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1983's US Festival: Memories of the mayhem 30 years later

The US Festival turned 30 years old this week. Held May 28 throug 30 in SoCal, it gathered some of the greatest bands of the time on one stage. Not quite as important as Live Aid, it remains an odd monument to music of our era. Our Stuck in the '80s Southern California correspondent Drew Friedman was at the concert and shares hsi memories.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 30 years since I braved the crowds and the astounding heat to be part of the three-day US Festival in southern California. The event, hosted by Apple computer co-creator Steve Wozniak, was to be an 80s version of Woodstock. (And it some ways it was, since it, too, was a financial failure)

This second year of the festival was split into themes, with massive headliners for each night. “Heavy Metal Day” with Van Halen as headliners and “Rock Day” headlined by David Bowie (with a young U2 in the line-up) all followed the day I was there: “New Wave Day”, a day that started with the Divinyls and wound through eight more amazing and eclectic bands. Seeing the craziness of Oingo Boingo on stage would spawn a life-long obsession with the band. I vividly remember INXS, The English Beat and Men At Work.

I can’t remember Flock of Seagulls, Wall of Voodoo or Stray Cats at all, but I will never forget The Clash. It was nighttime and the festival grounds had finally cooled when Mick Jones and the boys kicked it off with London Calling, guitars screaming and all the heat coming from the stage. They played 20 glorious songs, finishing the night with Clampdown. Reports were Jones went after a DJ who started playing right after they finished, but I never saw any of that. I left the open-field concert that night with my sleeveless US Festival t-shirt, the Clash on my brain and love for a young woman named Joy who let me touch her breast during Should I Stay or Should I Go.

Sure, Heavy Metal Day had a lot more fans, and there was a fourth day added the next weekend for country fans, but that day of new wave music at the Glen Helen Regional Park will always be a special one for me. Oddly, the stage for that concert can still be found in Anaheim at Disneyland. It is now the Fantasyland Theater.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 7:55am]


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