By Matt Wardlaw
Ultimate Classic Rock
Here are two exclusive previews from The US Festival 1982, a new feature-length documentary that has been in the works for the past four years. Watch a clip featuring Fleetwood Mac above, and another with the Police below – then find out how you can help complete this important project.
Set for release in 2017, the film will tell the story behind the US Festival, one of the most legendary and innovative music events. The US Festival 1982 promises extensive video of the crowd experience and interviews captured that weekend, combined with new comments from artists and event organizers. The original audio and video has been remastered, and all of the new interviews were shot in high definition.
However, there is still work to do. Director Glenn Aveni recently launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to help generate the necessary funds to finish things up – and according to Aveni, they’re in the home stretch. “In our case with this film, we have been working on it for a while, and so we are pretty far along,” he says. “The B-roll footage – music, crowds, etc. – is all in place. The interviews are done. Some of the music is cleared, and the rest (that we want to use) is all negotiated and priced – both with the artists and with the relevant labels.”
Since access to a time machine seems unlikely at the moment, we can all be grateful that the US Festival sprang to life thanks to music fan Steve Wozniak, who also had a huge interest (and highly influential hand) in technology. That meant the festival was well-documented on audio and video.
As a co-founder of Apple Computers with Steve Jobs, Wozniak (“Woz” to those who knew him beyond a handshake) had made enough money to have a lot of fun. He decided to use his good financial fortune to throw a big party that would bring people together, using music as one of the common threads and bonds. A company, UNOSON (an abbreviation for “Unite Us In Song”), was created to produce the giant three-day outdoor concert that he envisioned.
Woz knew that what he was planning would take an army – he eventually would employ over 4,000 people, most of them hired locally – and together they built what is to this day the largest outdoor music venue – from scratch. He was no concert promoter, so he brought in the concert promoter, Bill Graham, to produce the event. Working with Graham was, of course, an experience that left Woz and all involved with a lot of colorful stories.
“The Kinks had a contractual obligation to go on at a specified time, but decided they wanted to take the stage at dusk to benefit from the stage lighting,” Aveni recalls. “Bill Graham was notorious for running shows like a military operation. He cajoled, pleaded, even threatened the Kinks to take the stage at the prearranged time, only to be rebuffed.”
Then Graham remembered seeing Kinks manager Elliott Abbott pull up backstage in a new Mercedes coupe, so Graham instructed one of his crew to lift Abbott’s car on a forklift and drive it over to the edge of the man-made lake just behind the stage. Graham now commanded the Kinks to perform as scheduled, “or the Mercedes goes into the lake!” The Kinks took the stage. In retaliation, however, Abbott would not allow the Kinks to be filmed, therefore there is no footage of the Kinks in this film – or anywhere else. In hindsight, Dave and Ray Davies have said they regret that this performance was not filmed.
A sea of more than 400,000 music fans came to San Bernardino, Calif., to camp out and have a good time with an incredible lineup of performers spread across three days. The Police, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Grateful Dead and Talking Heads were among the heavy hitters on the bill.
With the temperatures leaping past the 100 degree mark, fans were grateful for the advance planning that the organizers had put in. The event featured water cannons, misting stations (now common, they made their debut here) and 150,000 US Festival-branded water bottles that went a long way toward keeping festival goers hydrated.
The stage was as innovative as it was massive. It sprawled to the size of a football field, with 400,000 watts of power. Giant video screens were installed – the first of their kind, they were visible during the day – and organizers also employed digital delay in another pioneering move that improved sound in the back. A satellite uplink sent the musical experience all the way to Russia, something that few believed that Wozniak could pull off.
Appropriately, five air-conditioned tents housed a technology expo with the latest software, video games and computers. There were showers, shade tents and plenty of portable toilets. In short, Woz made sure that everything that anybody might possibly need to have fun and not have to worry about anything, was present and accounted for.
“We heard that there were all kinds of new techniques – hydration systems for the audience, all of these new techniques – so that it would be the opposite of Woodstock,” drummer Stewart Copeland of the Police recalls in this exclusive clip from the film. “Instead of it being a disaster, it would be a noble enterprise where everybody came out feeling better than they went in.”
And Wozniak, for all of the money he sank into the festival in 1982 (and the subsequent sequel in 1983), called it a bargain. “I paid to see a million smiles,” he said.
Find out more information and how to contribute to the Kickstarter via this link. There is also an official Facebook page for The US Festival 1982, where you’ll find news updates and additional items related to the film.
According to the Kickstarter description, the film will run over 100 minutes with 40 percent of the running time devoted to live performances. There are no shortage of incentives available for fans who want to help support the film. They can purchase a copy of The US Festival 1982 on DVD and Blu-ray and also as a digital download. There are replica event t-shirts available (just in case your own original has seen better days) and for the high rollers, if you want to contribute $10,000, they’ll let you suggest your own list of incentive demands.
Ultimate Classic Rock