Watch a Young Steve Wozniak Promote His Ill-Fated Rock Festival in 1982

"The theme of the '80s, a good theme, is the idea of people working together."

Music Features Steve Wozniak
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Watch a Young Steve Wozniak Promote His Ill-Fated Rock Festival in 1982

Did you know that Paste owns the world’s largest collection of live music recordings? It’s true! And what’s even crazier, it’s all free—hundreds of thousands of exclusive songs, concerts and videos that you can listen to and watch right here at Paste.com, from Muddy Waters to The Rolling Stones to R.E.M. to LCD Soundsystem. Every day, we’ll dig through the archive to find the coolest recording we have from that date in history. Enjoy!

Today’s Paste Vault entry is truly a buried treasure, filmed on July 19, 1982:

“The ‘80s may be the ‘Us’ decade.”

So says Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in this amazing promotional video, shot exactly 35 years ago today, ahead of the 1982 Us Festival near San Bernardino, Calif.

By 1982, Apple had made the 31-year-old Wozniak a very wealthy man, and he aspired to put his fortune to use in the form of a new music festival that would unite his passions for live music, emerging computer technology, and fostering community.

“It’s an event to incorporate a lot of things that have always put a smile on my face,” Wozniak tells the camera. “I was driving along thinking, okay, I’m in an interesting position that I’ve got the resources to make it possible, and if I don’t, maybe nobody will do it for me.”

Wozniak had survived a traumatic plane crash in February of 1981 and was looking to expand his business and personal interests. “With Apple,” he says, “it was not started as an attempt to be a big, huge corporation or something. It was just, try to go out and do something I wanted for myself that felt good, looked good, was very small, and we came out of the grassroots type of people. Just doing simple, normal things, not a lot of professionals, whatnot. And here we are putting on a music event, and we’re learning how to do it as we go, and we’re going to wind up with a very fine event that no one else will do because they’re looking at a different bottom line.”

The lineup Wozniak assembled was, indeed, very fine. Bands included on the Labor Day weekend bill of 1982: Gang of Four, The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Police, The Cars, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Kinks, Santana and Fleetwood Mac.

Wozniak reportedly sank about $13 million into the production (“half my net worth,” he says), but things did not go as well as he had hoped. That first weekend was staged in 100+ degree heat, and there were reports of multiple drug overdoses. Further iterations were staged in 1983 with equally impressive lineups, but the festival ultimately lost millions of dollars.

Footage shot for the promo video is so ‘80s it hurts: Watch Woz, swallowed up in beige, tour the festival site in a bright blue Ford pickup! Watch him sit in a ridiculous winged chair! Have a look at his stupendous tudor mansion with the Porsche in the driveway!

His spirit, though, was undeniably in the right place. “The theme of the ‘80s,” he says, “a good theme is the idea of people working together.”

Recently in Music