Avid festival goers arrived believing they'd see the Clash, the Ramones, Graham Parker, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Third World, Rockpile, Holly and the Italians, Teenage Head, the Pretenders, the B-52's, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, the Kings and the Start — but the first five in that lineup didn't perform. Even so, most in attendance seemed to agree that Heatwave was just fine.
This big New Wave bill wasn't a Woodstock, a Monterey Pop Festival or any of those powerful old things. Mosport Park was plagued by millions of genuine locusts jumping to the music and on the crowd. This formed the ambience for rock adventure: we were all on a wagon train rolling somewhere rugged and unknown.
The morning events were like a late Seventies stadium gig. The Canadian Teenage Head ram-rocked rockabilly numbers at the horde, but few danced. Then Rockpile spouted pop music with wit; the crowd leaped to its feet, but only those near the stage danced: a man with a safety pin earring, a woman draped in imitation leopard-skin, lots of folks with painted hair — the hard core folks finally woke up. When would the mass dance?
Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders know what to do. When they played rock with reggae, blowing it through the giant speaker stacks, the bodies begin to bob. Hynde flung off her satiny blue jacket and turned on the power in her independent, pouty voice. "Private Life" was like a rhythmic transfusion; the bobbing became quicker. The B-52's, with their white child rhythm and blues, rescued everyone's childhood with the beach party movie-ish "Rock Lobster," the festival's first real showstopper. The dressed up New Wavers, the jeans and tee-shirt people, the drunks, the urban cowboys all jumped and the locusts scattered.
The Talking Heads hit the stage, enlarged to a nine-member funk ensemble with Nona Hendryx singing back-up. The result was a sort of space disco — primal dance music without a particular time frame. The rhythm was rubbery during "Life During Wartime," the tone elastic during "Take me to the River."
Elvis Costello pumped in with an uncharacteristic happy expression. With the original Attractions, Costello crooned the new popper, "Clubland," enhanced the reggae in his older songs and romped in his exaggerated stage presence, Finally, in a reversal of his usual stage tactics, a five-song encore of "Radio, Radio," "Pump It Up," "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding," "Mystery Dance" and "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down."