To the west, tens of thousands were marching in an anti-Iraq war rally. To the east, tens of thousands more were rocking to the beats of the second annual Loveparade San Francisco, a celebration of electronic music in which 24 floats loaded with hundreds of DJs meandered toward the city's Civic Center.
It was a good day to be in San Francisco if you were interested in peace or the celebration of good spirit and dance music.
As the Loveparade made its way west on Market, the sidewalks and even the street were jammed with people dancing. I saw colorful costumes everywhere, with people in full-body rabbit suits on one side of the street, and others with giant fish heads on the opposite side. A well-decked-out family of three--including a young child with a far better-looking outfit than mine--greeted me smack dab in the middle of the street.
Throughout it all, the DJs played, the riders on the floats rocked out, and everyone on board or on the pavement took advantage of the rare opportunity to move freely and safely in the middle of the city's busiest street.
After a couple of hours, we all arrived in Civic Center. Slowly, the floats began to arrange themselves along the sides of the giant plaza. Directly in front of City Hall, there were supposed to be four floats. But as the occupants of the first float in the parade, the Space Cowboys also arranged themselves--and their Unimog assault vehicle--there. One event organizer tried to get the Space Cowboys to move, but the dancers were having none of it.
And good thing: The Space Cowboys are some seriously great DJs, and the massive crowd that gathered to dance furiously all around the Unimog knew it.
For hours, Civic Center filled with people until the areas in front of each of the 24 floats were packed with revelers. And despite the presence of ample alcohol and very little space in which to move around, the crowd's behavior couldn't have been better. Everyone was smiling and dancing, and even the few police officers on hand seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Inside City Hall, a VIP party was under way. The best part of that was when the Mutaytor, a 30-piece "part hip-grinding techno/retro-funk, part audience-interactive post-modern circus" from Los Angeles, began to play at the top of the marble steps of City Hall's fabulous rotunda. Before long, dozens of us were dancing like mad on the stairs themselves as the Mutaytor banged away on their drums and led us through a transformation from spectators to participants.
The Loveparade, which originated in Berlin in 1989, first came to San Francisco last year. The event has taken place in six countries, including Israel, Mexico and South Africa. But the Berlin parade was canceled this year because organizers were unable to reach an agreement with the city on how to hold the event.
In any case, even at 9 p.m. Saturday, thousands of people were still dancing hard to the DJ music throughout San Francisco's Civic Center. And even when organizers began announcing that the event was officially over, the dancers didn't despair. That's because, befitting an event celebrating electronic music, there were scheduled to be after-parties scattered all over San Francisco that would continue rocking well into the early hours of Sunday.