Saturday, May 24, 2008

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.

Stevie's set that night consisted of an assortment of tunes from Fleetwood Mac along with new stuff that hadn't even been released yet, namely Stand Back.

Here's a link to download the first song she performed that night. Gold Dust Woman. AVI File size is 58mb.

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