Brookstock marks 10th anniversary

Published 6:47 pm Thursday, July 29, 2010

When the old rock n’ rollers and classmates performing in thisweekend’s Brookstock X take the stage for a long night of liveperformances, a couple hundred people will have reason tocelebrate.

There will be dancing and singing, good food and drink,fellowship and maybe even a romance or two. It will be a time to beremembered, a time when the late 1960s’ graduates of BrookhavenHigh School forget about work for a night and focus on being youngagain, lost in the rock music that defined their generation.

While the crowd and the musicians kick back for a festive night,at least one man at the concert will be working his tail off, neverleaving the stage and chaffing his fingers raw on the fat stringsof a bass guitar for five or six hours.

When it comes to the Brookstock crowd, Tyler Bridge isn’t one ofthem, but he’s been serving the cause for a decade as the housebass player for every band.

“Everybody there is old enough to be my parents,” said Bridge,32, who’s backed up the bands since Brookstock I. “I think it’sgreat for Brookhaven, we need to have more stuff like this. You geta guitar, learn how to play but then there’s no venue to playat.”

The annual concert that started 10 years ago as a Class of 1968reunion grew into a local attraction that is loose and relaxed.That feeling starts on the stage.

“We usually don’t rehearse. If we have a few minutes after soundcheck, we might run through a song or two, but there’s never anyadvance rehearsals,” Bridge said.

Sometimes, that can cause close calls.

“There have been several embarrassing moments where I try tostay under the radar if I don’t know the song, just turn down andfake it,” Bridge recalled. “There are time when they throw you acurve ball – you tell them you don’t know the song, but they countit down anyway.”

Bridge said many of the musicians will throw in their originaltunes – without showing him the progression, of course – and everynow and then a song not previously discussed finds its way into thelineup. He recalled a particular moment at Brookstock VIII in 2008,when Bill Guess counted down Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath”without warning.

“I was not ready for Jethro Tull,” Bridge said. “I was like,’Right, right. We are not doing this.’ Then he threw it out there.We pulled it off.”

But such surprises are part of the magic of Brookstock, Bridgesaid.

“It allows you the chance to play with a lot of differentpeople, the local legends and people you’ve always heard aboutgrowing up,” he said. “I’ve played songs I never thought I’d beable to play and played with people I never thought I’d playwith.”

This year, Bridge will return to the stage and provide rhythmfor the usual Brookhaven lineup, which features musical satiristMike J. Case, singer-songwriter Bryan Batson, Class of ’68 band TheBrutes, recording artist Virgil Brawley, session musician RalphMichel and country and rock performer Sherrill Wallace. This year’sspecial guests will be keyboardist Chalmers Davis, who has touredextensively with Little Richard, and Brookhaven saxophonist BobBecker.

The $10 concert opens at 5 p.m. Saturday at the BrookhavenRecreation Department, with music starting at 6 p.m. The AllenVolunteer Fire Department will be selling food, but people areencouraged to bring their own drinks. Concertgoers should alsobring their own chairs.

A gathering at Recess 101 Friday night will precede theconcert.

Brookstock founder and The Brutes front man Don Jacobs isexpecting a crowd of around 250 or more to celebrate the 10thanniversary of the concert.

“It’s only the beginning,” he said. “When we started out 10years ago, it was just a party, a fun chance to get together withthe musicians and just have a good time. I figured I’d be lucky ifI could keep it going for three years.”

Jacobs said he figured people would just “get bored” withBrookstock, but BHS alumni groups began publicizing the event intheir newsletters and by the fifth year, the concert began drawingbigger crowds. Those crowds have increased over the years untillast year’s gathering exceeded the 250 mark.

“To me it’s pretty amazing to see the chatter online, all thesemessages about, ‘Are you coming to Brookstock?'” Jacobs said. “It’shumbling to realize this is bringing people into town from a longway off, and it’s great to see people get excited about it.”

Jacobs hopes to keep the Brookhaven concert going as long aspossible, but he’s always mindful the event could end abruptly witha death in the music family.

“We’re at that age where we’re losing people gradually, andthat’s sort of what it’s about anyway – having fun while we’restill here,” he said. “If a few key people are missing from thelineup, that would probably end it. I hope to go on indefinitely,but any year could be the last year.”

Thoughts of mortality are expressed in music at Brookstock everyyear during the closing jam session, where the musicians alwaysclose the show with a performance of “The Last Time” by The RollingStones.

“Every time we play that I always think, ‘This could be it,'”Jacobs said. “You never know where we’ll be in another year.”