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San Francisco concerts that changed the nation.

 BY: COLLIN BRENNAN | 9.4.2015 |

Originally this article by Collin Brennan had 5 concerts listed, I have added a couple more.

San Francisco concerts have long reflected the music of the times, but the inverse is also true: time and time again, music has revolved around whatever’s going on in San Francisco. This was most apparent in the 1960s, when bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane turned the hippie counterculture into the city’s greatest export. Five decades later, we can look back and identify five concerts that changed American music forever—an inventory of five San Francisco nights that defined San Francisco nightlife.

 

The Beatles at Candlestick Park    
August 29, 1966
The San Francisco concert was their last
beatles

Nobody but the Beatles knew that this show at chilly Candlestick Park would be their last live concert performance ever. If it had been announced ahead of time, the Fab Four might have sold the place out. Instead, large swaths of seats were left unsold for the final date of their fourth and final North American tour. It was a strangely low-key farewell for the most popular rock band of all time, who occasionally paused their 11-song set to snap pictures with a camera they had brought on stage. It was the end of an era in many ways, and it paved the way for the decade’s latter half and the Summer of Love, which would take shape in San Francisco less than a year later.

 

The Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park
January 14, 1967
human

The Summer of Love actually started with this mid-winter event at Golden Gate Park, just a stone’s throw from the Haight-Ashbury district that would soon become synonymous with the counterculture. Inspired by sit-ins taking place at lunch counters, colleges, and universities across the country during the early 1960s, the Human Be-In was perhaps the first focused expression of the hippie movement. California had recently passed a law banning LSD, and everyone from poet Allen Ginsberg to psychologist Timothy Leary showed up to encourage a crowd of thousands to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Of course, no celebration of hippiedom would be complete without bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, both of whom found their way onto the bill.

 

Aretha Franklin at Fillmore West
March 5–7, 1971
aretha

Though people tend to associate San Francisco with the hippie counterculture, the city has long been a haven for jazz and soul. From Jelly Roll Morton to John Coltrane, musicians would flock to play the clubs on Fillmore Street, and their hundreds of legendary concerts exist now only in memory. This is not the case with Aretha Franklin’s three-night set at Fillmore West, which eventually became one of the best live albums of its era. The Queen of Soul dove right in with her hit song “Respect,” but she filled out her set with such hippie standbys as the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” In doing so, she bridged the gap between the counterculture and modern American soul in a way that few singers had ever attempted.

 

The Band at Winterland Ballroom
November 25, 1976

Another San Francisco concert that’s been immortalized for new generations to enjoy, the Band’s farewell show at Winterland Ballroom is considered one of the greatest concerts, period. Martin Scorsese‘s documentary film The Last Waltz captured the Band in all their fading glory, but they weren’t the only ones to take the stage that night. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Staples Singers, and Van Morrison were among the special guests on hand, making this arguably the most star-studded affair in San Francisco’s history.

 

The Sex Pistols at Winterland Ballroom
This San Francisco concert was their last
January 14, 1978

sexp
The Sex Pistols, one of the most influential rock bands ever, the biggest punk act to come out of England, played their biggest concert, and their last show at Winterland in SF. In just a few months Winterland would be closed and demolished, Sid Vicious would be dead in about a year, and by 1979 punk was exploding around the world, although many will say that punk died on this night in SF.
The two week tour in America, was plagued by poor planning and predictably violent reactions, the group’s bass player, Sid Vicious, paved the way toward a whole new level of decadence. During the band’s engagement in Memphis early in the tour, Vicious, now addicted to heroin, went in search of a connection and was later found in a local hospital with the words “Gimme a fix” carved into his chest with a razor. He engaged in numerous fights both on and off stage, sustaining numerous other injuries as the tour progressed.
The tour eventually culminated in the high profile gig in San Francisco, where concert promoter Bill Graham convinced McLaren that the band was popular enough to play Winterland, dwarfing any performance the band had previously attempted by far. This now legendary concert, the biggest of the group’s career, would also turn out to be the Sex Pistols‘ last. Headlining a triple bill that included local punk bands the Nuns (featuring a young Alejandro Escovedo) and the Avengers (featuring a young Penelope Houston), this night would prove to be an extraordinary theatrical event and the Sex Pistols’ final gig before a sold-out audience of 5000. Due to local demand, the Sex Pistols set was also simulcast on KSAN radio, where it would be heard live by thousands of additional listeners and would soon circulate far and wide, becoming the most ubiquitous bootleg recording of the group.
Evaluating this Sex Pistols’ performance in terms of music is a relatively pointless exercise, as the band had no desire to please the audience in terms of music, nor could they even play well in any traditional sense. The performance, devoid of pacing, range, tempo, or melody, is instead an onslaught of rage, rebellion, and release, which is relentlessly ragged throughout the set
At first it appeared the band would not do an encore,  but amidst roars for more, the Pistols return to the stage and launch into a cover of the Stooges‘ “No Fun.” This eventually culminates with Rotten hunched on the stage, screaming “No Fun!” over and over. The song comes to an abrupt halt and in his most insinuating manner, Rotten poses the question that has by now become infamous, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” before smirking a final “Goodnight” and the band leaving the debris-strewn stage… for good.
Whether you loved them or hated them , the Sex Pistols created one of the great paradigm shifts in modern music, forever changing the landscape of the music industry.

avengers band 001

 

Metallica at The Stone
March 5, 1983

Who knew that the future of heavy metal would be born on a spring night in San Francisco? Metallica had already made a name for themselves as thrashers whose live show took no prisoners, but this date at The Stone felt different. For starters, it was their first show with new bassist Cliff Burton, who would eventually go down as the greatest metal bassist of all time. It was a prelude of what was to come later that summer on Kill ‘Em All, one of the fastest and heaviest albums in history. And—like many of the best moments in American music history—it all started on a sweaty stage in San Francisco.

Rock Against Reagan San Francisco Concerts and Demonstrations
Democratic National Convention
July 1984

The 1984 National Democratic Convention in San Francisco saw some unusual characters outside the building where the members of the party met. Among the large crowd assembled for demonstrations and marches, a man dressed as “a lobster confessed to one of the local papers that his costume was impractical for a march. ‘It’s more for standing in place and doing a little break dancing. It’s hard to be a lobster these days in the city.’” This crustacean would be one of numerous people dressed up for an “All Species parade”. Others joined the all species costumes with outfits such as “a bunch of transvestites in nun costumes [who] performed an exorcism of [the evangelical Southern Baptist pastor and televangelist] Jerry Falwell.” Along with all of these people expressing their concerns towards the America around them; the streets around the convention center in San Francisco also included “a seven-hour punk rock concert, ‘Rock against Reagan,’ featuring such artists as The Dead Kennedys.

July-1984-stage-diver-at-rock-against-racism-concert-in-front-of-Democratic-Convention

Stage diver at RAR across from Moscone Center, in what was then a vacant lot. The buildings that encircled the lot all had military personel with machine guns watching us all the time

The first presidential term of Ronald Reagan was coming to an end and in hope to prevent another term, the Youth International Party, known as the Yippies, from New York City created the “Rock Against Reagan” (RAR) tour. The group toured all across the United States from 1983-1984, leading up to the presidential election. The shows featured some of the most popular punk bands of the era including: The Dead Kennedys from San Francisco, the young trio from San Pedro, California known as the Minutemen, the Crucifucks from Lansing, Michigan, the Dicks and Millions of Dead Cops from Austin, Texas, and Reagan Youth―whose name played off of Hitler’s Youth―from New York. The tour had more than just free shows to see some of the biggest acts in punk rock, however. RAR also registered voters, presented informative films on topics such as American imperialism, political speakers, and even comedy; with the later to come popular comedian Whoopi Goldberg performing during the tour’s 1983 show at Dolores Park in San Francisco.2 As one tour spokesman shared with a Florida newspaper, the shows were also to generate “proceeds from accompanying T-shirt and art sales . . . to be used for the cause.” The “cause” in question was simple: prevent another four years of the Reagan administration.

It may have been in San Francisco, at the Democratic National Convention in July of 1984, where the punk movement reached the apex of political engagement. As the convention met opposition from numerous left wing groups outside; inside according to the title of an editorial “wasn’t a circus, but was one great show.”  If inside the convention was not a “circus” surely the show outside was. Peaceful protests went on throughout the week of the convention, however, July 19th marked a police crackdown on the crowds that amassed on San Francisco’s streets.

The day started with a march, “held by a marijuana group and members of a coalition called the War Chest, which was protesting [military-industry] business dealings of top Democratic Party leaders.” As these peaceful protesters reached closer to the convention center, they were met by police and “booked for investigation of obstructing traffic.” These criminal charges, however, were claimed to be faulty with demonstrators pleading that, “they were forced to block the street when police herded them into groups.” Hearing the calls of injustice, a “second protest march was hastily arranged to demand release of the first demonstrators and was announced at [the] ‘Rock Against Reagan’ punk music concert outside the convention hall.” As the protesting march reached upwards to five-hundred people, the crowd began marching several blocks to the Hall of Justice where the protesters from the earlier march were being held. “Chanting ‘No KKK, No Fascist USA’”―the popular slogan for demonstrators the week of the convention―and being accompanied by a “papier-mache Trojan donkey colored green and brown like Army Fatigues.” The marchers were met by a force of one hundred police officers. “Within minutes, Police Capt. Richard Shippy declared over a bullhorn that the rally was an unlawful assembly and ordered [the protesters] . . . to disperse.” By the end of the second march 369 people total had been arrested. Billy Nessen, a twenty- seven-year-old who partook in the event, was quoted saying: “There was no order to disperse.” He added that the purpose was to protest the connection between several corporations and the De[m]ocratic Party, the war machine, and South Africa.”

Police-pressure-Salvador-demonstrators-at-Hilton Polbhem1$trojan-donkey Polbhem1$wartoys-1984-war-chest-tour Polbhem1$no-more-hiroshimas-1984-wct Polbhem1$eowf-banner Polbhem1$eowf-handbill  Cops-pepper-spraying-protestors-at-anti-Gulf-War-demo-1981-downtown-SF-by-Keith-HolmesMounted-police-against-Salvador-demo-w-anti-Kissinger-sign

The outcome of the protests in San Francisco triggered an alarm for the Republicans who held their convention in Dallas the following month. Dallas prepared for a large assembly of protesters by bringing in extra law enforcement and clearing out the city’s jails. The Dead Kennedys were coming to the town where John F. Kennedy himself was assassinated! Escorting the band would be the “Rock Against Reagan” show and hundreds if not thousands of protesting punks. In addition, there were also concerns over how the pro-Reagan supporters and anti-Reagan demonstrators would interact during the week of the convention.

Republican National Convention, Dallas
The outcome of the demonstrations outside the DNC in San Francisco resulted in a large amount of arrests, but punks had been noticed by the media. Police had harassed the protestors the whole week leading up to the convention but they did not divide their spirit. The rallying of punks to join with others towards a common cause stirred up the sense that something positive may in fact come from their effort. Demonstrating against the Democratic Party’s growing connections with the military industrial complex was one thing, but they were not the head of the beast. It was the Republicans―and more importantly to the cultural rebellion of punk, Ronald Reagan―that was the prized target. Yet although the punk community showed hype towards the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC) in Dallas, obstacles of counter-protests would prevent the same commotion that RAR stirred in San Francisco.

Before MRR even published a full story on the outcome of the events at the DNC in San Francisco, their July 1984 issue was already informing punks of the upcoming RAR show and demonstrations the following month in Dallas.

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