Supergroup Van Halen Was Once Used to Promote PCs

The entitlement generation may not use their screen scrolling talents to realize that the current state of technology was once promoted by the father of today’s modern combined band concert; “US Festival”. What started out as a blog to jab at how PCs have “altered” our life, quickly turned into a historical summary of how “Steve Wozniak’s dream bash” changed the concert landscape forever while missing the mark of promoting PCs and costing him millions of dollars. While researching this blog I learned a number of pleasant enlightenments and was even led to a Rolling Stone’s article. What’s not to like about that?

It may come as a shock that PCs were not always common in life and music was once generated through ANALOG technology of vibrating guitar strings altered by pushing pedals, pulling levers, and twisting potentiometers. Although the technomusic of today is easily created by using software and tapping on a button to start the prerecorded background music, the 80’s era still has impact to the point where I smile every time my son’s ring tone alerts him to a call with “Sweet Child O’my-ine”. What’s this geezer doing now? Dialing us back to the 80’s when music was actually created through hard work rather than synthesized? Yes I am. Let me borrow a song line from the 70’s.

“Everybody funny, no you funny too!”

In 1982 and 1983 the PC was in its infancy and the country was still smarting from the enormous crowds that had infiltrated Woodstock, NY nearly a decade and a half earlier. Huge concerts were a no-no as they caused too much infiltration of partiers to one particular area. Somehow, someone forgot to tell this to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Technology had padded Woz’s wallet to a point where he had money to burn and burn it he did. Woz teamed up with promoter Bill Graham to create an all-star lineup of bands not once, but twice.

The first “US Festival” concert was held on Labor Day 1982 and the second nine months later on Memorial Day 1983. I remember hearing how Woz had set up tents demonstrating Apple PC’s as he rode a scooter around trying to get the crowd interested in personal computer technology. Of course the stoned and sun baked crowed was more interested in partying and music and instead visited the many spouting water stations to cool themselves from the intensity of the California desert sun. Realize that as much as I hassle today’s generation, we ourselves had our own misguided missions. In other words it was a bomb that lost gobs of money in terms of promoting technology to a crowd where loud ruled. However Woz’s party was not the only flamboyant investment.

It’s rumored that Van Halen spent their 1.5 mil on a party of their own. Maybe Spicoli was on to something when he saved Brooke Shields from drowning in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” where the closing scenes indicate his lack of frugality. Unlike “US Festival”’s many benefits, that movie launched Judge Reinhold from high school flop to top cop. It just goes to show Hollywood could polish any stone into a diamond.

So what does this have to do with Planet Analog? The answer is, plenty. First and foremost, the use of big screen presentations was introduced at “US Festival”. This represented the advanced technology of the time at its finest as OLED and plasma flat screens hadn’t even been invented. This was the era of front or rear projection which created quite the technical challenge. Not only was technology launched, the concert vaulted “Motley Crue” into the world spotlight as their dynamic performance blew the crowd away. Not to be outdone, Van Halen complimented the performance giving three quarters of a million people their money’s worth.

That money however didn’t equate to the amount Woz had spent and as a result, the event only survived two shows. Shortly after “US Festival” Van Halen’s new front man Sammy Hagar confused the crowd as to who was singing by replacing a hand held microphone with a headset. Not only had technology freed Eddie’s guitar from its electronic leash, singers were now unshackled to prance and dance at will without touting around a heavy microphone stand. Planet Analog audience, take a bow in your cubicles.

The aftermath of Woz’s dream however is quite interesting. “The Woz”’s vision to build a concert venue created the present day San Manuel Amphitheatre which was the largest open air venue as of 2007. So much for the sixty pounds I lost climbing the steps at Red Rocks or the aesthetic allure of the architectural marvel in Sydney. SoCal owns the bragging rights to the biggest or at least they did. In addition, the large bill concert launched the many multi-band shows that followed such as Lollapalooza.

In retrospect, even the largest party in the world with the top bands did not impact technology in the manner that miniaturization, streaming digital, and a wireless infrastructure did. Still, it would be nice to see Mark Zuckerberg team up with a large tract of open land and outdo what was billed as one of the biggest concerts of the 80’s. For those of you out socializing with your friends by ignoring them while hunched over your screens and tapping, there are still real life experiences that will never be equaled by pixilating them. Hopefully this generation will get to experience them like we did. As Woz learned and Zuckerberg is capable of, money can buy you anything. Therefore, it’s only proper to end this blog with a money based VH song lyric…..”Look, I’ll pay ya for it. WT………?” Everybody wants some. I want some too.

1 comment on “Supergroup Van Halen Was Once Used to Promote PCs

  1. CC VanDorne
    April 22, 2016

    …to think of a greater time to “grow-up” than the '80s!  What an awesome time to be alive and in your prime.

    Thanks for the memory trip, thanks for the back-ground on this concert, which as an East-Coaster got lost on me, and finally thanks for reminding me how much David Lee Roth stunk as a live singer. Not that I am or ever will be a “Van Hagar” fan, it just comforts me to know that there is no long-lost live VH bootleg album that I'm missing out on.  If you've got their first six studio albums, you've got their best.

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