Firefighters shared the spotlight with rock stars and sports heroes Thursday night when 40,000 people jammed San Francisco’s AT&T Park to raise money to help victims of last month’s North Bay wildfires.
“It was hard to watch those fires from anywhere and not be able to do something about it,” singer and guitarist Dave Matthews said from the stage of the Band Together Bay Area benefit concert, sharing his reaction in watching television coverage of the disaster.
With a show that starred East Bay-based heavy metal megastars Metallica and Dead & Company, including Occidental drummer Mickey Hart, the San Francisco nonprofit Tipping Point Company set out to do something big.
Even before the show started, nearly 50 corporate sponsors had raised $9 million for North Bay fire relief efforts, with the tally from the concert itself boosting the total to an estimated $15 million so far.
“I’m probably here more for the cause than anything,” said concert-goer Bill Johnston, 53, of Greenbrae. “I applaud the bands for doing this.”
Fire victims and first responders got free tickets and were on hand in force.
Different performers supported the cause in different ways. Outraged by President Donald Trump’s relative silence on the subject of the fires — he promised to “stand with” Californians after the disaster — Oakland rapper G-Eazy led the crowd in an anti-Trump chant.
Oakland singer-songwriter Raphael Saddiq opened the five-hour musical program with a rhythm-and-blues set, followed by the rapid, raucous punk rock of Berkeley’s Rancid.
But there was much more than music to the evening. Sports celebrities including 49ers legend Joe Montana and Giants stars Buster Posey and ex-slugger Barry Bonds took the stage to praise first responders and relief workers.
One Coffey Park family got a moment in the spotlight for knocking on doors and rousing their neighbors as flames approached in the early hours of the firestorm.
It destroyed the neighborhood and leveled more than 5,100 homes across Sonoma County.
The dual purpose of the event was evident even in the T-shirts concert-goers wore. Some said “Metallica” and some said “The Love in the Air Is Thicker Than the Smoke.”
Tipping Point’s fire relief fund will address urgent needs including food, temporary housing, education and healthcare, as well as rebuilding, in fire-ravaged communities, through foundations, service providers and governments.
“It’s a good cause and I love Metallica,” said Larkspar fan Sean Saylor, 49.
The crowd loved it all, pressing the stage and swaying to an extended jam version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” by Dead & Company, as well as Grateful Dead favorites.
Video screens play taped well wishes from actors Ben Stiller, comedian Chris Rock, musician Bonnie Raitt, Bay Area band Green Day and many others.There were somber moments throughout, including a hushed video tribute that listed the names of those who died in the fires.
By the end of the night, though the weekday crowd had established a festive mood, as Metallica closed with its trademark thunderous beats, bringing the audience to its feet.