‘We can’t sit idly by,” San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer said last October as fires ravaged the North Bay.
While the fires were still burning, he and a group of community leaders met to plan a fundraising event.
Rabbi Ryan Bauer of San Francisco’s Temple Emmanu-El hosted the meeting. Also present were Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a platform for cloud-based sales and marketing services, and Daniel Lurie, founder and CEO of Tipping Point Community, an anti-poverty group that has raised more than $150 million for housing, education and disaster relief since it was founded in 2005. Both agreed to take lead roles.
Benioff mentioned that his company had a private concert coming up “a week from Tuesday” at AT&T Park for attendees of its Dreamforce conference, and that the staging would be in place. If top Bay Area musicians would agree to perform at a benefit concert, they’d have a place to play.
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich dialed in on a conference line to say the band was all in, and soon Dead & Company members cleared their schedules.
The Band Together benefit was born, with more than $31 million raised so far through concerts, other events and direct donations.
“Once Metallica said they were in (for the first concert), it was kind of off to the races,” Lurie said. “That kind of opened the floodgates.”
Metallica was followed by musicians Dave Matthews, G-Eazy, Raphael Saadiq and Rancid, who performed Nov. 9 for a crowd of 40,000 and raised $17 million for North Bay fire relief.
A concert was the ideal fundraiser because “you need a galvanizing event,” Baer said. “Nobody needs to be persuaded about the North Bay fires, but if you create something for everybody, with social media, there becomes a buzz; two plus two can equal five.”
The evening was much more than just a typical concert. About 7,000 free tickets were distributed to firefighters, 911 operators and other first responders. There also was free admission for fire victims, including many who had lost their homes.
“That front section closest to the stage was reserved for them,” Tipping Point’s Lurie said.
Community leaders and first responders were honored onstage by the musicians and sports legends including Buster Posey and Barry Bonds. Santa Rosa Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Westrope lost his Larkfield home near Sutter Hospital to fire as he fought relentlessly to save the homes of others. He and his 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son were invited to attend the first Band Together concert.
“It was a really good opportunity for us, the public safety professionals who were there, to get out of town and let our hair down and just be human again,” Westrope said. “It was good for the public safety community for their healing process.”
But the highlight was getting to meet Metallica.
“I’ve been a lifelong fan of that band,” Westrope said, and his children have grown up listening to their music. The kids, he said, “understood how special it was.”
Westrope said the band members “really cared and wanted to hear our story and how we were doing. It was very heartfelt. You could tell they really wanted to be there and wanted to help the community. They were salt of the Earth.”
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