deepest sympathy.

Love, Liza

At 10/29/2009 03:27:00 PM, Anonymous SONY said...

That pic of Neil & Peggy embracing says it all!

At 10/29/2009 06:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh boo fucking who thrasher. you said "And we feel very sorry for folks who just don't get the whole Neil & Pegi thing." talk about elitist bullshit. yes, i get that they are a very happy couple that love each other very much. they have a very special thing going, and i think that's great. i really, truly, honestly do. what i don't think is great is pegi's vocals ruining neil young songs.

you really should get over yourself. you think you know the deal but you don't know squat.

At 10/29/2009 06:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

make that boo fucking hoo.

At 10/29/2009 08:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher and Thrashette, was great to read your thoughts on the IRF/BSB experience, hope it makes a few more take the leap and come west from where ever they are to share the fun and warmth. You are both Rusted to the core and I had a great time meeting and spending time with you.

Rick "Rockin on the Porch"

At 10/29/2009 10:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

10/29/2009 06:23:00 PM, show some tact, Thrasher puts this site together on his spare time, and thanks to him and his tireless efforts a lot of us get tons of pleasure hanging out here ... he's shown us time and time again that thoughtful disagreement is welcomed, but tactless, personal attacks are completely out of line ... have some appreciation or take a hike ... when he writes, "and we feel very sorry for folks who just don't get the whole Neil & Pegi thing" he's being sincere ... I take him to be saying he gets pleasure from it and wishes everyone could, take a valium turn on the archives and chill out...


At 10/30/2009 08:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boo you anon 6:23-6:25.

Let's hear you sing! And stand in front of thousands and play your stuff. You'd probably pee your pants.

When I saw Neil a couple years ago, with Pegi opening, we walked in little late and the first song I heard was one she wrote:

"Loving you is the sweetest thing I know."

It ain't up to us to decide. And I'm sure Neil couldn't give a rat's ars about anyone who doesn't like it either.

Chill out and get over it.

At 10/30/2009 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey dan, who said this again?

"So we would just like to call bullshit when we see it. Frankly, we see some elitist musical snobbery going on here."

that would be your hero thrasher. tell me how what i said was any fucking different. thrasher is very condescending to anyone who does not share his views. that's fine. it's his site. but don't kid yourself about it.

and to 8:15 am....i can sing circles around pegi young. the only reason she is on the stage is because of her husband. she's open mic material at best.

At 10/30/2009 12:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anon Pegi basher-
Why don't you post some of your singing so we can judge you in a similar manner.

Come on , let's hear it....words are cheap.

At 10/30/2009 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

Hi Anon/Pegi Basher,

Not sure whether your immaturity is exceeded only by your cowardice, but Johnny has a message for you if you scroll to the bottom of this post:
this post.

"Love and Only Love Will Endure....Hate Is Everything You Think It Is...Love and Only Love Will Break It Down.

At 10/30/2009 01:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GO Johnny Go Go GO!

At 10/30/2009 01:50:00 PM, Anonymous Johnny Cash said...

"....i can sing circles around pegi young."

You must be proud to be so self assured, and humble. HAH

At 10/30/2009 04:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh please, you all need to grow the fuck up. thanks thrasher for the link to that nice picture! i had it hanging in my high school locker 20 years ago. again, my criticism is solely about pegi's singing. i'm not alone, you know. a lot of people think she is not a good singer. but you all can make this into something it is not. that's fine. neil's gonna do whatever he wants, and it doesn't matter if YOU like it or if I like it. so you say what you want about it, and i'll do the same. what's wrong with that? am i supposed to hold my fire for pegi just because she is the almighty's (sorry thrasher) wife? thrasher continually cuts down anyone who does not share his views. he thinks he holds the only valid opinions on neil young. well, he calls bullshit, i call bullshit. we're actually very similar, in that we have both made our minds up and refuse to change them. i know you all want to live in a hippie dippy world where nothing bad is said about anyone and "love and only love will endure", but when i hear pegi young ruining neil young songs i'm gonna speak out. at first it was cute, but it's gotten to the point where, in my opinion, neil is sabotaging his career just to have his wife by his side. it's weak. it's not what i thought neil young was about. but it is what it is. i will post no more on the subject. i will continue to respect neil AND pegi but i will no longer buy THEIR product, be it the new album or the concert ticket. enough is enough.


mark f.

At 10/31/2009 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Thrasher said...

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours

I can’t think of a better way to address the issue of the “imperfection” in Neil’s approach to performance standard, which after all these years a lot of people still have a hard time coming to grips with. I mean, we could go on and on and on about bent notes and off key vocals and rudimentary concert staging and FITR and blah blah blah blah blah.

If you know anything about Neil’s music- and I think every post contributor in this thread does, you have to allow for the thrown together, and “imperfect” nature of much of what Neil has done. It’s a part of who he is, a major part of what makes his music immediate, heartfelt, honest, and sometimes wacky, all of which sometimes leaves you scratching your head- at first.

From throwing Nils Lofgren onto an instrument he had never played for recordings that made it to vinyl, to the “non dominant” nature of his film making, to recording live to get the raw straight ahead take of new music that is devoid of over thinking and over production, and yes, to employing the vocals of wife Pegi, again we could go on and on. How many years are we going to devote to restating the fact that Neil’s music, career choices, and song writing are not “perfect” in the eyes of everyone?

After a while, it just begs the question: When are the critics going to get that the things they criticize are the result of an attitude that simply doesn’t take into consideration what anyone or anything other than the artist- Neil, demands of the music?

The art is not about you, it’s about a unique expression. Part of the uniqueness in this case is a haphazard, spontaneous, less is more approach. Get over it. There are things that I wish he had done differently over the years, but then I just kind of laugh to myself, and recognize that it’s just Neil being Neil. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. You don’t have to like it, but don’t try to demand of it something it’s never been about.

I’ve thought over the years, and I’ve never said it out loud, for the very reason of what I’m about to bring down on myself when everyone responds to this, but what the hey, damn the torpedoes. If Neil had chosen to over produce, and “perfect” every one of his albums, make them as slick as is technically and humanly possible, with some obvious exceptions, he would have long since been considered the number one performer of his time. But that was never going to happen, which I learned a long time ago. It’s a big reason why I love him- and I’m not telling anyone not to voice their opinion- but also a big reason why we shouldn’t even be having this conversation.

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

At 10/31/2009 09:58:00 PM, Blogger locator said...

As someone who has seen Pegi perform with Neil numerous times, I also believe that in recent years, she's been more of a hindrance than a help to Neil on stage. The last time I saw them together was a stream of the 2009 Farm Aid show and it was quite frankly painful to watch.
The last time, prior to that was in 2007 in DC at Constitution Hall when Pegi "opened" for Neil. That was also the last time I had a chance to visit with Thrasher & Thrashette and I remembered mentioning to Thrasher after the show that Pegi's attitude, as viewed by me at that show, carried a definite air of "Rock Star entitlement", which disturbed me, as it wasn't a quality I had perceived in her before.
I do acknowledge all the good Pegi has done for Neil in the past, as well as her accomplishments in pretty much single-handledly creating the Bridge School but I don't think one can honestly ignore her present level of musical capability (or the lack thereof) and brush off the harm she is causing to Neil's performances in the here and now.
Now, you can blast my opinions...I'm well used to it but I can't imagine that the current quality of Pegi's musical contributions is lost on Neil. In fact I think he's quite painted himself into a corner on this one and that the only way to get out of it would be to, on his next tour (God willing), bring back Crazy Horse and announce that this next tour was going to be a "boys only" kind of thing. I mean it's his wife ferchrissake and he's gotta be gentle and very very tactful in how he handles this.
Anyway, that's my take upon it and I'm ready for the slings and arrows, should y'all feel the need to point them in my direction... Be well.



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