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‘The Bridge School Benefit Concerts—25th-Anniversary Edition’ (Reprise Records)

If you’ve never experienced the Bridge School Concert in Northern California, stop reading this and run out to your local music store and buy this 3-DVD/2-CD package. No, really, go now.

If you’ve never experienced the Bridge School Concert in Northern California, stop reading this and run out to your local music store and buy this 3-DVD/2-CD package. No, really, go now.

First, a little history. The Bridge School is a non-profit organization that educates children with severe speech and physical impairments through the use of augmentative and alternative communication systems and assistive technology. During the two-day festivals, students of the Bridge School and their guardians are seated at the back end of the stage, getting a fabulous seat to the show and, in most cases, interaction with the performer. The acoustic sets brings together a wide range of acts—from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan to The Who to Pearl Jam to Sarah McLachlan—all tweaking their top tunes to an enthralled audience.

The two CDs provide a nice sampling of the music performed since the annual concert’s inception in 1986, with a wonderful opener (on Disc 1) of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” John Hausmann and staff from Redwood Digital Mobile have done an incredible job of capturing the live performances (except for a couple of tunes that were handled by the artist’s FOH engineer), bringing in all of the nuances of a live gig to light, complete with audience mic feeds. Nico Bolas’ deft mixing abilities shine throughout, masterfully arranging the sequence of performances so that it seems like it is one straight concert. Though, I would like to see the year the performances took place on the liner notes.

Fortunately, for each performance on the DVD, you find out what year it occurred. Watching the DVD, you get the same great seat as those in the school: There’s no swooping camera angles, no gimmicks—just a true recording of the performance. Plus, it gives you an insight into how dramatic turning a song into an acoustic performance can be. Take, as a great example, how Metallica’s “Disposable Heroes” becomes an all-acoustic affair. As someone who has seen her fair share of Metallica shows, this stripped-down version is by far one of my favorites and can only be seen at a Bridge School experience.

Each DVD performance is preceded by an introduction from a student of the Bridge School—really bringing home that it’s not just about the music, it’s about the schoo, lwhich for the past 25 years has been doing great work and, with your help and mine, can continue with its lofty mission.

And for you behind-the-scenes fanatics, pop in DVD 3, where you get mini-interviews with many of the production crews behind the show and amphitheater, many of whom have been with the venue for 15-plus years. Getting their take on working with such an esteemed concert is icing on the cake.

Executive Producers: Pegi Young, Elliot Roberts. Producer: Will Mitchell, Frank Gironda.

Audio Credits
Recorded at Shoreline Amphitheater (Mountain View, Calif.) except Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country at Oakland Coliseum Arena (Oakland, Calif.). Mixing: Nico Bolas with assistant Vladimir Johnson except DVD I tracks 2, 4 and 11 and DVD 2 tracks 3, 4 and 5 by John Hanlon at Redwood Digital. Assistant engineers: John Hausmann and Tim O’Sullivan. Recordings: Hausmann with Redwood Digital Mobile except DVD 1 tracks 1 and 6 and DVD 2 tracks 6 and 8 by concert FOH engineers. Redwood Digital team: Scott McKissen, Will Mitchell, Dan Newitt, John Nowland, Zeke Young, Charlie Natzke, Perry Thorwaldson, Rudy Trubitt, David Denny, John Hart, Jeff Pinn, Walt Szalva.

Video Credits
Shakehy Pictures documentary crew: producers Marcy Gensic and Hannah Johnson; cameramen Ben Higgins, Benjamin Johnson and Randy Kunz; sound engineers Mark Faulkner and Will Mitchell; and production assistant Sue Ann Roberts. Post-Production at Upstream Multimedia by LA Johnson, Hannah Johnson, Benjamin Johnson, John Hausmann.