The Bridge School Benefit was an annual charity concert held in Mountain View, California, every October at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. The concerts lasted the entire weekend and were organized by musicians Neil Young and Pegi Young. An annual Bay Area highlight, the concerts were billed online as the primary means of funding for The Bridge School; over both days, the reserved seats alone brought in well over a million dollars every year.
Partial proceeds benefited the Bridge School, which assists children with severe physical impairments and complex communication needs. One of the thrusts of the program is the use of advanced augmentative and alternative communication and assistive technology.
The very last concerts were held in October 2016. Live Nation had for years been demanding too large of a cut on tickets, and it eventually got to be too much (it was assumed by the public that after Shoreline's employees were paid, 100% of the remaining cash went to the school). This was on top of the payments made to the artists and crews, who the 25th anniversary movie says worked for free. Both things very much unbeknownst to the public, and The Bridge School continued to knowingly mislead fans.
The first concert was in October 1986, and, with the exception of 1987, the concert had been held every year since. It was known for having a relatively high-profile lineup and strong performances, primarily due to Young's extensive connections within the music industry. He signed a contract with Live Nation requiring him to perform every year, and oftentimes he would opt to do so multiple times throughout the weekend. At times he would bring another artist on stage and do a collaboration of one of his songs with them. Young was known to play "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold" at some point during the concert. Generally, the performers used acoustic instruments.
In 2006, a six-volume set entitled The Bridge School Collection, Vol.1 was released through iTunes. The set contains 80 recordings from the concerts and a digital booklet. Additional volumes from the concerts were released on iTunes annually through 2011.
For years, Neil Young had hinted that in order to maintain the school, he would choose a replacement, for when he opted to retire; for years, many assumed Eddie Vedder would take the helm.
On June 14, 2017, Neil and Pegi Young announced that the Bridge School Concerts would no longer continue.
List of concerts
- Bridge I October 13, 1986 in Mountain View, California at the Shoreline Amphitheater
- Bridge II December 4, 1988 in Oakland, California at the Oakland Coliseum
- Bridge III October 28, 1989
- Bridge IV October 26, 1990
- Bridge V November 2, 1991
- Bridge VI November 1, 1992
- Bridge VII November 6, 1993
- Bridge VIII October 1 & October 2, 1994
- Bridge IX October 28, 1995
- Bridge X October 19 & October 20, 1996
- Bridge XI October 18 & October 19, 1997
- Bridge XII October 17 & October 18, 1998
- Bridge XIII October 30 & October 31, 1999
- Bridge XIV October 28 & October 29, 2000
- Bridge XV October 20 & October 21, 2001
- Bridge XVI October 26 & October 27, 2002
- Bridge XVII October 25 & October 26, 2003
- Bridge XVIII October 23 & October 24, 2004
- Bridge XIX October 29 & October 30, 2005
- Bridge XX October 21 & October 22, 2006
- Bridge XXI October 27 & October 28, 2007
- Bridge XXII October 25 & October 26, 2008
- Performers included: Neil Young, The Smashing Pumpkins (Day 2 only), Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Wilco, Death Cab For Cutie, Sarah McLachlan (Day 1 only), Band of Horses (Day 1 only), Josh Groban (Day 2 only) and Cat Power. ZZ Top had been scheduled to perform on Day 1 but were dropped from the bill “due to a scheduling conflict.” Band of Horses replaced ZZ Top in the lineup.
- Bridge XXIII October 24 & October 25, 2009
- Bridge XXIV October 23 & October 24, 2010
- Performers included: Buffalo Springfield, Pearl Jam, Elvis Costello (Solo Day 1 only), Merle Haggard (canceled due to health) & Kris Kristofferson, Modest Mouse, Grizzly Bear, Lucinda Williams (Day 1 only), Billy Idol (Day 1 only), Jackson Browne & David Lindley (Day 1 only), T-Bone Burnett's Speaking Clock Revue featuring: Elton John, Leon Russell, Elvis Costello, Ralph Stanley, Neko Case, & Jeff Bridges (Day 2 Only), and guest appearances by Emmylou Harris (day 1 only) and Ramblin' Jack Elliott (day 2 finale only).
- Bridge XXV October 22 & October 23, 2011
- Performers included: Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Tony Bennett (Day 2 only), Foo Fighters (Day 2 only), Eddie Vedder, Mumford & Sons, Los Invisibles featuring Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana & Guests, Beck, Norah Jones and The Little Willies, and Devendra Banhart. Jimmy Fallon (MC for Saturday only (missed flight)), Diana Krall and Jenny Lewis were scheduled to perform but canceled.
- Bridge XXVI October 20 & October 21, 2012
- Bridge XXVII October 26 & October 27, 2013
- Performers included: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Arcade Fire (Day 1 Only), Queens of the Stone Age, Jack Johnson (Day 1 only), My Morning Jacket, Tom Waits (Day 2 only), Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, fun., Heart, and Jenny Lewis. The Killers were originally scheduled to perform on Day 1 but canceled.
- Bridge XXVIII October 25 & October 26, 2014
- Bridge XXIX October 24 & October 25, 2015
- Bridge XXX October 22 & October 23, 2016
- "Welcome to The Bridge School". Bridgeschool.org. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
- Chonin, Neva (December 9, 1999). Performance: Bridge School Benefit. San Francisco, California: Rolling Stone LLC. p. 34. ISSN 0035-791X.
- "The Bridge School Concerts, Vol. 1: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
- "The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition (2CD): Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
- "'The Bridge School Concerts'". First Listen. National Public Radio. October 16, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
- "Neil Young Will No Longer Host Bridge School Benefit Concert". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
- "Pearl Jam to Perform at 24th Annual Bridge School Benefit". pearljam.com. Archived from the original on September 17, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
- Lewis, Randy, "Merle Haggard misses Bridge School concert because of illness", October 24, 2010, Los Angeles Time, Pop & Hiss Blog, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2010/10/merle-haggard-bridge-school-illness.html
- "Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert". Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Bridge School Website
- HyperRust Bridge School Benefit Page - Lineups, reviews, Bridge Benefit Concert-Goer's Guide
- Being There Magazine review of 2006 Bridge School Benefit
- Unofficial Facebook Page