Chumbawamba Serenade In The Name Of Gay Pride

Thousands attending a rally in front of San Francisco's City Hall on Sunday got a surprise dose of the English anarchist rockers.

SAN FRANCISCO -- This city's annual "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Celebration and Parade" brought an extra bonus to attendees Sunday: a surprise concert by the English group Chumbawamba.

The eight self-proclaimed anarchists -- who gave a surprise, unscheduled performance at the festival -- entertained the veritable sea of people that had gathered near the steps of City Hall with a short and lively acoustic

set that climaxed with their breakthrough U.S. hit,

"Tubthumping" (RealAudio excerpt).

Despite his penchant for wearing women's clothing, lead singer Danbert Nobacon dressed down for the occasion, which featured cross-dressers, transgendered men and women and throngs of gay paraders flaunting their sexuality.

Before the band played, Mayor Willie Brown delivered an impassioned speech about the power of diversity to the thousands gathered to celebrate their sexuality. Then, often controversial punk-dance act Chumbawamba took the stage with Nobacon announcing, "We've been playing live for a long time, and this is the first time we've ever shared the stage with a mayor."

To which bassist Paul Greco added, "And it's probably the last."

The eight-member band, dressed almost completely in black, got the huge crowd into the swing of things with a song about religious disenfranchisement that they delivered in a stripped-down, no-nonsense, acoustic fashion.

Chumbawamba then quickly jumped into their second single from their latest album, Tubthumper, entitled "Drip, Drip, Drip."

Many in the crowd, who had recently paraded along the city's main corridor of Market Street, were dressed (or undressed) for the occasion. On the side of the stage, a cross-dressing man -- wearing a skin-tight, zebra-print body suit, a pink, frilly mini-skirt and Kiss-style makeup -- danced enthusiastically to the band.

There were topless and pierced lesbians in leather pants, topless men in sailor suits and pantless men dressed like the devil with horns and tails. There were vendors passing out condoms and others passing out information on AIDS. There was food, from sushi to Hawaiian cuisine. And there were Chumbawamba.

As the rowdy octet played, those gathered began to sway to the sounds of a band that for more than a decade has built a reputation for its politically motivated criticisms and radical viewpoints.

In addition to battling the establishment, advocating shoplifting and speaking frankly against their country's government on- and offstage, Chumbawamba singer Nobacon is no stranger to cross-dressing. In December, Italian police arrested him for wearing a skirt, hauling the artist to jail when he was unable to produce a passport. The singer was released without charge after an officer recognized the band's name on a note scribbled by Nobacon.

Not surprisingly, the band has focused some of its music on sexuality and individuality. When the band hit the chorus of the particularly appropriate "Homophobia," singing, "You can't love who you want to love in times like these," the crowd went wild.

For those with hearing impairment, the lyrics to Chumbawamba's music was translated in sign-language by a man at stage left. Meanwhile, the heavy scent of marijuana wafted through the air.

The 20-minute set concluded with "Tubthumping," a song about perseverance and strength in the face of adversity.

The chorus -- "I get knocked down/ but I get up again/ And you're never gonna bring me down" -- inspired many to sing along and dance in place.

The band, which would later play the Guinness Fleadh festival in San Jose, Calif., left as quickly as they came, disappearing amid shouts and screams for more.

For many in the crowd, the show was far from over, with performances still to come from the pop duo Murmurs as well as gay-activist band Pansy Division.