Few, if any, active American rock bands hold the global influence that Metallica has. From releasing heavy metal signatures like 1985’s Master of Puppets to completely taking over the international airwaves with 1991’s The Black Album, the Bay Area thrash pioneers undoubtedly changed the outcome of not only hard rock, but music as a whole, as their impact is heard even today. More than three decades into its prolific, best-selling career, the band seeks to use their clout in order to create positive change, resulting in the creation of The All Within My Hands Foundation, which launched in February 2017.
Metallica christened All Within My Hands on Saturday with a rare acoustic set and silent auction at The Masonic, with band memorabilia and unique meet-and-greet experiences up for bid among other items up, and all proceeds went to the foundation.
“I’m really stoked to be finding if I’m giving a surfing lesson or guitar lesson,” lead guitarist Kirk Hammett tells SF Weekly the afternoon before the event.
“It’s something that we have created as a platform to help people in other ways than just our music,” Hammett says of the foundation’s mission, which is dedicated to supporting workforce education, the fight against hunger, and critical services in the communities the band has toured in, domestically and internationally.
The foundation’s inception was spurred when the band met Dr. Edward H. Frank, a businessman, and philanthropist who, Hammett says, “has been tremendously instrumental in many different ways.
“The seed was already there,” Hammett continues, “but once he came into the picture it became a lot more clear that this is the guy who could help us realize this whole thing.”
The foundation has already begun collaborating with local charities over the past year, focusing on education and food relief.
“After a while, you get a perspective of how bad the hunger problem is in America, it’s pretty bad.” Hammett continues, “And it doesn’t get enough attention.” Hammett recollects a recent experience in Madison, Wis., saying, “This one food bank had to cover something like 800 miles of farmland delivering meals to people.”
The hunger epidemic is prevalent abroad too, as Hammett explains, “Every major city in Europe is different, just like it is here in America, but they’re always confronted with the same problems, which is finding out who needs food.”
All Within My Hands has recently joined forces with The American Association of Community Colleges to help schools around the country in crucial need of economic support.
“The most efficient way for us to help them is to support their workforce education to help stabilize their local economies,” Hammett explains, “The plan is we’re going to select 10 community colleges in the first year, and we are going to distribute roughly $1 million evenly across them.”
Hammett, who briefly attended community college in Richmond before transferring to SF State, understands the importance of quality education, explaining, “Once you have an education under your belt, you come out a changed person. It just changes people in a very powerful way. We’re really trying to help people who are aspiring to do truly great things, and they just need that extra something to make it all possible.”
Saturday’s acoustic set was the first time Metallica has ever performed at The Masonic, as Hammett recalls, “The last time I was here I saw Loretta Lynn and Buck Owens.”
Hammett shares his recollection of the country outlaw’s onstage demeanor. “People were still coming in and opening the doors into the theater and Buck Owens was like ‘Hey! Can you guys like stop coming in? How would you guys like it if I came over into your house?’
“Anyways here’s the next song,” he adds. “And he was so loud! I couldn’t believe it. He could’ve played a chord and it would’ve parted my hair.”
Luckily, Metallica’s night at The Masonic went without any confrontation with the audience, performing thoughtfully constructed acoustic reinterpretations of their beloved covers like “Turn The Page,” deep cuts like Load’s “Bleeding Me,” and the expected hits like “Enter Sandman,” which managed to satisfy the headbangers in the crowd.
But the night’s unexpected highlight came from a brooding and dramatic rearrangement of “All Within My Hands,” the closing track off their polarizing 2003 album St. Anger and namesake of the band’s foundation, which retained the seething energy of the original but delivered in a beautifully restrained manner from James Hetfield, who sang throughout the night with equal amounts of subdued emotion and characteristically powerful howls.
The night was just the beginning for All Within My Hands, as Metallica plans to heavily involve the foundation on the upcoming leg of their tour.
The legendary thrash metal titans are no stranger to charitable activities, recently participating in last fall’s Band Together Bay Area relief concert for the North Bay fires, but Hammett says All Within My Hands “really is a way to circumvent our influence, and our means, to do a really positive thing.”
Check out the photos from All Within My Hands Benefit with Metallica and Cage the Elephant at The Masonic. Photos by Jamie Soja