Exclusive! Bob Weir Talks To Y! Music About “The Bridge Session,” Technology, And Letting The National Take The Lead
[Photo: Araya Diaz/WireImage]
[Photo: Araya Diaz/WireImage]
Saturday night, the unlikely partners will meet up for an epic, historic, to be witnessed by a crowd of about 50 people at Weir's TRI Studios and a huge remote audience across the web. The concert dubbed (you guessed it) "The Bridge Session" will be broadcast live on Yahoo! Music starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 PT.
Prepare to settle in for a while. "We're doing a pretty lengthy show," Weir tells Yahoo! Even if there were no specific plan for intermission, he says, "there would need to be a set break."
Those words are music to the ears of Dead followers. As Andy Bernstein, the producer of the event, promises, "These guys in the National and their team have been rehearsing for two weeks. This is not a pick-up-the-guitar-and-play kind of show. They've really, really put their time into this. So there's a lot of music to be had. A typical Grateful Dead-style show is three hours of music, and I don't know if we would go to three hours on this," because, with the National's members being a bit less improvisationally minded, "you won't have the crazy long jams that take up three hours. But these musicians don't skimp -- let's put it that way."
And, Bernstein adds, "A set break can be dead air, or a set break can be really inspiring."
They're going to go with "inspiring." A roundtable discussion on sociopolitical issues is scheduled between sets. Weir will field some questions via Twitter (tweet your questions using #BridgeSession), and participants in the half-time discussion will range from — on the left — John Perry Barlow, well known as one of the Dead's key lyricists and a progressive activist, to — on the right — Buddy Roemer, the ex-Louisiana governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, and Mark McKinnon, a famous former Bush/McCain consultant.
That might be a bridge too far for some fans who just want to kick out the jams and will use the half-time chat as a bathroom break. But Weir and the National are both doing this gig in support of Headcount.org, a non-profit dedicated to registering music fans to vote and sparking their interest in the topical concerns that come up around election time. (Weir is even a Headcount board member.)
And even if you skip the roundtable, you may still find some political undertones in the choice of cover songs that the two acts have planned in addition to selections from their respective catalogs. A lid is being kept on just what will be played, but Weir does reveal that "I learned a couple of new Dylan songs, for instance, that they suggested."
The National came up with the set list, in addition to putting the full backup band together. "I left it up to them, because they know my body of work better than I know theirs," says Weir, who confesses he didn't know the National's work before the idea was proposed late last year. "I'm really there just to play with them. When I get involved in this kind of a deal, if I've got the time to do it—and this time I will—I want to hear what they have to say. I'm nothing if not adaptable. Or at least I try to be as adaptable as I humanly can be. I'm gonna want them to take the lead. They're probably gonna want me to take the lead from time to time, and I'll have to do a little of that. It's a little bit of a stretch for me, and that's great. I like some of the pockets they get into, and I can fit right cozy into some of those pockets. Some of the pockets that they create are not where I would normally go. But having just sat here in front of my computer and played along with their songs like I've been doing for the last couple of days, it's fun."
Weir and the National were preparing for the show on their respective coasts, and when we spoke with Weir, he was just about to finally meet up with his collaborators on his home turf 15 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. "We get two and a half full days of rehearsal before the light gets red on the camera. So I think it'll be pretty together. It'll be loose, too, as well, because we're doing a pretty lengthy show. It's not going to be very, very carefully prepackaged, by any means."