LOUD JAMZ PAYS TRIBUTE TO US FESTIVAL ’83, FORGOTTEN NO MORE

    LOUD JAMZ US FESTIVAL TRIBUTE 8_29 EVENT AD (1)

      In an interview that Bono did immediately following U2’s performance at US Festival ’83, he talked about seizing the moment. He said, “Music is made for the moments.” Whether you were at the famous festival of rock in 1983, or you’re just now discovering its history, Steve Wozniak created a time capsule of an event, forever captured in one incredible weekend of music. Within the space he created for it, in San Bernardino, California, politics, technology, means of communication, and pop culture were all melded as one into a musical landscape, personified by the 25 bands that played the event on Memorial Day weekend. What happened there can never be duplicated, be it firsts or lasts – The Clash battling the censorship of the USSR and disintegration on stage, Bono’s death-defying climb up the scaffolding, Stan Ridgway’s last appearance with Wall of Voodoo, record payouts, or heavy metal’s breakthrough moment. Wozniak financed the event, and spared no expense in putting together the best money could buy. It was groundbreaking in concept, production, and performance. The history that unfolded deserves a 21st century rewind.

    US FESTIVAL '83 BUTTON 33 years have passed since hundreds of thousands gathered at Glen Helen Regional Park for what was being billed as “the Super Bowl of rock.” US Festival ’82, held Labor Day weekend, had been successful enough that Wozniak wanted to stage another one. There were issues to be worked out and personnel changes were made, but the ideal remained the same. In gathering information on this historic event, the internet is not without its uncertainties in ascertaining the truth. A good bit of this information was pulled from online sources. However, I was fortunate to find three sources that were directly involved with the event – Ric Olsen (guitarist, Berlin), Michael Edwards (festival attendee from Dallas, TX), and Richard Blade (legendary DJ, then with KROQ and MV3, now with 1st Wave on Sirius XM), who graciously shared their memories. This is how that historical weekend unfolded……

    US FESTIVAL AERIAL VIEW OF THE SITE Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, was 32 years old when he found himself with time on his hands while at home recovering from a plane crash. He was struck by the idea of creating a festival of rock that would counter the ‘me decade’ of the 70s and usher in an ‘us’ mentality to begin the 80s. With the help of Peter Ellis, they formed the Unuson Corporation to stage and produce Us Festival events. A site was chosen for the festival at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore, CA. The county was paid a million dollar fee to cover development of the land and a temporary stage was erected. Bill Graham, a successful San Francisco Bay area promoter, was brought in to assist in booking the acts for the ’82 festival. For the ’83 event, they switched promoters and went with Barry Fey from Colorado. He’d staged the 1969 Denver Pop Festival and was well known for bringing big acts to the U.S. for the first time. He was Billboard magazine’s promoter of the year in ’78, ’79, and ’80. He was given an unlimited budget to secure the acts they wanted, and every act was paid very well.

    US FESTIVAL '83 TICKETS FOR EACH DAY The three days of Memorial Day weekend, 1983, were renamed for the genre the acts represented – May 28 was New Wave Day, May 29 was Heavy Metal Day, and May 30 was Rock Day. The success of the New Wave bands that played the ’82 event, and the increasing popularity of the genre led Steve Wozniak to connect with Richard Blade at KROQ to select the bands that would play the ’83 show. In April, he came to the studio and sat with Richard during his live show. They asked his Los Angeles area audience who they’d most like to see at the upcoming US Festival. Listeners called in and made their requests, and Richard said Steve took almost every one he got. In fact, he got more than he could use in just the one New Wave Day, so a few spilled over to play on Rock Day. They booked The Clash to headline New Wave Day and Van Halen to Headline Heavy Metal Day. The headliner they sought for Rock Day was one of the biggest names in the business, but when Wozniak said, “I want Bowie,” Fey had no choice but to get him, and he did not come cheaply. Bowie was touring in Europe a month after the release of his blockbuster album, Let’s Dance. Playing US Festival would mean interrupting his tour and chartering a plane to bring his equipment over and get it back to Europe quickly. The reported payout was 1.5 million dollars, but that wasn’t the end of it. Van Halen had a favored nation clause in their contract, which meant that no one who played the festival could earn more than they did. To satisfy that clause, they would need an additional $500,000, equaling Bowie’s terms. When Fey told Wozniak the staggering sum it would cost to get Bowie, he reportedly shrugged his shoulders and said, “So?” The only act they could not come to terms with was John Cougar. He was scheduled to play on Rock Day, but his management took exception to a clause in the contract and that became a deal breaker. Cougar was subsequently dropped from the lineup.

   US FESTIVAL '83 STAGE  Part of Wozniak’s vision for the festival was to showcase how music and technology could come together to make the concert experience like nothing we’d seen before. This factored into the experience for everyone involved. The stage they built is believed to have been the largest in the world at that time, measuring 300′ x 67′. It was wired to handle 400,000 watts of power. This event would be the first to use jumbo video screens at an outdoor concert. Richard Blade said they framed the stage nicely, and other than during the day when direct sunlight obscured the picture, they were fantastic. The sound equipment they used was top-notch and functioned perfectly. Richard introduced several of the bands over the weekend and made trips to the stage’s microphone frequently. He said there was never a time when he grabbed a microphone and it was not on. Despite the vast distance between the stage and the soundboard, everything was always ready to go. Michael Edwards, who traveled to the festival with a radio station group from Dallas, said one of the things that impressed him the most was how great everything sounded no matter where you were on the grounds. He had limited backstage access and was near the stage for many of the acts, and even up close to the stage he said it was never excessively loud. The system they used for transitioning from one band to another also worked extremely well. Richard described it as equipment being rolled on from the right side and rolled off from the left. Revolving platforms were not then in use, but this proved to be an efficient system that made turnover time minimal.

    BLADE, RICHARD ALL-ACCESS PASS TO US FESTIVAL 1983 Having Richard Blade’s perspective, from a backstage, all-access view, was a terrific counterpart to Michael Edwards’ audience member experience. As they say, there are two sides to every story, and these two provided a 360 degree festival experience. Richard had an all-access pass throughout the weekend with duties on stage representing radio station KROQ and duties backstage with a television crew for MV3. He was also involved in what was to be the first satellite link telecast of a concert from the U.S. to the U.S.S.R. On the other side of the stage, Michael’s access for the weekend was largely tied to his wristband. The cost per day was $20, and the color of the band changed daily. He said it was the first concert he ever remembered having a wristband. Arriving to and from the festival was easier if you were camped there for the weekend, as both Richard and Michael were. Richard was housed in a trailer on-site and Michael slept in a sleeping bag on the ground. Outdoor showers were nearby and they were close to the entrance of the concert area. Arriving early in the morning at the gates to get in, lines were never really a problem. For others, logistics weren’t so easily navigated. There were limited dirt lanes in and out of the area, and with an estimated attendance of over 670,000 for the three-day weekend, it was the nightmare you would expect it to be. Once inside the concert area, however, Michael found it easy to get around all weekend. He said it was never so compact that you couldn’t move up closer to the stage at any given time. People filtered around the massive area throughout the day, watching the bands, mingling with friends, buying food and drink, cooling off where possible, etc. The extreme heat made frequent hydration necessary, and free water was available everywhere.

     BERLIN RIC BESIDE US FESTIVAL HELICOPTERThe bands arrived throughout the weekend via helicopter or limos, and Michael’s spot in the camping area was close to where these arrivals took place. Press conferences were going on continuously and there was a constant buzz of activity backstage and everywhere the band members congregated. MTV was a fairly new entity at the time, having debuted in August, 1981, and some of their popular VJs, such as Mark Goodman, were on site conducting interviews and reporting for the station. For the massive amount of people involved and activity that was happening each day, both Michael and Richard agreed that it was very well organized. For something on that scale, with all the moving pieces and technology that was involved, there were very few issues reported. As you might expect where rock stars are concerned, most of the drama revolved around them.

    INXS US FESTIVAL '83 MICHAEL HUTCHENCE ALL IN WHITE The first day of US Festival ’83, May 28, was New Wave Day. Each day of the weekend, gates opened at 8am and the first band was scheduled at noon, per what’s printed on the tickets. Running behind schedule was a common theme throughout the weekend. Nine bands were on the bill for the first day, in this order – Divinyls, INXS, Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, The English Beat, A Flock of Seagulls, Stray Cats, Men at Work, and the day’s headliner, The Clash. It was an event-filled day from start to finish. Leading off with Divinyls and INXS, you had two Aussie bands back to back. INXS had their video for “One Thing” in rotation on MTV. They did a great live version of it that day and their set earned them an encore. Wall of Voodoo played a nine-song set that included their hit single, “Mexican Radio.” It was the largest concert they’d ever played, and it was Stan Ridgway’s (lead vocalist) last appearance with the band. Oingo Boingo was one of only two bands that played both the ’82 and ’83 US Festival events. They were one of the most popular New Wave bands in Southern California, and the most requested. The estimated crowd was significantly larger than the one they played for in ’82. In an interview with Danny Elfman as he walked from the stage, he talked about the extreme heat during their set, saying it came in waves and felt like little nuclear explosions happening. The English Beat was the other repeat act from the ’82 show. They were already well known as a consistently great live act, and a review of their set lauded their performance “in triple-digit heat with unflagging energy, precision, and passion.”

     STRAY CATS US FESTIVAL 1983 BANDThe last four acts of New Wave Day provided the highlights, though not all for good reason. A Flock of Seagulls had become quite big in the U.S., and their set was a crowd favorite. Mike Score (lead vocalist) said they’d played a show in Paris the night before and took a charter jet to LAX with their equipment in tow. They arrived in two helicopters, and as soon as they landed, Mike did about 40 interviews, one right after the other. It was a rush to get to the stage, and he said it was the biggest thing he’d ever seen. By Michael’s account, and most all reviews I found, Stray Cats stole the show that day. There weren’t a lot of people up front when they started, but they quickly drew them into the performance. They managed to turn that massive crowd into a giant sock hop. One reviewer said, “With zero backline and Slim Jim’s two-piece drum kit, Stray Cats got every pair of hands for what seemed like miles, clapping along to their sounds.” “Rock This Town” sent the crowd into a frenzy. 

    The Clash Performing at US Festival Drama would unfold, both on stage and off, involving the last two acts of the day. One of the unique features of New Wave Day was to be the first live feed of a concert, via satellite, between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The Clash’s performance was to be broadcast live to the Soviet Union. Richard Blade was to facilitate the broadcast as an announcer. He said between 7:30 and 8pm he was informed that the Soviet Union had suddenly figured out who, exactly, The Clash was. Their politically-charged music would not be allowed to air on Russian television. Instead, Men at Work’s set would be broadcast on the live feed. This sent The Clash into a meltdown. Richard had to switch gears and prepare to announce Men at Work with the accompanying telecast. To the band’s credit, they played a fantastic set, deemed one of the best of the day, despite the drama involving The Clash exploding around them. It was an epic tantrum that wouldn’t end soon. Waiting in the audience for the night’s supposed headliner, Michael said it seemed like they waited hours for The Clash to appear, uncertain whether or not they would. Backstage, the band was refusing to play for a host of reasons. It was a tense situation that spilled onto the stage when they finally decided to perform. Richard still had to introduce them, which he did. Joe Strummer (lead vocalist) taunted the crowd from the stage all night, while Mick Jones (lead guitar) just wanted to get it over with. Michael said the entire set was lackluster, describing it as angry rock. It was the last time Mick Jones played with the band. One reviewer said, “The Clash, as we know them, ended in ’83 at US Festival.”

     KMET STICKER US FESTIVAL 1983Heavy Metal had not met with much mainstream success prior to the genre’s inclusion at US Festival. One reviewer noted on the history of the genre, “Metal’s real coming out party happened May 29, 1983, at US Festival.” It was a measuring stick for how popular the genre had become, setting a single-day attendance record with more than 375,000 tickets sold. Seven bands were in the lineup that day – Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Triumph, Scorpions, and the headliner, Van Halen. People began arriving for Heavy Metal Day the day before, on Saturday, May 28. That night, a rock festival within itself started in the parking area. KMET and KLOS blared from car stereos, cassette decks, and boom boxes. The smell of BBQ and marijuana filled the air, and bonfires were everywhere. It was a small city of rockers. From there, it was a few miles to the entrance of the venue. By 8am on the 29th, thousands of people were waiting to get inside and close to the stage. Temperatures would soar throughout the day.

    QUIET RIOT METAL HEALTH 1983 A testament to the caliber of bands assembled that day was Quiet Riot’s spot as the opener. On March 11, just two months prior to this appearance, they’d released their debut album in the U.S., Metal Health, and it was already racing up the charts. “Cum On Feel The Noize” was part of their set list, and Kevin DuBrow used it as an anthem to fire up the crowd. On November 26, 1983, Metal Health became the first heavy metal album to hit #1 on the albums chart. “Cum On Feel The Noize” was the first heavy metal single to hit the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. They became the first heavy metal band to have a Top 5 hit and the #1 album in the same week. It is widely believed that their US Festival appearance helped propel that album to the top. On the 30th anniversary of their performance at the festival, Frankie Banali said, “That day proved to be a life-changing MOTLEY CRUE US FESTIVAL VINCE NEILexperience for Quiet Riot, which I still feel today.” Along with Motley Crue, those two were the biggest new bands to come out of Los Angeles at that time. The L.A. metal scene was starting to take over. Motley Crue was an up-and-coming band before their US Festival appearance. The ink was barely dry on their new record deal with Elektra Records. There was a lot riding on their performance that day, as they had a set list of largely unfamiliar songs off their upcoming release, Shout at the Devil. Vince Neil said he remembers arriving by helicopter and suddenly being hit by the reality of their situation. It was make or break time. They played a 45-minute set that won over the audience, with “Looks That Kill” being the highlight. Despite a Vince Neil indiscretion with their A&R guy’s date after the show, it was a breakthrough day for the band. Less than a year later, Shout at the Devil went platinum. Steve Wozniak can count Motley Crue as one of his legacies.

     JUDAS PRIEST ROB HALFORD US FESTIVAL 1983 (2)Ozzy Osbourne was riding high at the time of his US festival appearance, having back to back successful releases with Blizzard of Ozz (1980) and Diary of a Madman (1981). He came out wearing a full Indian headdress, to the delight of the audience. It lasted long enough to make an impression and be photographed before Ozzy pealed everything off down to his pants. It was photogenic but not practical considering the heat of the day. After the untimely death of Randy Rhoads in a plane crash the previous year, Ozzy brought in Jake E. Lee to replace him in ’83. US Festival was his first live show with the band. Judas Priest played a fantastic set of 17 songs from their deep catalog. The previous year they’d released Screaming for Vengeance, and the album was a huge success. Rob Halford rode his motorcycle through a fake set of Marshall stacks on stage to a taped soundtrack of engine revs. At one point, a fan got on stage and jumped on Halford’s back. He had to be removed by security. The intensity of the crowd could be felt when the band played “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” Until 2010’s Ozzfest, US Festival was the last time that Ozzy, Motley Crue, and Judas Priest shared the same stage.

     TRIUMPH US FESTIVAL '83 BAND SHOTTriumph came on as the sun was setting and the temperatures had dropped. The crowd got their second wind and the band did not disappoint. With a good core of material to work with, having just released Never Surrender in January, they put on a fantastic show. One reviewer said that Rik Emmett “tore it up, both vocally and on guitar.” Michael Edwards thought their performance definitely stood out that day. Equally impressive were the Scorpions. They had a full arsenal of material to pull from with their most recent releases being Animal Magnetism (1980) and Blackout (1982). They were considered one of the best live bands of the decade, and a review of their performance said, “They blew the doors off the place, had there been any.” They were animated and enthusiastic to say the least, and the crowd approved.

    ROTH, DAVID LEE AND MARK GOODMAN OF MTV US FESTIVAL '83 FULL SHOT Van Halen was the most eagerly awaited performance of the day, and by the time they took the stage, the place was packed. There was enormous hype around the band, and a buzz of activity all day. Diver Down had been released in 1982, and they were nearly recovered from that massive tour at the time of their appearance here. They had their own private compound on the grounds of US Festival, and the press was agog. MTV VJ, Mark Goodman, had his infamous backstage chat with David Lee Roth, about which he said, “It was hilariously obvious that Dave was well beyond the label on his first bottle of Jack Daniel’s. He was drunk and coked up, laughing at every joke he made. Dave was the greatest interview.” By the time he hit the stage later than night, he Van Halen Singing at a Concertwas lit, and he had to manage a two-hour performance. The set list was one for the history books. Many of the songs would not be performed again live for decades – “Romeo Delight” (’98), “The Full Bug” (’12), “So This Is Love?” (’07), “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” (’98), “Dance The Night Away” (’98), and “Bottoms Up!” (’12). “Dancing In The Street” (Martha Reeves and The Vandellas cover), “Secrets,” and “Intruder” have never been performed live by the band again. There were 21 songs in their regular set, and they came back for two more during the encore, both covers – “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks) and “Happy Trails” (Roy Rogers). Even through David Lee Roth’s antics of taunting The Clash and forgotten lyrics, it was a phenomenal set. They delivered on monstrous expectations, and critics have said things changed forever with that one show. It took their popularity to the next level.

      Little StevenMonday, May 30, was Rock Day. The day began with some smog in the area, a lengthy traffic snarl, and a significant amount of trash leftover from the day before. There were nine acts scheduled on the main stage, and Los Lobos played on a side stage. The lineup included – Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, Berlin, Quarterflash, Missing Persons, U2, The Pretenders, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks, and the much anticipated headliner, David Bowie. It was Bowie’s first American performance in five years. As I’ve heard from people who were at US Festival, the scheduled times for things to happen rarely did. The printed tickets state that the first act would begin at noon each day. That may have been the case on the first two days. In an interview with Steven Van Zant just a week prior to his appearance, Steven talked about playing in front of that many people and the 9am start time he was given. When asked if he’d ever played that early before, he said, “I haven’t even seen that early in the morning unless we were coming out the other side of it.” Steven was still a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band at that time, but to distinguish his solo work and avoid comparisons, he formed The Disciples of Soul as his backing band. In 1982, they released their debut album, Men Without Women. They were a solid choice to open a day full of heavy hitters.

    BERLIN GROUP SHOT IN PJS Due to the unusually early hour that Berlin was scheduled to play, Terri Nunn had the idea of showing up on stage wearing their pajamas. She wore a bathrobe over her dress, and carried a teddy bear. The band wore pajama tops and bottoms over tuxedos. Once they hit the stage, the pajamas were quickly discarded. Richard Blade introduced the band to a crowd that was much larger than they expected. Guitarist, Ric Olsen, said they were told the crowd would be small due to the early start time. Running hours behind schedule, there were about 100,000 people there when they began their set. Their second album, Pleasure Victim, had been re-released by Geffen Records in January. Four of the six songs in their set were off that album. It was an energetic performance the crowd loved, and just what they needed to jumpstart the long day ahead. In an interview with The Huffington Post in 2013, Terri Nunn said of the experience, “That one day was one of the best of my life.” Quarterflash followed with a lively set of their own, highlighted by Rindy Ross’ sax playing and her husband, Marv, on guitar. The set included their hit singles, “Harden My Heart” and “Find Another Fool.”

    MISSING PERSONS US FESTIVAL PIC BY MICHAEL EDWARDS By all accounts, Missing Persons gave one of the standout performances of the day. Michael remembered the band being so into their performance that they were able to draw a lot of people in who might not have been familiar with their music. Dale Bozzio’s appearance is still one of the iconic images of US Festival ’83. With multicolored hair, silver spandex pants, and a plastic bra and visor, Dale was not to be missed. Their debut album, Spring Session M, had been released in 1982, and three of their videos were favorites on MTV – “Walking in L.A.,” “Words,” and “Destination Unknown.” Dale said in an interview that she didn’t realize how comfortable she was on stage until she played US Festival. Off stage, she’s an introvert. There were ten songs in their regular set, and they did three more in the encore. Their performance drew rave reviews from everyone.

    U2 BONO US FESTIVAL '83 CLIMBED TO TOP OF SCAFFOLDING U2 was nothing to speak of at the time they played US Festival, and a prime example of why such moments in time can become historical. Knowing them as we do today, in both appearance and superstar status, they were quite the opposite in May of 1983. Bono had a mullet and The Edge did not wear a hat. They’d just released their third album, War, three months earlier, and were on tour to promote it in both Europe and the U.S. Bono’s behavior was slightly cocky and defiant, albeit history in the making. In an interview immediately following their performance, Bono explained that a lot of their set was spontaneous, whatever popped into his head and seemed appropriate to the spirit of the moment. He threw snippets of unrelated songs amidst their original material, like switching to “Let’s Twist Again” in the middle of “Two Hearts Beat as One,” after pulling a girl on stage to dance with him. He leaned precariously forward on the stage and dove into the crowd at one point, with security guards quick to retrieve him. When asked about that, he said he wanted to break down the barrier between the stage and the audience. One of the hallmark images of their War World Tour was the hoisting of a white flag during “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Having a white flag on stage with them at US Festival, Bono was inspired at the end of their regular set, and seized the moment. Knowing this was a history making event, he grabbed the flag and climbed the scaffolding to its highest point, U2 BONO US FESTIVAL '83approximately 100 feet in the air. Part of this climb was on a rope ladder. Richard Blade remembered security screaming at him to get down. Once he reached the top, and hoisted the flag, all eyes were on him from everywhere on the grounds. He said he did it to unite the crowd as one at that moment. Michael Edwards remembered it getting a huge response from the audience. Defending his death-defying climb in that post-show interview, he said, “You’ve got to seize the moment. I think we seized the moment.” Richard said he was impressed by their set, and all reviews gave it high marks as one of the best of the day. A reviewer who witnessed their set that day said, in 2009, “I knew after watching them they were going to be big.” He called it his “Janis at Monterey” moment. Just six days after the US Festival performance, on June 5, U2 played Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver. Their concert was recorded and released as U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky. Rolling Stone chose the performance of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in the film version as one of the “50 Moments that Changed the History of Rock and Roll.” From that genesis, U2 has made a career of seizing the moments.

     The Pretenders had dealt with tragedy and the loss of two members, half their band, prior to their US Festival appearance. Chrissie Hynde (lead vocals) and Martin Chambers (drums) had reformed with Robbie McIntosh (lead guitar) and Malcolm Foster (bass). In May of ’83, they hadn’t even released a single with the new lineup. A makeshift group had recorded “Back on the Chain Gang,” and released it as a single in October, 1982. The new lineup’s only live performances in 1983 were two dates at Bronco Bowl in Dallas on May 20th and 21st, and their US Festival gig. It was a big test for an untested lineup, and they made the most of it. Joe Walsh’s appearance was described as “a strange set with a horn NICKS, STEVIE US FESTIVAL BLACK AND WHITEsection.” He did a few Eagles’ songs and a few of his own in, let’s just say, a distant state of mind. Stevie Nicks was largely viewed as the queen of rock and roll at that time, and she was the only solo female act to perform at US Festival. She had a prime spot just ahead of Bowie, and a packed house to play to. She had also dealt with personal tragedy in the previous year, and was still a full-time member of Fleetwood Mac, as well as recording and performing her solo work. Bella Donna had been a huge hit, and her second album release, The Wild Heart, was just weeks away. At one point during her set, she went out into the crowd to get nearer the fans. It was a decent set, despite her being a little light in the moment. At the conclusion of it, she introduced David Bowie, though it’s uncertain what the time lapse was between her set and his. Michael remembers there being a significant gap between their appearances.

    BOWIE, DAVID US FESTIVAL David Bowie was in the anchor slot of a heavyweight rock festival. He’d gotten a steep payout to be there, and he hadn’t been seen live in the U.S. for five years. He had a new album out, Let’s Dance, and a reputation for being a phenomenal live act. The Serious Moonlight Tour had just begun in Brussels on May 18. He interrupted it to play the US Festival date, before the largest crowd he would play for, estimated at 300,000 people. He was on the hot seat, worldwide, selling out every venue he played on the tour through the end of the year. His set list was full of hits, with 22 songs included on it, taken from his deep catalog. There were just three covers among them. He kicked off the set with “Star,” and ended the regular set with “Fame.” His encore was “The Jean Genie” and “Modern Love.” Richard Blade said he watched Bowie’s set from the top of the hill, where bonfires were burning through the night. By all accounts, he played a long, fabulous set, with Earl Slick on guitar. There’s a picture of Bowie, alone at the edge of the stage, seemingly engulfed in a sea of fans. It seems a precarious position that one man and his music could capture such a massive audience, yet hands are in the air, and all eyes are on Bowie. It seems a photographic melding of the ‘me’ into ‘us’ ideal the festival embodied.

BOWIE, DAVID US FESTIVAL CROWD PIC

     US Festival’s place in history is a unique one. It brought multiple genres of music together in one event, showcasing the latest advancements in technology as they applied to the music world. It wasn’t a line in the sand to oppose any particular cultural or world events. It was not organized for anyone’s benefit or cause. The spirit of US Festival was meant to showcase what could be done when people, music, and technology come together. It showed what could happen when you take the ‘vs.’ out of the equation. The Unuson Corporation that was formed to create and produce the US Festival concept stood for “Unite Nations Using Singing Over Network.” Although the festival was not a financial success after two events, it was a musical and organizational home run. Through the power of broadcast media KROQavailable at that time, radio stations, such as KROQ, and the newest player in the market, MTV, took the music to the people, introducing them to bands from around the world they might not otherwise have known. Those introductions turned into record sales and ticket sales around the globe. Broadcasting via satellite, from one continent to another, gave artists a worldwide audience they didn’t previously have access to – united in song. Music without an audience is meaningless, but put the two together, and you have the idealism expressed by Bono in that post-show interview. He said, “Music can change the world. Maybe that’s naïve, but let me be on record as saying that.” Steve Wozniak would agree with that, and sought to provide proof through US Festival. Richard Blade, Michael Edwards, Ric Olsen, and scores of others who were at that festival, still marvel at the experience. Hundreds of thousands of memories were made that weekend, on stage and off. It’s been called “the forgotten festival,” but no one who had a connection to it will ever forget it.

WOZNIAK, STEVE AND DAVID LEE ROTH US FESTIVAL '83

     On Monday, August 29, 2016, Tom Hurst Presents Loud Jamz is paying tribute to US Festival ’83 with a concert at The High Watt Nashville. Over 80 musicians and vocalists will perform 30 songs selected from the set lists that were played at the event. All 25 bands that played will be represented in the lineup. We are honored to have original Berlin guitarist, Ric Olsen, performing a few tunes with us that night. Doors open at 7pm, and the show starts at 8. For more information on our show, please follow this link: http://thehighwatt.com/calendar/?event_id=6861515. Admission is free of charge, however, we will be accepting donations on behalf of Nashville drummer, David Black, who was injured in an accident last weekend and will be out of work for quite some time. A fund has been set up to assist the family with expenses during David’s recovery. You can make a donation online through the GoFundMe account set up for this purpose: https://www.gofundme.com/2kybvvxc.

LOUD JAMZ US FESTIVAL '83 TRIBUTE_DAVID BLACK BENEFIT (1)

A special thank you to Richard Blade, Ric Olsen, and Michael Edwards for their invaluable contributions to this piece. Some of the pictures that appear in this article are courtesy of Ric Olsen and Michael Edwards, taken from their private collections.

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