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Joe Biden parties with Gavin Newsom, Steve Kerr and Gwen Stefani in San Francisco

Gwen Stefani performed at President Joe Biden’s APEC party outside of the Exploratorium on Wednesday night in San Francisco.
Gwen Stefani performed outside of the Exploratorium in San Francisco for President Joe Biden’s APEC party on Wednesday night. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s most prominent California leaders mingled with some of San Francisco’s most famous sports and tech figures Wednesday at a party at the Exploratorium to celebrate this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The party featured a dizzying array of food stations and open bars in between optical illusion exhibits, and Gwen Stefani performed some of her biggest hits on an outdoor stage at Pier 15 before a massive fireworks show lit up the sky over the bay.

Gwen Stefani appears on stage at Pier 15 as the musical headliner at President Joe Biden's APEC reception on Wednesday. | Justin Katigbak/The Standard | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr introduced Biden, and more than a dozen leaders of APEC’s member economies, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made a late appearance while sitting on an elevated seating area next to the venue’s main indoor stage.

“It’s a real honor to welcome all my leaders to the United States,” said Biden, whose remarks were preceded by speeches from San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Biden called Newsom “one hell of a governor,” adding that one day the California statesman could have the job “I’m looking for.” Biden also thanked Breed and then recounted his meeting earlier in the day with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was not present at the evening reception.

Gov. Gavin Newson gives a speech at a podium during President Joe Biden welcome party during APEC week.
Gov. Gavin Newson delivers opening remarks Wednesday at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for President Joe Biden’s welcome party during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation week. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The San Francisco Standard/POOL

READ MORE: Forget Boring, Exclusive APEC Meetings. Here’s Where the Fun Parties Will Be in San Francisco

Tech execs in attendance included Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Y Combinator’s CEO Garry Tan and Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen, all of whom have become deeply involved in San Francisco’s political scene, as well as Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Others in attendance at the event included Sam Altman of OpenAI, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Biden’s climate envoy, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, San Francisco City Attorney Dave Chiu, U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.

Dozens of protesters gathered Wednesday evening ahead of the reception. Leading up to the event, chants of “cease-fire now” rang out just beyond the security gate, and police formed a line in case protesters tried to rush the entrance

Police restrain a protester on the ground.
Toby Blome was one of several people apparently arrested Wednesday outside the Exploratorium event, where President Joe Biden hosted a party for APEC. Blome chanted, “Don’t go in; stand with Gaza,” while police restrained her. | Source: Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

It appeared multiple protesters were taken into custody after lying down to block the entrance.

Meanwhile, hundreds of guests gathered in the neon-lit confines of the Exploratorium, where Democratic Party leaders and some of San Francisco’s most famous tech entrepreneurs sipped drinks and ate from numerous food stations that featured tamales, clam chowder, Thai green curry, shrimp cocktails, roast tenderloin, cheese platters and an ice cream sundae bar with sprinkles.

Other notable local officials in attendance included San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and state Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Campbell.

RELATED: Anti-APEC, Anti-China Protesters Block Traffic on San Francisco Streets

As the Commanders Jazz Ensemble played to a packed house in the back of the venue waiting for the main musical performance, Breed took the stage to welcome guests to San Francisco. 

“The world matters to this city, and this city matters to the world,” she declared. 

Newsom came on next to deliver remarks, joking that Breed stole his speech. He championed California as the state most synonymous with the American dream and championed the cooperation of member economies at APEC. 

“I think that’s really the spirit of this week, the commonwealth, that we’re all better off when we’re better off,” Newsom said. 

The vice president went on stage next and noted the Indo-Pacific is “critical to the prosperity of the American people.”

Harris recounted attending APEC in Bangkok last year but said she could think of no better place for the summit than the San Francisco Bay Area, an area she has called home much of her life as an Oakland native and former district attorney in San Francisco. 

“It’s good to be home,” Harris said to cheers. 

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a speech at a podium during APEC week for President Joe Biden's welcome party.
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a speech at the Exploratorium during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation week for President Joe Biden’s welcome party in San Francisco on Wednesday. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The San Francisco Standard/POOL

She added, “Together, through APEC, we can … unlock industries of the future and make sure all people prosper.” 

Kerr, of the Warriors, and two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and U.S. soccer star Brandi Chastain appeared in a video with Breed in which they welcomed APEC visitors and shared advice about member economies working together as a team. 

Kerr then appeared onstage in person and introduced Biden. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr welcomes President Joe Biden to the stage at his welcome party during APEC week.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr delivers a speech and introduces President Joe Biden on Wednesday at the Exploratorium for Biden’s welcome party during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation week in San Francisco. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The San Francisco Standard/POOL

Biden said he showed Xi a picture from three decades ago of the Chinese president standing on the Golden Gate Bridge. Biden said Xi told him, “I like that picture.”

Biden then called out to Pelosi, calling her the greatest Speaker of the House in American history. 

“The challenges before us today are unlike previous challenges of APEC,” Biden said, noting the threats of the pandemic, wars and supply-chain issues. 

“Thank you all for being here, and welcome to San Francisco,” Biden said. 

After foreign leaders gave him a standing ovation, guests were directed outside to see Stefani perform in a sparkly silver shirt and black sequined pantsuit, kicking off her set with the song “The Sweet Escape,” before performing “Hollaback Girl” and “Don’t Speak.”

The star-studded evening ended with a massive fireworks show fit for the biggest international event to come to San Francisco in almost 80 years.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the title of Gwen Stefani’s song “The Sweet Escape.”