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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 Computermarker. 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, Californiamarker. (This site was later to become home to Blockbuster Pavilion—now San Manuel Amphitheatermarker—the largest amphitheatre in the United States .)


In the years after the confusion of the Woodstock Festivalmarker and the crowd-control debacle of the Altamont Free Concertmarker in 1969, most festivals attempted in the United Statesmarker were small-scale affairs, usually centered around a humanitarian cause. The 1982 US Festival was the first major festival since California Jam II that was not a charity concert—it was intended to be 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. (See the Softalk article linked below for a walk back in the history of computing.)

Each of the two festivals had a few hundred thousand people in attendance, but were resounding commercial failures. It is estimated that sponsor Wozniak lost nearly $20 million over two years.

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. 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 kickstarted 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 onstage 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'smarker bottles is The Clash, baby!" This was Roth's only mention of The Clash on stage that night, he must have seen The Clash headlining set the night before.

"It was the day new wave died and rock n' roll took over"- Vince Neil, in a famous quote 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. Showtime recorded the event, and aired a 90 minute special for each day of the festival.

Labor Day Weekend, 1982

Three days, 105°F (40.5°C) weather; 36 arrests, 12 drug overdoses, $12.5 million lost. (Bands are listed in the order they appeared.)

Friday, September 3

Saturday, September 4

Sunday, September 5

Memorial Day Weekend, 1983

Three days (plus a fourth Country Day a week later), 670,000 in attendance, $7–8 million lost, two reported deaths

Saturday, May 28 (New Wave Day)

Sunday, May 29 (Heavy Metal Day)

Monday, May 30 (Rock Day)

Saturday June 4th (Country Day)


The US Festival stage has resided at the Disneyland theme park in California since 1985 and has operated under various names and functions as the Videopolis dance club, the Videopolis Theatre, and the Fantasyland this really true

References in popular culture

  • The US Festival was mentioned in The Simpsons episode "Homerpalooza", where Homer says, "There can only be one truly great festival a lifetime and it's the US Festival!"
  • The festival was also mentioned in a scene in the "Dharma & Greg" episode "Spring Forward, Fall Down" where Dharma's parent's 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 an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Malcolm, Dewey and Reese find a swimming pool diving board in an alley and drag it home. Hal, the father, has a recall of being at 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.
  • The festival was on Modern Marvels episode, 80s Tech.


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