Vancouver Sun, August 25, 1980

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Heatwave gets a cool reception


Heather Conn

It was a rock 'n' roll joy ride, a picnic for punks and the nearest thing to new wave nirvana stuffy Ontario could muster.

But Heatwave, North America's highly-touted first new wave festival, had almost as many fizzles as sizzles.

Billed as "the 1980's big beat rock and roll party", Saturday's show near Bowmanville, Ontario featured audience-alluring bands like Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Talking Heads, the B-52's, The Pretenders and Nick Lowe with Dave Edmunds and Rockpile. Toronto's toughies, Teenage Head, who performed free as a last-minute festival addition, and the Kings combined with these headliners to draw about 50,000 people at $20 each.

But for festival presenters, Prodcoin Inc., and promoters who expected at least 75.000, the so-called Woodstock of the '80s, plugged as another Monterey Pop, did not unfold as it should.

It took too long at 10:30 a.m. for Teenage Head to arouse a bleary-eyed crowd sprawled across fields in the 700-acre park, many still hung over from overnight partying. People cheered the opening act The Architects, from Toronto, only after they announced their last song. More than an hour's wait between every 40-minute performance left many people sluggish in the scorching sun, causing general cries of: "You're all boring" and pleas for excitement with "Free Charlie Manson."

Many fans were openly disappointed that the Clash, Britain's smash group that was top-billed for the occasion, didn't show. In fact, promoters never signed the band but went ahead and used its name to sell tickets, then delayed announcement of the no-show to the public, according to one Mosport Park promotion co-ordinator. As a result, $3,000 worth of tickets were refunded.

The festival lost more than $1 million and an intended money-making film of the event was not shot, although a 20-man film crew shot footage of performances by Teenage Head and the Kings.

But even without the Clash or film cameras, the new wave crowd still looked ready to boogie as the day rolled along. There were the regular types in pink lipstick and torn T-shirts bobbing their heads while the usual aren't-we-cute new wave nerds in Woolco/Fairweather styles waited in deck chairs to be noticed. Wearing carefully-chosen clashing colors some cooed aloud: "Gee, we look more new wave than anyone else here" while sweaty exhibitionists in skin-tight black leather, hot pink pants, spray-painted hair and leopard-skin garb were oblivious to mundane observers.

In the evening, dancing fans got their chance to shine when the B-52's dynamited their way through 100,000-watt speakers with the popular songs Lava and Dance This Mess Around with classic mad shrieks, soprano squeals and wails. Like a juiced-up, turned-on Jetson family with wild bouffant wig hairdos, the band got the otherwise humdrum crowd bopping, rocking and gyrating into action. Kate Pierson's shocking green tight mini and go-go dancing between notes kept band members hopping while the crowd bounced in unison around the 50-metre long stage.

The Talking Heads continued the charged-up energizing with their opener, Psycho Killer, and polished off some impressive new material that had everyone from hippies to hoods cheering, clapping and crying for more. Theirs was indeed rhythmically controlled new wave with a touch of class.

Earlier, the Pretenders had used a contrasting blitz style of audacity to blast their way through listeners' eardrums and they got an almost rip-roaring reception. Guitarist Chrissie Hynde, the self-proclaimed "zero hillbilly from Ohio", glowed during the group's high-decibel sounds.

But it was new wave's own Buddy Holly on bennies, Elvis Costello, flown in solely for this festival appearance, who the crowd was anticipating. He appeared onstage shyly at first, shrouded by three soft blue spotlights as he sang a moving ballad accompanied only by piano. Then he roared into Accidents Will Happen, with his flashy white guitar and from there delighted the crowd with his old favorites Allison, Green Shirt, Pump It Up, and Radio, Radio. Noted for his short performances, the bent-kneed spellbounder surprised everyone and came back for not one, not two, but three encores, giving a great showcase of new, never-before-played-in-public music. The crowd understandably came to life, with extra illumination from green fluorescent glow collars, firecrackers and the odd evening fire (not to mention the sneaked-through-security booze and drugs wafting through the air.)

Costello's rigorous and raunchy finale that finished at 11 p.m. was one last welcome romp for tired fans, many of whom faced long bus rides or hitchhiking trips to Ohio, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

All in all, It was a pretty mild day, with only eight people sent to the hospital suffering after effects of drugs and booze. The 150 assigned police officers who maintained tight security bad made 30 arrests by 6 p.m., including a streaker who tried to beat the heat the easy way. St. John Ambulance Service with 28 staffers treated more than 500 people for heat exhaustion, sunburn, sprains and cuts. For most, it was a sometimes tedious but painless, often pleasurable way to wallow in temporary anarchy, unconventionality and good vibes… just for a day.

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The Vancouver Sun, August 25, 1980


Heather Conn reports on the Heatwave Festival, Saturday, August 23, 1980, Mosport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

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