Tips for Enjoying the Bridge School Benefit Concert

Yesterday my husband and I had our first experience of the Bridge School Benefit Concert, held at the Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, California). The show ran from 2-10 pm, and we had tickets for open seating on the Lawn that slopes up beyond the assigned seats. There’s useful information on the Shoreline’s website, but here are some additional tips for other first-timers:

Dress in layers. The day was mild, high of 75ºF, to a low of 62ºF by the time the show ended. Consider wearing something bright so your companions can spot you. You’ll be in direct sunlight all afternoon, so bring a stylin’ hat, sunscreen, and cover-up clothing.

Seeing the Show. Carry a small flashlight (and maybe an extra battery) so you can find your seat again after dark, and make note of landmarks such as the large projection boxes on the Lawn, the screens, and the sections of regular seating that correspond with your place on the Lawn (we were straight back from seating sections 203/204). Bring binoculars if you want to see as well as hear. There are big screens, but you’re restricted seeing what the cameraman sees.

Lawn Chairs. Acceptable lawn chairs are low-backed. Friends with “pointed” ends on their chairs were required to check them and pick them up after the show. But chair rental is only $5, so you decide if it’s worth it to lug in your own chairs.

Grub & Hooch: Beer and wine are expensive — $12 for Lagunitas Ale, $13 for Blue Moon, up to $16 for a pint of craft beer. Food was a little better, with options for $8 tostadas and $12 sandwiches. After dark, a fellow circulated around the food area carrying trays with coffee, $5 each, with packets of sugar and Coffee Mate powder. If you have a long drive ahead of you, as we did, the coffee is worth it.

Bring Your Own Grub?: You may bring your own food in soft-sided coolers; no cans or bottles, with the exception of factory-sealed plastic water bottles. You are not allowed to bring in your own booze. (That said, a cracker box can hold more than crackers.) We brought a soft-sided cooler for food and water, and a soft backpack for clothes, binoculars, and such.

Parking: VIP parking cost $20, but we didn’t use it, since there’s no extra fee to park, surprisingly. If standard parking is taking too long, the Shoreline has some lots farther away, with shuttles to the venue. Note the number on the lot signs so you can find your car again. The parking lot is dirt, and your car will leave covered with dust, so plan to wash it the next day rather than the day before.

Checking in: We arrived at 1:30 for the 2 pm start time and were inside fairly quickly, but we were cutting it close; 12:30 or 1 pm would have given us more choices. There are two gates, so keep walking – the line at the gate farther in was much shorter. Friendly security people check your bags as you come in.

Seating: Where you sit will determine, in large part, the quality of your experience.

  • Arrive early. I asked a couple of people who were at the very front of the Lawn when they had arrived to get those seats. They got to the venue at 11:30 am, and the doors opened at noon.
  • The Lawn will fill up, so don’t expect it to stay uncrowded if you sit in the back. If you sit on the left side of the Lawn (facing the stage), you may have the sun in your eyes all afternoon. Go to the right side, or the center. Bring a lightweight blanket or grass mat to claim your territory. If you’re farther back and don’t want to be stepped on, set up your area with your back against one of the projector boxes.
  • Check your sight lines. We went as far forward as we comfortably could, then realized that our view was blocked by the metal cord handrailing along the walkway that separates the Lawn from the ticketed seating. We moved up the slope of the Lawn until I could see between the cords. People ahead of you may stand, oblivious to the fact that they’re blocking the sight lines of dozens of people behind them. As tedious as it may be to have someone’s backside blocking your view of the stage, resign yourself to your fate and adjust your position if you want to view the stage itself. Sitting farther forward reduces some of this.
  • Screens vs. Stage: If you want to see emotion on the performers’ faces, sit farther back and watch the action on the big screens – however, before dark, only the smaller screens on each side of the stage will be lit. The screen footage cuts around a lot, making the stage look more “active” than it really is, and you don’t get to see body language and how the musicians are interacting with one another. If, like me, you prefer your own personal experience watching the stage itself, get as close as possible and watch with binoculars.

Neighborliness. Get to know your neighbors, especially those on either side of you. Bring practical finger food to share around, such as sugar snap peas, nuts, chocolate, or other candy. Friendly neighbors are more likely to watch out for your spot when you’re gone. Also introduce yourself to the people ahead of you; if they know you, maybe they won’t stand up and block your view. Don’t forget the people behind you; if you don’t want to be a jerk, make it comfortable for them to let you know if there’s a problem.

Be Nice to Your Neighbors,  and They will be Nice to You
Be Nice to Your Neighbors,
and They will be Nice to You

Phone ring-tones are hard to hear over the music. Adjust your ring tone and text tones to something loud and high-pitched. Turn your  screen brightness down, or you’ll stand out like a beacon after it gets dark.

Bathrooms. There are plenty of bathroom stalls. Handwashing stations in the middle aisles of the bathrooms are circular; press the rubber ring around the base with your foot, and water sprays down all along the circle. Soap dispenses from little metal pumps on the underside of the rings for water.

Sneaking closer. At the end of the evening, just before Neil Young and Promise of the Real came on, our friends told us that the assigned seating ahead of us was open, with no restrictions, so we all moved forward to theater seats for the final set. We left our chairs and a soft-sided cooler on the Lawn, and they were still there when we returned, but my pith helmet, which had been on top of the cooler, had apparently been knocked off and then stepped on. Someone kindly put it back onto the top of the cooler, however.

I hadn’t been to the Shoreline in many years, having decided I hated the venue, but our wonderful experience at the 2015 Bridge School benefit concert has changed my opinion.

October 26, 2015