In 1982, Steve “The Woz” Wozniak was flush with cash following the success of the computer company he co-founded, Apple. Looking to festivals past and wanting to inspire a more community- and tech-oriented generation stressing a sense of “us” rather than the “me” generation he saw in the 1970s, he decided to spend some of his cash on a festival of his own held at Glen Helen Regional Park (now Glen Helen Amphitheater) in San Bernardino, Calif. over Labor Day weekend, 1982.
Split into themed “days” focusing on new wave, rock, and more eclectic fare, gracing the stage were many of the era’s top acts—Ramones, Talking Heads, Gang Of Four, The B-52’s, The Police, Tom Petty, Pat Benatar, The Cars, Eddie Money, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, and so on—spread out over the three-day weekend, playing for several hundred thousand attendees. Despite triple-digit weather, more than a hundred arrests, several drug overdoses and reported twelve million dollars in losses, Woz threw another, even bigger festival the next year.
Documenting the first Us Festival, this film is largely skint on actual performances by most of the bands—you get a full song from the odd band and brief snippets of footage from many others—and flush with talking head testimonials from the guys who pulled it off yakking about the challenges of mounting a large-scale event and about the genius that is Steve Wozniak for wanting to do so in the first place. Nowhere near as engrossing or culturally significant as the documentaries Woodstock or Gimme Shelter, the results are oddly focused more on one man and the small group of people he employed to make his dream come true, rather than the collective “us” in the name of the festival they created. –Jimmy Alvarado (MVD Visual, mvdvisual.com)