Somewhere between the dissolution of Woodstock’s currency in the social conscience and Dollop-of-Losers‘ preeminence over the modern-day music festival market, there was the unequivocal pinnacle of popular rock music known as the New Wave Era, and more specifically, its culmination one Memorial Day weekend in 1983.
Besides being the greatest day of live outdoor music that I wasn’t alive to witness, New Wave Day was the highlight of the US Festival—a two-shot technoutopian recruiting mecca staged by Less-Famous Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak in San Bernardino, California, reverse-bookending the summers of 1982 and 1983. Stars of the CBGB scene, among others, highlighted the Labor Day weekend 1982 installment, but the Youtube-available footage largely concentrates on the 1983 edition.
Wozniak’s contempt for the reneged ideals of the Baby Boomers was at least somewhat shared by the festival’s attendees, as captured in the opening of this Japanese bootleg, most notably Giants Cap Guy’s Joan Baez potshot at 0:19.
Of course the focal point of this video is the amped-up version of one of the era’s very best songs, augmented by the legendary Terry Bozzio’s maniacal shirtless drumming—a performance that tops the one on an already exemplary but slower and less raucous studio version. The entirety of the Missing Person’s set is outstanding, highlighted by this fantastic bit of proto-Instagram showpersonship coming out of “Words”—a song that remains both cathartic and therapeutic to me as I plod through this life—courtesy of Terry’s equally legendary then-wife Dale and her New England accent (13:00 mark).
Beyond the MP’s performance, the highlights are hard to choose because the entire lineup was equally legendary (okay, unequally, but nonetheless great throughout), though it’s odd to think of the Stray Cats as New Wave today, even if the label fit in 1983. But here goes a partial rehash:
In a former life, now-iconic film score composer Danny Elfman was merely the frontman for Oingo Boingo, the band who gave the world “Weird Science” and “Dead Man’s Party”. Here we see a babyfaced Elfman, one day shy of his 30th birthday, sweating through his shirt and jigging around stage while his horn section probably nearly dies from heat stroke.
Before Divinyls were known as The One-Hit Wonder Of “I Touch Myself” Fame, they were actually a highly-esteemed emerging Aussie band with a curious stage presence characterized by private school uniforms and the unmistakable—sometimes unintelligible—lead vocalist Chrissy Amphlett (RIP). A previous upload of their performance included their masterpiece “All the Boys in Town”, but it’s since been DMCA took-down by the Copyright Gestapo.
Similarly, #kidsthesedays fail to understand that before Top Gun and “Take My Breath Away” were even a twinkle in Tony Scott’s eye [on Val Kilmer's svelte bod], Berlin were one of the most exciting acts of the early ’80s, and few pop songs top the angst or the hook of “The Metro” (5:35 below). The euphoria of the event and the stage it provided such a young group are epitomized by frontwoman Terri Nunn’s post-”Metro” outburst at 10:01.
But most of all, New Wave Day was historical because it immediately preceded the unraveling of two of the most innovative bands of the era. The first was Wall of Voodoo—erroneously characterized today as a one-hit novelty—who lost frontman Stan Ridgeway and two other members immediately following their US appearance. WoV and Ridgeway’s strange brilliance are succinctly exemplified by the three-song sequence starting with “Fun Zone” at 19:42 and ending with irrepressible classic “Mexican Radio”.
May 28, 1983 would also be the last time Mick Jones performed with The Only Band That Mattered before being fired by Joe Strummer. Watching Mick’s US performance, it wasn’t a totally unjustifiable decision, in spite of this awesomely and blatantly Wozniak-affronting rant at the 7:55 mark.
The inclusion of The Clash as part of New Wave Day doesn’t make total sense to those of us conditioned to lump them into the British Punk, Inexorably genre, but in the context of 1983—and further deliberation—it’s maybe not so strange.
Anyway, enjoy the show. These videos might not last long.