September 3, 1982: US Festival Premieres

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US Fest poterIt could be called the first rock festival of a new era. Held over three days near San Bernadino, CA at Glen Helen Regional Park, no expense was spared to create the entirely new festival site, including its own temporary ramp from Interstate 15. Its name was not the initials of the United States but rather the pronoun “us” to represent a new cultural phase following the “Me Decade” of the 1970s. It was a harbinger of the future in its goal to meld modern technology and music. And the line-up reflected the impact of the recently launched MTV cable channel on which it aired.

The fest was the brainchild of Apple Computers co-founder Steve Wozniak, who envisioned a “Super Bowl of rock” and recruited famed rock promoter Bill Graham to book the talent.

Day one’s reflected the growing popularity of new wave music via MTV with Gang of Four, The Ramones, The English Beat, Oingo Boingo, The B-52’s, Talking Heads and The Police. The second day was a mix of old and new classic rock acts: Dave Edmunds, Eddie Money, The Cars, Santana, The Kinks, Pat Benatar and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Day three skewed towards older fans and acts with “Breakfast with the Grateful Dead,” Jerry Jeff Walker, Hoyt Axton, Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reefer Band, Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac. Its 87 concession stands offered a higher quality fare than previous festivals, including vegetarian options.

Watch Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers perform

And here’s Fleetwood Mac…

Related: A documentary on the festival was released in 2018

Watch the trailer of The Us Generation: The Making of the 1982 Us Festival

The event drew an estimated 450,000 fans, and was largely without any serious incidents. Its losses were $12 million, but that didn’t deter Wozniak from funding a second four-day US Festival the following year. The specially prepared site became the San Manuel Amphitheater—the largest outdoor amphitheatre in the nation. And the US Festival set the stage for a more sophisticated festival experience to now be enjoyed at Coachella and other annual music fests across the nation.

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