ConcertsMusic History

Remembering the second US Festival from 40 years ago

Steve Wozniak, the other founder of Apple, was always a music fan. In 1982 and 1983, he had a dream of putting together the greatest rock festival of all time, one of that would be an antidote to the “Me Decade” of the 1970s. What better way to bring people together and create a sense of community than with a massive musical event?

After securing property in San Bernardino, California–he paid for the bulldozing of the land and the construction of a state-of-the-art temporary stage–Wozniak enlisted promoter Bill Graham to put together two events. The first, on Labour Day Weekend 1982, featured acts like The Police, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac. Despite attracting 400,000 people, the first US Festival lost at least US$12 million.

Undaunted, Wozniak tried again on US Memorial Day Weekend in 1983. Saturday, New Wave Day, included acts like INXS, A Flock of Seagulls, The English Beat, Men At Work, and The Clash. Sunday was all about metal (Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Ozzy, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Triumph, and Van Halen). Monday featured U2, Stevie Nicks, and David Bowie. The following weekend (June 4) was reserved solely for country acts (Alabama, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and more.)

Here’s a trailer.

This time, 670,000 people showed up and the festival still lost US$12 million. Artist fees were part of the problem. Van Halen was reportedly paid the same US$1.5 million that Bowie got. The air quality made it ugly for fans who had to endure some of the highest pollution levels the area had seen in years.

After losing US$24 million over two years, Wozniak decided he had enough. There was not an US Festival in 1984.

Forty years later, Rick J points us to this video.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38523 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Remembering the second US Festival from 40 years ago

  • Myself and my best friend Mark Hicks hitchhiked from San Diego California camping on the beach along the way then spent three days in Glen Helen it was a blast super hot super crowded super fun! The only problem is they should have put Ozzy on later in the evening and David Lee Roth was too drunk to sing Jamie’s crying! Van Halen did not deserve 1.5 million dollars.

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