SAN FRANCISCO Green Day parked their amplifiers outside City Hall on Sunday, rallying for a local music scene that's had trouble surviving the city's burgeoning Internet boom.
"I think that there's been a lot of damage done, and you can't really reverse that but if anything, we can put a stop to it," Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said backstage. "I figure if they can build a brand new stadium for the Giants to play in, they can give [musicians] a place to play."
As a result of Web sites and technology companies setting up shop in the Bay Area, rent and real estate prices have skyrocketed. Numerous music venues have closed in the past few years, the noted Church of Saint John Coltrane was booted from its 30-year home, and the popular Downtown Rehearsal studio complex was sold to a developer in September, forcing the eviction of more than 150 bands some 2,000 musicians.
The loss of space has led local musicians to organize events
like Sunday's daylong free concert and rally, which began with a "Million Band March."
Perched atop a whitewashed ice cream truck, local musical tricksters the Gun and Doll Show dragged a guitar-packing dummy, leading around 500 marchers many armed with guitars, drums and saxophones from the Mission District to Civic Center Plaza, where a stage was erected across the street from City Hall.
Soft-spoken Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett urged the crowd to vote Tuesday for San Francisco's Proposition L, a ballot initiative intended to limit dot-com office space.
"Being someone who came out of the San Francisco music scene, I felt that I had to get involved and do what I can to prevent the Mission [District] from being turned into some bland business district," Hammett said backstage. "It's taking small steps right now to help out all of my fellow musicians, artists and nonprofit organizations to make sure that they don't just fall by the wayside by all
these dot-comers and the new dot-com economy that's taking over the city."
Hammett said he has been helping organize a benefit concert to raise money for a new non-profit that would buy and run rehearsal space.
While Sunday's rally was political in intent, the event felt mostly like an open-air music festival, staged in front of the gilded dome and neoclassical columns of City Hall. An estimated 3,000 music fans and protesters took in the scene amidst the Civic Center's statuesque municipal, theater and library buildings.
A cappella hip-hop group Felonious kicked off the show, followed by singer/songwriter Lisa Flores. While other groups played impromptu sets on street corners around Civic Center Plaza, booths promoted Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, independent record labels and pizza slices.
"If we're not that tight today, it's 'cause we can't f---ing practice," bemoaned Creeper Lagoon frontman Ian Sefchick during a set that included such
songs as "Dear Deadly", off 1998's I Become Small and Go.
Zen Guerrilla belted out a set of hard-edged blues and squealing guitar feedback, with afro-sporting singer Marcus Durant pacing the stage to belt out tunes like "Slow Motion Rewind."
Decked out in shades and beige suits, gospel band the Blind Boys of Alabama played tight jumping blues, enchanting the crowd with "When the Stars Begin to Fall." Victoria Williams and band played a mellow set, including "Crazy Mary."
The crowd then packed in close as Green Day took the stage. A few fans surfed the pit as the band opened with "Castaway," from their latest album, October's Warning. Bassist Mike Dirnt picked a punchy bass solo, then quieted down while Armstrong led an audience call-and-response sing-along.
The singer stopped in the middle of one descending, swing-style crunch to make a dedication to Hammett by blasting out the intro to Metallica's "Master of Puppets."
I don't work behind a computer, I work behind a f---ing guitar," Armstrong said, announcing that the band's set list had run out, then begging requests from the audience.
After "Disappearing Boy," Green Day teased Skynyrd and Zeppelin tunes. Drummer Tre Cool switched places with Armstrong to sing "All By Myself."
After a faithful cover of the Who's "My Generation," Green Day pulled fans onstage to play their instruments, and Armstrong led the new band christened Jesus Christ Supermarket through the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop," though one unlucky invitee was dragged offstage by security.
Green Day goofed around with the crowd and played for nearly an hour and a half, running through a handful of tunes from Warning as well as older favorites such as "Christie Road" and "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" Their most appropriate number for the day's theme, however, was a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi".
"Don't it always seem to go/ That
you don't know what you've got till it's gone?/ They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."