(excerpts from Rolling Stone issue 661 Feb. 2012 by A. Hugh Jassle)
Founding member Jeff Bickford fondly remembers playing solo back in the day.
“Me, my guitar and mic and the wait staff. That was heaven.”
For any musician, growth and popularity is all intertwined. Perhaps not so much with ‘The Bridge’ but as Bickford explains, a full band made it that much better.
“Having a band behind me has been the best. Having them in front of me when people throw water bottles or handfuls of pasta is even better.”
Now that Stephen Jackson and Erik Marks have joined Bickford, more doors are opening.
“They are my ‘engine room’. They keep the song going. Plus, like an engine room, I can keep them in the back where no one can see them. Ultimately that’s the best for me and the audience.”
Bickford excels at getting the audience involved and his catalog of songs is impressive. For any gigging musician, requests are a part of life. The one that gets yelled out more than the typical “Metallica!” or “Skynyrd!”?
He pauses and a confused look crosses his face.
“That would be ‘You Suck!’. I still haven’t found the chords to that one.”
Dazed by his meteoric rise in small-town-fame and still confused by the 6 strings on a guitar, Stephen Jackson holds down the foundation of ‘The Bridge’ on bass guitar. Starting with the 4-string bass guitar in highschool as a shortcut to popularity without the heavy lifting of 6 strings seemed like a fool proof plan as well as a new creative outlet.
“You can only play Dungeons and Dragons 4-5 nights a week for so long before you get burned out,” says Jackson. “I needed something else to do and that turned out to be sitting alone in my room trying to figure out my bass guitar.”
So did he stick with it?
“I sold it after a few years for scuba equipment” he says with a shrug.
Bickford says Jackson’s contributions are more felt than heard.
“We really love pumping up that bass. People dance to the bass. Plus when you take out the mids and treble, you don’t notice all the root notes he misses.”
Jackson seems ok with that strategy too.
“Roots are for house plants” he declares.
The newest member of The Bridge is also the oldest and wisest. Marks has spent many years preparing for a moment just like this.
“Common time is for noobs!” he declares with a huge smile, and his volume increases with his excitement. “Cross sticking with some paradiddling decrescendos while ghost noting some flams, that’s where it’s at!”
After a spectacular midlife crisis that cost his home town of West Newbury over $40,000, Marks decided he needed to re-evaluate some life choices. He poured over his old music theory books and reignited his drumming passion. “I kept looking at those old books, because they were propping up the corner of my old couch, and I thought ‘I need to do this!'”
According to Marks, it is taking a bit of work to pull Bickford and Jackson into the more essoteric aspects of music. “Man, they would just say ‘we go around 4 times’ over and over and over!” He shakes his head while still smiling. “Even the term ‘bar’ seemed to confuse them!”
“He has a blazing white smile behind that kit and he is really high energy” says Jackson. “Now we have 2 people in the band that women will talk to, Jeff and Erik.”
Jeff Bickford is happy too. “When Steve said we had a new drummer, I turned around at the gig and there was some new guy I didn’t recognize and I thought ‘eh cool I guess'”.
Marks says he will stick with The Bridge for now and without being asked a specific question, fanatically declares “I need me some thirty-second-note polyrythm triplets with some syncopation!”