In Concert Against AIDS

[Black And White Photo. L To R Bob Weir, Huey Lewis And Mickey Hart Seated Behind A Table At A Press Conference]

You read about it in the newspapers, you hear about it on television, maybe someone you know or love has been afflicted by it; or perhaps you've been lucky so far, if so, then count your blessings. Either way, AIDS is certainly no stranger to most of us by now. Often referred to as the "modern-day plague," it is a physically debilitating and emotionally devastating disease that knows no bounds, and just as quickly and as suddenly as it has permeated our environs, it has also spread in epidemic proportion.

Many people have distanced themselves from the disturbing reality of this disease, making themselves oblivious to the tremendous toll it is taking, not only on various segments of the population, but also on our individual communities and our society as a whole. The specter of AIDS is a haunting one that looms enormous and as such, it can no longer afford to be ignored or put off as someone else's responsibility.

Here in the Bay Area, which has been especially hard hit by the epidemic, local entertainers, sports celebrities, community organizations, health care providers, corporations and the media have responded to the critical nature of the situation by joining together in an unprecedented community effort to fight the spread of this crippling disease. The result of this ambitious undertaking is In Concert Against AIDS, a series of music, entertainment, and community events, most of which will take place during the week of May 21 through 28.

Eighteen months in the making, In Concert Against AIDS is sponsored by KRON-TV, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Graham Presents, Nocturne Productions, and Lucasfilm Ltd. Co-sponsors include Nordstrom and Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

Given the Bay Area's ethnic and cultural diversity, each event is geared to reach a different audience, and the series as a whole will be sustained by a variety of community-based and media-related activities. The primary purpose of In Concert is to raise awareness and promote AIDS education throughout the nine Bay Area counties as well as to raise money for the ongoing support and care of those already afflicted with the disease. Most importantly is its goal of uniting the entire Bay Area in its efforts to deal with the AIDS crisis.

At a recent press conference held in the historic Fillmore venue, Bill Graham emphasized the grass-roots nature of the project, "We want to make sure that this is a total community effort--relating to the Black community, the Latin community and the other ethnic communities. This is not just a week of rock and roll, it's a week of expressing through the musicians from these various ethnic communities that AIDS is a global issue. The hope is that these people will put aside their fear of AIDS and be encouraged to get involved."

The week-long series will begin on Sunday the 21st. While the Pickle Family Circus with special Star Wars guests The Ewoks and Darth Vader perform at the Palace of Fine Arts, Huey Lewis and the News will host a "kick-off" party and dinner show at Slim's that will serve food from the area's finest restaurants. Huey and his band will do two more shows at Slim's on the 22nd and the 23rd. Also on the 23rd, there will be a comedy night at the Warfield with host, comedian Bob Goldthwait, and on Sunday the 28th, immediately following the annual AIDS Remembrance Day Candlelight March, there will be a dance concert at the Gift Center, featuring Book of Love and guest deejays Page Hodel and Larry LaRue. On Monday the 29th, there will be an evening of Latin music with Linda Ronstadt, Pete Escovedo and other guests, also at the Gift Center.

The highlight of In Concert will be a star-studded show at the Oakland Coliseum on May 27, featuring celebrated Bay Area artists the Grateful Dead, John Fogerty, Joe Satriani, Tower of Power, Bay Area newcomer Tracy Chapman, Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir, and southern California neighbors, Los Lobos. Although nothing is confirmed yet, there is a good possibility that a few more artists will be added to the bill. Also on the 27th at Noon, the Bay Area is invited to join the "world's longest Conga Line" in San Francisco's Dolores Park. This event is produced in conjunction with MECA/Carnaval. At press time, the details of a rock show, a country music show and a rap/r&b show were still being worked out.

Tim McQuaid, organizer and Vice President of California AIDS Education and Support Foundation, the sponsoring organization for In Concert, shared his enthusiasm for the project "I don't believe there is any area in the world that has undertaken a series of events of this magnitude in such a focused period of time to raise funds and draw attention to AIDS. Being able to put all of these different concerts together provides a tremendous platform for creating awareness in the community. This will make a lot of people search deep within themselves to get in touch with how they feel about the whole AIDS thing. Hopefully there will be a lot of awareness going on."

For McQuaid, as for many of the artists who volunteered their time to this effort, AIDS is not a "gay" or "I.V. drug" issue but rather, a human issue -- one that involves the loss of human lives. "I've lost some friends to AIDS," confided Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. "For me, it's an emotional issue, something you feel frustrated about and would like to do something about. [AIDS] is still being treated like some sort of political issue rather than what it is -- a health issue. Maybe now people's attention will be called to this problem in terms of the seriousness it deserves."

Huey Lewis who was originally scheduled to perform with his band at the stadium show, but has since opted to headline his own shows, remains committed to the cause. "This is a cause that has been close to my and our hearts as a band. We started the HLN Center for Physicians' Training in Relation to AIDS, a couple of years ago and we're especially excited that the whole community has jumped in." As Huey noted, "It takes a lot of money to fight this disease and I think we're beginning to realize that [as artists] we do have this power. Now with all these people helping out I think we have an opportunity to raise some real money. The money will stay here in the Bay Area and will directly relate to the problem at hand. I do hasten to add that this is more than a consciousness issue." Those of you who already purchased tickets for the stadium show in the hopes of seeing Huey Lewis and the News needn't despair. As Bill Graham let on in a recent interview, the likelihood of Huey appearing at the show is fairly strong. "These guys like to hang out together and they love to rock out. Huey Lewis and [members of] the Grateful Dead have been hanging out together for years. I think that they will end up playing together after all."

As one of the main sponsors of In Concert, KRON-TV, in conjunction with Nocturne Productions will document the entire week of activities. Blending concert footage, celebrity interviews, AIDS education efforts and contribution requests, KRON will produce a six-hour broadcast/telethon that will air on June 17 and promises to be the "television event of the year."

In addition to the broadcast, KRON is working with the musicians and several local sports celebrities including members of the 49ers, the Oakland A's, the Golden State Warriors and the San Francisco Giants to produce a series of public service announcements about AIDS. Many of the sports celebrities are expected to attend the various events as special guests or emcees.

The California AIDS Education and Support Foundation expects to raise between $1.5 and $2 million from the stadium show alone and upwards of $750,000 from the telethon and the other related events. The proceeds from In Concert will remain in the Bay Area and be distributed through standard granting mechanisms in conjunction with Northern California Grantmakers and the Sierra Foundation. So far, thirty six AIDS-related service and educational organizations have been designated by the Foundation as beneficiaries of the proceeds. These organizations were selected on the basis of their outstanding work in the area of AIDS education and support, and collectively, will receive approximately 40% of the proceeds. The remainder will be made available to any Bay Area AIDS organizations providing education and direct services. Adds McQuaid, "We would like this to serve as a model for other communities in what needs to be done and I'm hoping it will catch on and grow outside the area."

Copyright 1989 Hot Ticket! Magazine