I went to Metallica’s secret show at a small San Francisco place Thursday night

I went to Metallica’s secret show at a small San Francisco place Thursday night

Metallica welcomed a pumped, ready-to-mosh crowd of 500 people at the Independent in San Francisco on Thursday night for a two-hour set of thrashing speed metal that marked the band’s first live appearance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was a rare chance to see a stadium band with strong SF bands in a small, intimate place, and the energy level among the musicians and fans was through the roof.

“Are you with us?” Metallica frontman James Hetfield shouted with a big, slightly hurt smile. “Hey, hey! Beautiful to see you.”

“You have a lot of song to catch up on,” Hetfield, 58, added later. “Finally, we are here not to spread COVID. We are here to spread joy.”

Metallica fans are waiting to attend a sold-out show at the Independent on September 16, 2021.

Amy Graff / SFGATE

The surprise show was announced on Thursday Social Media, and fans received text messages warning them that tickets would be sold that afternoon for $ 20 at the Independent Ticket Office. All you had to do was bring cash, your ID, proof of vaccination and be among the first few hundred in the queue to get a ticket.

“I can not believe I’m going to see Metallica with 500 other people,” said Sam Featherston, who was among the lucky ones to get a ticket and stood in line to get inside the venue before sold out show. “I was crazy.”

Hit Lewis was also in line. Lewis was at home working when he received the text. His wife was scheduled to go to the chiropractor appointment, he said, but canceled to stay home and see the kids so Lewis could hurry over to the Independent. “She knows how much I like the band,” said Lewis, grandson of Funk musician George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic. Lewis plays guitar in Parliament-Funkadelic and has his own band, Gods Weapon.

I got a ticket through a friend with connections to the band. Metallica was part of the soundtrack from my high school days, “Enter Sandman” blew up for parties before track meetings and in the hits my friends drove. I was not a mega-fan. I left it to my friend Liz, who once wrote a love letter to Hetfield and also sat in the second row of a Shoreline show in the 1990s, making it to the side stage to get her jean jacket signed by former bassist Jason Newsted.

Metallica frontman James Hetfield will appear on a sold-out show at the Independent on September 16, 2021.

Metallica frontman James Hetfield will appear on a sold-out show at the Independent on September 16, 2021.

Amy Graff / SFGATE

I did not discover Metallica’s brilliance until adulthood when a friend invited me to one of their 30th anniversary shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore in 2011. I had always thought that Metallica’s lyrics conveyed rage, madness, and chaos geared toward teens, but it night I connected it as a mother. “This music captures the pain of birth and agitation in toddlers’ tantrums,” I thought. The deliberately loud music characterized by bone-chilling guitar riffs was sweaty and strenuous, complicated and intricate. I was back at Fillmore the next night for another show (there were four in total) and continued to see them at major venues.

Metallica announced a secret show in the Independent on September 16, 2021.

Metallica announced a secret show in the Independent on September 16, 2021.

Amy Graff / SFGATE

Thursday night’s sold-out show started with an opera and the emotionally charged “The Ecstasy of Gold” from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” which played over the speaker and signaled the crowd to move toward the stage.

Black-clad, tattooed Square-Marin local and drummer Lars Ulrich, SF-born guitarist Kirk Hammett and Santa Monica-born bassist Robert Trujillo, along with Hetfield stepped on stage and fans roared, a cathartic release of energy amid a brutal, but hopefully declining pandemic.


The band launched in “Whiplash,” a song from their first full-length album, “Kill ‘Em All.” The hyper-fast guitar playing set the audience in motion, mosh pit took over almost the entire club floor, which is no bigger than a high school.

Metallica have never opened a show with “Whiplash”, according to Setlist.fm, and this was the start of a 16-track set list featuring a few “Black Album” favorites as well as surprises with classics like “Creeping Death” and “One “and some deep-cut tracks like” No Leaf Clover “and” Holier than Thou. “

“Let’s see if you remember,” Hetfield shouted, starting in a melancholy and whirling “The Memory Remains,” which brought the mosh-pit to a halt and made everyone sing.

For the encore, the band barrels through a trio of head-pounding favorites: “Battery,” “Fuel” and “Seek & Destroy.”

Did Metallica deliver?

Miguel Ortega, who scored tickets with two friends on Thursday, said the band met the moment.

“Probably the show that was going to happen after 2 years,” Ortega wrote in an email. “The small place, short notice and the hunt for bracelets made it all worth it, total old school atmosphere … Best show in a long time and will go down in SF history after the pandemic.”

Robb Grimes also gave it two thumbs up.

“The whole crowd was at cloud nine, no one woke up that morning and had no idea they were going to a Metallica show that night,” Grimes shared with SFGATE. “There was definitely something magical about the spontaneity being there. And that it was Metallica’s first concert since before COVID, I think I did it especially for them too.”

If there was another show tonight and I had a ticket, I would go.

Metallica plays the Chase Center in San Francisco on December 17th and 19th.

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