OH, THE HAIRSTYLES WE ONCE ROCKED
Happy 25th US Festival! This Memorial Day weekend, one of the cornerstones of today's festival scene celebrates its silver anniversary. Flush with the first wave of personal computing fortunes, Apple's Steve Wozniak financed and played ringleader at two massive music festivals and technology expositions. The first took place over Labor Day weekend 1982 and included The Police, Gang of Four, The Ramones, The Cars, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac and a breakfast set by The Grateful Dead. Anyone who'd missed the inaugural bash wanted in the next year, which would sadly be the last US Festival.
Wozniak paid for the construction of a new open-air venue and state-of-the-art stage at Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino, California. Saturday, May 28, 1983 (New Wave Day) featured Oingo Boingo, Stray Cats, Divinyls, Wall of Voodoo, The English Beat, Men At Work, INXS and a headlining set from The Clash, which would be Mick Jones' last appearance with the band. Sunday, May 29 (Heavy Metal Day) featured Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Triumph, The Scorpions and was headlined by Van Halen, who received a then staggering $1.5 million to appear. Monday, May 30 (Rock Day) included Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, Los Lobos, Berlin, Quarterflash, U2, The Pretenders, Missing Persons, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks and headliner David Bowie. A separate Country Day followed the next weekend with Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams Jr., Emmylou Harris, Alabama, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson at the top of the bill.
Each weekend was attended by several hundred thousand people (estimates vary wildly but agree at least 300,000 folks showed up to the second US Festival) but were crushing financial disasters. Wozniak lost an estimated $20 million combined for the two events. Still, for those who participated it was unbelievably special and remarkably peaceful. The sheer audacity of the scale of everything was overwhelming and delightful, a shared piece of history that one felt unfolding right in the moment. For some, including JamBase's own Associate Editor (who left home without permission as an impressionable 15 year old to attend the second festival), it was the revelation of music's large-scale power to unite people and generate joy and thought and other good things, a tuneful justification for our long crawl from primordial oceans to monkey-hood and eventual Homosapien uprightness.
We offer y'all a few glimpses of what took place over that Memorial Day weekend 25 years ago. If you see Mr. Wozniak in the street, shake his hand. He contributed a powerful enzyme to live music and deserves our thanks.
Summer's here and the time is right for Diamond Dave to serve up something sticky and sweet for us to wrap our tongues around.
A young U2 tears into "New Year's Day" with the passion that would one day make them one of the biggest bands on the planet.
The Scorpions offer us "No One Like You," where singer Klaus Meine enters with a cowbell in hand! Just try not to sing along!
Under-appreciated new wavers Wall of Voodoo salute procrastination with "I'll Do It Tomorrow."
A relatively lucid Ozzy Osbourne dips into the Black Sabbath catalog for "Paranoid."
Canada's Rush Jr., Triumph tell us to "Fight The Good Fight," an Umphrey's McGee cover waiting to happen.
We conclude with a double shot from The Clash, a hypnotic reading of "Straight To Hell" and "Know Your Rights," which is unfortunately still eerily timely in 2008.
For more details on the history of the US Festivals check out this highly informative site.
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