US Festival

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The US Festivals (US pronounced like the pronoun, not as initials) were two early 1980s music and culture festivals sponsored by Steve Wozniak, formerly of Apple Computer. The first was held Labor Day weekend in September 1982 and the second was Memorial Day weekend in May 1983. Wozniak paid for the bulldozing and construction of a new open-air field venue as well as the construction of an enormous state-of-the-art temporary stage at Glen Helen Regional Park near Devore, San Bernardino, California. (This site was later to become home to Blockbuster Pavilion—now San Manuel Amphitheater—the largest amphitheatre in the United States as of 2007.) The festival stage has resided at Disneyland in Anaheim since 1985, and has operated under various names and functions as the Videopolis dance club, the Videopolis Theatre, and the Fantasyland Theater.


In the years after the confusion of the Woodstock Festival, the crowd-control debacle of the Altamont Free Concert in 1969, and the massive traffic jam that was Summer Jam at Watkins Glen Raceway in 1973 (crowd estimated at 600,000), most festivals attempted in the United States were small-scale affairs, usually centered around a humanitarian cause. Only one festival, Florida Sunfest, in 1977, attracted over 100,000 fans to see Jimmy Buffett and 17 other acts perform at a cow pasture in Lakeland, Florida. The 1982 US Festival was the first major festival since California Jam II that was not a charity concert—it was intended to be the celebration of evolving technologies; a marriage of music, computers, television and people.

The two festivals also included large air-conditioned tents featuring the US Festival Technology Exposition— a dazzling display of then-cutting edge computers, software, and electronic music devices. Also making a debut were installations of "out-door rain"—perforated pvc nozzles that sprayed water to fight the fierce hundred-degree heat.

Each of the two festivals attracted several hundred thousand people, but were, ultimately, commercial failures. It is estimated that sponsor Wozniak lost nearly $20 million over both years.[1]

Van Halen received an upfront sum of $1 million to headline the 1983 US Festival. It was then upped to $1.5 million after it was discovered that David Bowie was to be paid $1 million. Van Halen had a clause in their contract that they would be paid more than any other act performing at the festival. In contrast, The Clash refused to play unless some donations were made to charities or other such noble causes by Wozniak and some of the other major bands. Before the Clash began their set, they made angry comments about the barrio conditions in LA. After The Clash performed, the DJ began speaking right away and Clash guitarist Mick Jones attacked the DJ, believing he was trying to prevent an encore.

This and The Clash's ironic criticism of the festival in the press conferences and in interviews prior to the event caused an argument backstage between Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth and The Clash singer Joe Strummer. This may have also been started by a comment guitarist Eddie Van Halen made in Rolling Stone magazine one month prior regarding the punk movement ("...that's like what I played in my garage when I was a kid, man."). A clearly intoxicated Roth compounded this rivalry by insulting The Clash on stage early during Van Halen's headlining set with his comment, "I wanna take this time to say that this is real whiskey here... the only people who put iced tea in Jack Daniel's bottles is The Clash, baby!" This was Roth's only mention of The Clash on stage that night.[citation needed].

"It was the day new wave died and rock n' roll took over"[this quote needs a citation] - Vince Neil, regarding the overwhelming attendance on Sunday, "Heavy Metal Day", at the '83 US Festival. It set the single-day concert attendance record for the US with an estimated 375,000 people.[citation needed] Showtime recorded the event and aired a 90-minute special for each day of the festival.[citation needed]

Also of note, John Mellencamp was scheduled to play on the final day of the '83 festival. However, he dropped out due to a dispute over the video rights. Joe Walsh, who was originally scheduled to play on Heavy Metal Sunday was then moved to the final day in what would have been Mellencamp's slot. The promoters then wound up booking Quiet Riot as the opening act for Metal Day and the reception they received played a big role in their album Metal Health reaching #1 on the Billboard album charts a few weeks later.

Labor Day Weekend, 1982[edit]

Three days, 110°F (42.5°C) weather; 100 arrests[citation needed], 35 drug overdoses[citation needed], 1 associated murder of a hitchhiker the day after the event[citation needed], $12 million lost.[2] (Bands are listed in the order they appeared.)

Friday, September 3[edit]

Saturday, September 4[edit]

Sunday, September 5[edit]

Memorial Day Weekend, 1983[edit]

Three days (plus a fourth Country Day a week later), 670,000 in attendance, $12 million lost,[3] two reported deaths [4][5]

Saturday, May 28 (New Wave Day)[edit]

Sunday, May 29 (Heavy Metal Day)[edit]

Monday, May 30 (Rock Day)[edit]

Saturday June 4th (Country Day)[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The festival was also mentioned in a scene in the "Dharma & Greg" episode "Spring Forward, Fall Down" where Dharma's parents are reminiscing over old photos of her when Larry says "Here's one of her dancing all alone in this big empty field.", to which his wife replies "No honey, that was the US Festival". She continues to lament by exclaiming "Oh... look how young Ozzy Osbourne looks..."
  • The US festival is also mentioned in the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Lois Battles Jamie". During a flashback scene, Hal balks when he discovers Francis smashed his camera, containing film from when he and Lois went to the US Festival.
  • In the comic strip Bloom County, an US Festival was held in Milo's Meadow; according to Milo et al., the festival got its name "because all the dough goes to us!"
  • In the Armistead Maupin novel Babycakes the Connie Bradshaw character went to the festival and got pregnant by a random concert attendee.

Home video releases[edit]

In 2003, the band Triumph released a DVD of their US Festival performance. In 2011 Shout! Factory announced plans to release a series of live concert DVDs from the US Festival. The first two of these releases, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, were released November 15, 2011. The third DVD release from Shout! Factory will be Quiet Riot, released on March 27, 2012.[citation needed]

On September 18, 2012, Shout! Factory released The English Beat: Live At The US Festival, ’82 & ’83 on CD/DVD.[6]

On November 19, 2013, Icon Television Music released The US Festival 1983 Days 1-3 on iTunes. This is the only US Festival release authorized by Steve Wozniak and the Unuson Corporation.


  1. ^ Glenn Aveni (2008). US Festival 1983 -- Opening Day. San Bernardino, CA. 
  2. ^ iWoz - Computer Geek to Cult Icon: Getting to the Core of Apple's Inventor; Steve Wozniak with Gina Smith; Headline Review, London, 2006; p. 255
  3. ^ iWoz - Computer Geek to Cult Icon: Getting to the Core of Apple's Inventor; Steve Wozniak with Gina Smith; Headline Review, London, 2006; p. 256
  4. ^ "Man Beaten to Death at Second US Festival". The New York Times. 1983-05-30. 
  5. ^ "Second Person Found Dead at US Festival". The New York Times. 1983-06-01. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]