SAN FRANCISCO Soupstock 2000, a free concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of activist organization Food Not Bombs, lured thousands to Mission Dolores Park on Sunday with a lineup topped by punk acts Fugazi and Sleater-Kinney.
Other performers at the daylong event included cellist Bonfire Madigan, singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt and turntablist DJ Disk of Invisibl Skratch Piklz. All the artists played the event for free.
In their only West Coast appearance this summer, Washington, D.C., quartet Fugazi, known for their anti-capitalist stance and a commitment to playing low-cost, all-ages concerts, closed out the show. Their intense set of hardcore punk rock opened with an edgy instrumental and pulled in a tightly packed crowd, leading to the day's only mosh pit.
Singer/guitarist Ian MacKaye, former frontman for Minor Threat, gave audience members a lesson in moshing etiquette, telling them, "Maybe people can be a little bit more courteous. [Move] up and down, not forward."
Fugazi's setlist spanned their 13-year career and included "Arpeggiator" (RealAudio excerpt), from End Hits (1998), as well as "Suggestion," from 1988's Fugazi, and "Do You Like Me," off 1995's Red Medicine.
The group performed with serious focus and exhilarating abandon, grinding out its signature sound of stop-start rhythms and vocals that transcend from deep murmurs to growling screams.
When not strumming his guitar or singing, second vocalist Guy Picciotto often occupied his space like a boxer, reacting to McKaye's guitar work by swinging his arms.
During their set, McKaye praised the grassroots nature of Food Not Bombs, especially the small chapters in which volunteers are directly involved in making and distributing food to those in need. Food Not Bombs formed in Boston in 1980 to protest nuclear activities and has since expanded worldwide, providing food for the hungry, while also fighting militarism, violence, poverty and oppression.
Sleater-Kinney Bring Fans To Feet
A few hours before Fugazi took the stage, Sleater-Kinney brought the thousands of fans on the park's grassy hill to their feet. The female trio from the Pacific Northwest played loud and crisp with infectious energy. While guitarist Carrie Brownstein bounced wildly about the stage, a beach ball bounced from hand to hand in the crowd, occasionally making its way onstage.
"I'm glad somebody finally got the beach ball going," Brownstein said. "If someone throws a hacky sack up here, I'll kick it back while we're playing."
Dual guitarists Brownstein and Corin Tucker combined grinding guitar riffs, melodic hooks and Tucker's idiosyncratic, vibrato vocals on such songs as the title track from their new album, All Hands on the Bad One (RealAudio excerpt).
"Feel free to sing along to this one," Tucker said.
"I think everyone will know this song ... 'cause it's not ours," Brownstein joked just before the band launched into Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," which drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Sleater-Kinney, who are recognized for their politically and socially charged lyrics, ended with "Dig Me Out" (RealAudio excerpt), the title track from their 1997 full-length LP.
"I really came because Sleater-Kinney is one of my favorite bands," audience member David Lane of San Francisco said. "[But] I think what Food Not Bombs do is great. They draw attention to the problem of homelessness. It's also great to come to an all-day event and see all kinds of music, not just eight hours of rock."
More Than Just Music
In addition to the music, Food Not Bombs offered workshops dealing with such topics as racism, homophobia, classism, women's self-defense and sexism. The nonprofit group also provided free food and water. As emcee Loretta "Freeda Globe" Carbone told the crowd, "The food is free. Everything today is free. Food is a right, not a privilege."
The event also included a DJ booth, where DJs Domanatrix, Stonie and Abberation played a mix of house and big beats for those turned on more by dancing than moshing. Interspersed throughout the concert performances, speakers offered thoughts on political awareness, revolution and nonviolent rebellion.
Among the artists who also took the stage were Jorge Molina, whose performance included a conch shell ritual and throat singing, Tibetan refugees Twering Wangmo and Nyima Gyalpo, who performed traditional Tibetan folk music, and Oakland pop-punk band Tilt.
Referring to her music as "chamber-folk punk rock," cellist Madigan was accompanied by an upright bassist and a drummer. Her vocal style recalled Björk, Ani DiFranco and Patti Smith, and her band fused midtempo hip-hop beats, pop hooks and the occasional cello screech.
Performing under the name Tornado of Urine, DJ Disk's metallic urban hip-hop was accompanied by a programmer and a bassist. He scratched effortlessly often at hyper speed over drum & bass and downtempo beats and even added polka for comedic effect.
Using a sole overdriven electric guitar, singer/songwriter Chesnutt played a 15-minute set that combined rough-hewn, fuzzed-out guitars with vocals similar to those of his friends and collaborators, Lambchop.
Event organizer Ian Brennan said police estimates put the day's crowd somewhere from 10,000 to 13,000 people.