MOSPORT — About 50,000 people paid between $20 and $25 to attend North America's first and perhaps only new wave festival at the raceway park here Aug. 23, with a bill that included the Pretenders. Talking Heads, Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
The Heat Wave festival was just as the name implied, with an almost cloudless day keeping the audience sedated under the intense sun. But for investors in the show, the more than $1 million boxoffice gross was not enough to balance the close to double financial outlay.
According to Heat Wave producer John Brower, early budgeting forecasts had to be revised several times before the event actually took place and real profits were expected from ancillary rights from the show. including film and movie soundtrack rights.
Management for Elvis Costello. Nick Lowe and Rockpile refused to grant permission for the ancillary rights, however, the producers say, although negotiations continued well into the afternoon as the show progressed. A 24-man film crew and soundtrack present on the site sat idle as a result, although concert footage was taken of the Kings and Heat Wave opener, Vladymir Rogov.
Despite the red ledger, Heat Wave moved along in an orderly fashion without any major hitches and, in so doing, proved that new wave could hold its own as a meaningful force in rock music today.
Canada's premier young-blooded rock band Teenage Head was the first to rally the audience to its feet and the Pretenders brought the audience a little closer to stage with their mid-afternoon set. Between these two bends were Nick Lowe & Rockpile and the Rumour. both of whom sacrificed a certain amount of presence for pure music. If the performers felt dwarfed by the audience. it showed.
Sundown brought on the B-52s. the perfect choice of music for the time of day and it took a second set by the group to quell the audience's cry for an encore. The island group mixes the fashionable flamboyance of the Kinks mid-'60s period with a music style that is as distinctive and unique as John Coltrane's and the net of the two is a musical posture that can't help but to galvanize an audience.
It did, but they were to be out done by the surprise highlight of the day that not even Elvis Costello could hit.
Talking Heads took to the stage without any fanfare and by the end of the first number the infield area had swollen to close to twice the number of people as the audience moved closer in to the stage area.
Even performers who were loafing around backstage moved in to catch an ear as Talking Heads released all the hesitations and promises of past performances to show off their true potential.
The nine-piece hand had found its groove, so to speak. and the intricate melodies and polyrhythms that have grated in the past flowed easily and naturally.
Elvis Costello and Attractions were second last on the bill, hitting the stage shortly after 10 p.m. Working with his crack trio. Costello's voice sounded more soulful, less jagged than it ever has, including on record. It was obvious he and his hand had rehearsed for the show. his only one on the continent this year.
Introducing several new songs along with an hour set that included most all of his best known material. Costello broke his own rule by playing not one, but three encores. The audience let him know in no uncertain terms that it appreciated the set.
Generally, the event was accepted as a successful venture artistically. with Sire Records president Seymour Stain going as far as terming the festival a "historic" occasion.
Dignitaries. other than Stein who had Talking Heads and the Pretenders on the bill, included producer Bob Ezrin, Deborah Harry from Blondie, Bruce Cockburn and Dan Ackroyd.
Last act on the bill was the Kings, a Toronto band signed with Elektra in the U.S. Though its show (close to midnight) was too late for many who had left after Costello. the performance was their first taste of the outdoor kind and through the darkened void. looking out from the stage, one
could hear clapping which presumably meant people were still in the audience and up for the final set of the night that crept into the morning.
On a final point. a certain amount of confusion still continues over just how the budget for the show blew so far out of proportion. but some insiders venture that the talent booking itself was less than fully organized.
The figure of $50,000 came up several times as the sum paid to Elvis Costello and the Attractions. while the Pretenders apparently earned $70.000.
The producers have steadfastly refused to divulge details of artist fees. which is generally the case in any rock event today. Howwer, it was officially released that the overall talent budget amounted to $400.000.
It is worth pointing out that none of the acts hooked on the show has ever made more than $15.000 for a performance on this continent before.