THE US FESTIVAL: 1982 THE “US” GENERATION (2017)
Featuring Steve Wozniak, Mick Fleetwood, Stewart Copeland, Mickey Hart, Kate Pierson, Marky Ramone, Eddie Money, Carlos Harvey, Greg Perloff, Sherry Wasserman, Dr. Peter Ellis, John Collins, Andy Hertzfeld, Derek Power, Joe Sharino and Paul Block.
Directed by Glenn Aveni.
Distributed by MVD Visual. 103 minutes. Not Rated.
By the 1980s, the idea of the rock festival was pretty much on fumes in the US. The huge multi-day rock fests were a staple of the late 1960s – reaching an apex at Woodstock – but never quite recovered from the killing at the Altamonte Festival. Oh sure, there were some smaller ones that popped up through the 70s – such as California Jam, Goose Lake, Texxas Jam and Summer Jam at Watkins Glen.
Still, the idea of a huge, all-encompassing multi-day festival had not been really taken up in years.
Then came Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder. He was young, rich beyond his wildest dreams, and came up with the idea of throwing a three-day party with some of the biggest names in music. He had no idea how to do it, but he had money to burn and figured he would just hire the best people to put it all together.
Wozniak figured it would also be a good way to marry tech and rock and roll. Though he did not do it as an Apple project, he made a point of not bringing others from his day job to be a part of the festival. In fact, according to one of the interviewees here, his partner Steve Jobs was massively pissed that Wozniak was wasting his time and money on this plan.
Thus, The US Festival was born. (It was pronounced like the word “us,” not the initials U.S.)
Well at least in theory. It took a whole hell of a lot of preparation. This included finding the perfect venue, creating an outdoor amphitheater which could hold well over 100,000 people, and also creating a comfortable concert-going environment.
The US Festival pioneered many of the standards of the modern rock fest: A huge diamond-vision screen so that the people in the back could see well, spraying water on the concert-goers to keep them cool and hydrated (the temperatures on both days were around 110 F), strolling entertainers and a tented tech center. In fact, The US Festival set the blueprint for most of the big fests to come: Live Aid, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Van’s Warped Tour, Firefly, and many, many more.
Then there was the process of getting together the acts. The fest hooked up with legendary promoters, paid extremely well (several acts interviewed in this film said it was their biggest payday ever at the time) and before long there were a lot of big names and highly respected smaller names coming on board. Wozniak even got his wedding singer Joe Sharino a spot on the roster, though both Woz and Sharino acknowledge that they only expected him to be on a side stage with the jugglers and clowns.
It ran on Labor Day weekend of 1982 and check out this lineup of some of the biggest bands in the world at the time.
Friday, September 3, 1982: (last to first performers) The Police, Talking Heads, The B-52’s, Oingo Boingo, The English Beat, The Ramones, Blairing Out and Gang of Four.
Saturday, September 4, 1982: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Pat Benatar, The Kinks, The Cars, Santana, Eddie Money, Dave Edmunds and Joe Sharino.
Sunday, September 5, 1982: Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band, Jerry Jeff Walker and The Grateful Dead (The Dead played a breakfast jam at 9:00 Sunday morning!)
That’s some lineup.
The documentary talks with members of several of the bands that played the Festival, though notably only Eddie Money was the front person of an act. There are also tons of archival interview clips with the likes of Sting, Jackson Browne, Ric Ocasek, Carlos Santana (with an unacknowledged Herbie Hancock sitting beside him, periodically agreeing), Joey and Johnny Ramone, and several others.
And there are lots of video clips of bands performing at the Fest, including such classic songs as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ “Refugee,” The Police doing “Can’t Stand Losing,” The Cars with “Bye Bye Love,” Talking Heads singing “Life After Wartime,” Fleetwood Mac pulling “The Chain” and more.
However, mostly this documentary looks at the fascinating behind-the-scenes stories of the US Festival, speaking of many of the people responsible putting the show together. There is also a good amount of period video and interviews, giving you a feel for the whole event. You get some funny and inspirational stories about how things went. The documentary mostly keeps things light. It isn’t looking to turn over and stones and see what crawls out. As muckraking as it gets is going over the just slightly contentious relationship between the cantankerous Graham and the always sunny Wozniak.
Wozniak ended up losing a lot of money on The US Festival – about $12 million. However, he didn’t really care that much. He had put together one of the great parties ever and the happiness he created was worth the money for him. Of course, that would never work as a business plan, the US Festival only happened one other time in 1983. By then, Wozniak had moved on and Denver concert promoter Barry Fey took over, even adding specialty days of all metal artists and all country. It also lost $12 million, and quickly The US Festival became a distant memory and a trivia answer.
However, for three strange days, it was perfection.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 1, 2018.