The Grateful Dead took the stage in the early morning, Sunday, Labor Day weekend in 1982. It was billed as “Breakfast in Bed with the Grateful Dead”. There were over 100,000 already in attendance. The band ended the show with “Satisfaction”. This was The US Festival.
The show was produced by the legendary Bill Graham. It was financed by Steve Wozniak. Jimmy Buffet, Jackson Browne, and Fleetwood Mac followed. The Police, The Kinks, Tom Petty, Talking Heads, and Santana had played earlier that weekend. It was considered the greatest concert lineup of the day. Most who were there, remember it as their finest live concert experience ever. Yet – many who weren’t there don’t remember The US Festival at all, because unlike Woodstock and so many others, the story has never been told in a film … until now.
“It’s a great story,” says Glenn Aveni of Icon Music TV who has produced documentaries on John Entwistle, The Clash, and Les Paul, and is now finishing The US Generation about The US Festival. To help clear additional music, he has launched a campaign on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/2fjAz8u
“Steve Wozniak had co-founded Apple, and come into more money than he could ever spend,” says Aveni. “He thought the 70’s was the “Me” generation and wanted the 80’s to be the “US” generation. He created Unuson – short for Unite Us in Song.”
“He had the vision and the money. The opportunity arose, and he took it,” adds Mickey Hart.
“Fans of the Grateful Dead have always understood uniting under the banner of music,” says Aveni. “Woz wanted to tap into that very mindset, and add technology.”
In addition to the music, The US Festival invented misting stations, was the debut of Diamond Vision, and helped pioneer digital delay. Free water and shade tents were everywhere. The stage was the largest yet seen, and the sound was 400,000 watts. There was a tech pavilion under air-conditioned tents. “Since Woodstock and Altamont – both in 1969, and both operationally flawed,” says Aveni, “no municipality had issued a permit for an outdoor weekend mega-event. The US Festival proved it could be done right, and this set the stage for the events we see today. This was a crucially important show.”
The US Generation documentary is a mix of music, archival footage, and interviews with the crowd and with performers – then and now. Besides the Grateful Dead’s Hart, Stewart Copeland of The Police, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, Eddie Money, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, and Wozniak himself all speak fondly and candidly about the event. The show did have its share of hijinks, amusement, and battles between Graham and Woz, and the film covers them all.
The Kickstarter is offering the first copies of the film, in digital download, DVD, and Blu Ray, with options for extra music, added commentary. “We’ve gone to town on these Rewards,” says Aveni.
Filmmaker Glenn Aveni lived and worked for many years in LA and now lives in the Milwaukee area where he grew up. He is available for interviews. The Kickstarter is at http://kck.st/2fjAz8u.