Ottawa Citizen, August 25, 1980
Elvis Costello controls hot crowd at
Teenage Head woke them, The Rumor rocked them, Rockpile rolled them and the sun just baked them.
And in the end, it was Elvis Costello who controlled them.
All in all it was a great day for rock and roll Saturday as some 70,000 people from across eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. congregated at Mosport Park for more than 12 hours of sun, fun and "new wave" music.
It was regarded by some as a punk festival and though it drew its share of kids in bizarre outfits — green hair, tight pants and torn T-shirts — it was a gentle outdoor festival offering music without mayhem.
In fact, with bright sunny skies dominating the day, Heatwave was extremely hot and laid back which kept the crowd pretty sedate for most of the day.
Fears generated by the flash riot earlier in the week at the CNE in Toronto when aging rock star Alice Cooper failed to perform as promised proved groundless. Ironically, number of people at Mosport sported new tongue-in-cheek T-shirts — "I survived the Alice Cooper riot" and, rewriting the title of Cooper's latest album, Flush the riot.
The attendance, 40,000 short of Mosport's last festival, Canada Jam in 1978, and reportedly 10,000 short of the promoters' break-even point, made this a musical and cultural success, if not a financial success.
The surprisingly well-mannered crowd ranged in age from late teens to early '30s, with a fair representation from the new wave scene but the majority being be simply rock and roll fans — old wave, new wave, it's still rock and roll to them.
Security was tight and efficient with few apparent problems. The hospital tent was kept "fairly busy" throughout the day but everything was pretty much of a minor nature associated with such events where people gather in such high density. In addition to the as-to-be-expected drug overdoses, there were the standard cuts — never walk barefoot at any outdoor gathering — and a lot of heat exhaustion.
The crowd was frequently encouraged to consume liquids to stave of dehydration and in addition to the concession stands surrounding the area, water trucks were stationed about the grounds and even provided plastic jugs for carrying the cold water back to others.
Still a number of people drank too much of the wrong liquids and passed out in the blazing sun. Festival staff wearing "Need help? Ask me" T-shirts patrolled the grounds and helped the busy ambulance crews cart the casualties to the hospital tent on stretchers. Most just seemed to need something to drink and a bit of shade.
Naturally the concessions charged on-site prices — 50 cents for a cup of pop and SI for a hot dog — but at least the food and ,drink was plentiful and miracle of miracles, the hot dogs were hot and the cold drinks (with ice) were cold.
The hot sun was tempered by stray breezes and occasional brief cloud cover. With but a reasonable bit of care one could avoid dehydration, headaches and sun burns.
And when the sun went down, it was a beautiful evening, cool but pleasant with stars peaking in overhead.
And the music was pretty good. The Rumour appeared without Graham Parker and demonstrated why their a highly-rated band in their own right.
Rockpile features Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe and each led the band when performing their own material.
Holly and the Italians were a pleasant, crowd pleasing surprise but it was the dynamic late-afternoon performance by The Pretenders that really got the crowd moving.
The B-52s — featuring Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson shimmying under incredible, touring bouffant hairdos — were the visual highlight of the show and obvious crowd favorites as they bounced and bopped their way through their slightly bizarre repertoire highlighted by "Lobster Rock."
Talking Heads performed during those magic sunset moments when dusk turned to dark and were the big surprises of the day. Like the others they got a good reception but halfway through their set, their keen edged futuristic funk hit a new peak of precision and intensity and the crowd was dancing in the dark — even those half a kilometre away.
The sound system was extremely good as were the sight-lines in this natural grassy hollow that holds 100,000-plus comfortably
Elvis Costello and the Attractions were the main attractions and kept the crowd cheering with a quick set combining old and new material. Everybody, including Costello, kept their sets to just under an hour and even though encores were plentiful, the day moved quickly.
However, Costello won the encore competition. The third time he was called back he responded with a trio of tunes and still the crowd begged for more.
By midnight, the Kings, a hot new group out of Toronto, were partying for the diehards and serenading the majority as the shuffled out to the distant parking lots.
Heatwave wasn't as grand and spectacular as Canada Jam but then times are different.
In 1978 bands like The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac were selling out huge stadiums.
Today rock attendance is down across North America and even established super stars like Fleetwood Mac and The Who are failing to sell out every performance.
In that light, 70,000 was really an amazing crowd for a bunch of former club bands big in new wave circles but not all that well known to mainstream, AM radio listeners.
And for 70,000 rock fans, Heatwave was were it was happening, a great day for soaking up some sun and sounds with a lot of similarly-minded people.
Ottawa Citizen, August 25, 1980
Photo by Drew Gragg.