Steve Wozniak’s “US Festival”: The Biggest Music Fest You Never Heard Of

A Reputation Obscured by Minimal Documentation

It’s unclear why US Festival isn’t better remembered. For all of its problems, it still was a spectacular display of the music of that era. It had a lineup akin to Woodstock, as far as being representative of what rock music sounded like at the time.

Perhaps the festival obscured reputation is due to the lack of documentation and the mish-mash of footage that has circulated over the years. Today’s music festivals are live streamed and rebroadcast regularly. And the most celebrated classic music festival of all, Woodstock, was documented extremely well in both a highly popular film and top-selling album.

But, while MTV broadcast some footage from the US Festival at the time, it’s taken years for much of it to reach the market for widespread consumption, largely due to a failure to procure licensing from the artists involved. Shout Factory trickled out occasional DVDs in the early ’10s, including the sets of Quiet Riot and The English Beat. In 2013, a hodge-podge of 1983 performances was released with minimal fanfare by called Icon Television Media and MVD Entertainment.

The star-power on the US Festival 1983: Days 1-3 collection, however, is muted — Van Halen and David Bowie are nowhere to be found and there are only a song or two included by the other artists. (There are four Triumph songs, though; the band had released its set on their own in the early ’00s.)

In 2018, MVD and Icon released The US Generation: The 1982 US Festival, a documentary featuring some Year 1 footage.

The Us Generation documentary covered the 1982 festival and included lots of live footage from the event

For much else, you can search video sites for bootlegs (some audio is out there too, for deep-divers), but the quality is usually pretty lackluster.

Without documentation, the US Festival has largely gone forgotten. But, besides being a nice time capsule of the era, the events deserve credit for breaking new ground and showing future promoters how to — and how not to — best run a music festival.

Written by Mike Breen

Mike Breen is a veteran writer and editor with nearly 30 years of experience. He was the longtime music editor and managing editor of Cincinnati altweekly CityBeat and his writing has also appeared in music publications like Spin, Creem and the U.K.’s NME. If you need a ringer for music trivia night, you should definitely call him.