2023 – 40th Anniversary of The Biggest Music Event I Ever Shot

………………………………………………..(ignore April 30, 2017 publish date – this was published on May 23, 2023)


Click to enlarge most pix.


(pronounced “Us” – not “U.S.”)


Anybody remember the ’83 US Festival? (Anybody even heard of it?)




It was Woodstockian in size and length – 3 days (plus a 4th day of country music that was held 5 days later that very few – if any – of us photographers attended).

I found this online, though I think it shows a cumulative figure and not the attendance for any one day:

BTW – I attended that legendary 1969 Woodstock (not shooting yet, unfortunately) and when you compare pictures of what appear to be endless crowds, they look pretty similar.

This Memorial Day weekend event was the brainchild of Apple genius Steve Wozniak, who had actually staged another US Festival (US ’82) the previous Labor Day weekend.

I didn’t go to that one, but there was no way I was going to miss this one, so I immediately applied for press credentials (photo pass) and received this envelope about a week before the event:

(Written on May 13 and mailed on May 20? Cutting it kinda close there, Steve, what with having to arrange flights, connect with colleagues around the country – most of whom I had never met before – to arrange sharing hotel rooms and transportation to the site and then getting out there a day or two before the event started on the 28th). Whew!

Included in the envelope were the following:

– The Credential Approval Letter:


– Two maps (which I combined) showing the general area and the site area:


– The unused parking pass (I got there in someone else’s motor home) and the worth-its-weight-in-gold photo pass:



OK – all set!


There have been lots of writeups and thousands of show photos published over the years, but I’m going to show you EVERYTHING I shot (well, almost everything) – the good, the bad, the ugly and the kinda cool, including lots of things that I’ve never seen published anywhere.

Now we photographers all have stuff like that, but magazine photo editors were only interested in the best performance shots……….and rightfully so – that’s their job and that sells magazines.

Fortunately, I’m my own photo editor on my blog, so there are no restrictions. I’m not particularly worried that someone may retaliate by withholding my photo pass for US ’23 – if there was such a thing – and I don’t know if I’ll be around for the 50th anniversary, so now’s the time to get it all out there.



As I mentioned before, I traveled from LA to the site in a small mobile home with some photographers I had never met before: Paul Natkin, Jeff Sourner, Ann Summa, and a woman who name I don’t recall (and I didn’t see her shooting at the show).

I made a monstrous photomontage that mostly contains photos of that journey (CLICK IT!):

Starting with the upper left: We stopped at a supermarket where Paul and Jeff bought food (I think). As they wheeled the cart back to our vehicle, I took a picture of them through its rear window. Paul smiled as Jeff said…………um…….”hello”.

Top middle: I was playing around with a fisheye lens and its built-in color filters when I took a shot through that same window of the highway we were on.

Top right: Ann and her friend sit across a table from me.

Bottom left: Anne takes a shot of her friend and me.

Bottom middle: Finally at the site, I take a shot of Jeff and Ann.

Bottom right: Jumping ahead a bit………a familiar face at last! Gary Gershoff – a NYC photographer from Queens – is in the center as Ann and Paul stand on the right. We photographers are in our backstage “cage”. The powers that be decided that after shooting our song allotments, we were to all be corralled within the scaffolding of a bleacher that seated the credentialed “guests”.

Though it was backstage, the bleacher gave a view of the stage, which the guests enjoyed because the only other option for them was to have to penetrate (and deal with) the thousands of crazed, sun-baked people in the crowd.

Of course, the higher bleacher rows provided the best view and the people who had those seats were reluctant to leave them for any reason, lest other guests quickly take their places.

The higher bleacher rows were also where the photographers underneath had the most headroom, so that’s where we were concentrated.

Guess which group suffered the most when the upstairs guests – who were reluctant to vacate their seats even for a few minutes – had to dispose of their food and drink trash………..or even worse……….HAD TO PEE!

What to do? They realized that they had empty drink cups to pee into! And – apparently either unaware of the photographic population below them or just plain uncaring, simply dropped all waste – liquid or solid – into the “empty” space below them!



Having trouble envisioning the setup? This should help:

I’m not sure when I took this, but the “cage” seems to be empty, so I might have taken this in anger after the fact.

Think I made this all up? You can read all about it in a story in a Rolling Stone publication towards the end of this post.


Before I get to the actual performances, there’s just one more “before” item to show:



Performers and press stayed in a hotel that was a couple of miles from the site (backstage buses took everyone back and forth). Rooms were limited by the time I got around to trying to get one, so I wound up sharing a room with Paul Natkin (from Chicago) and Ross Marino (Detroit).

I had just met Paul, but hadn’t met Ross yet. There were two double beds in this room, meaning we would each get at least ONE night with a bed to ourselves.

Unfortunate change of plans: Ross unexpectedly showed up with his girlfriend (it would have been nice if he had mentioned that little detail beforehand – maybe we could have made other arrangements).

Now we have 4 strangers and none of the 3 photographers gets a bed to himself on ANY night. At least we each got a night with the girlfriend (yeah, right).

I had a feeling that – 40 years later – you’d all want to see the room, so here it is:

Ross is sort of hiding in the back left corner and the girlfriend is still in bed. I’m not sure where Paul is………the bathroom?


Time to go to work…………and here’s the 3-day schedule with some on-site changes I had to make:



Gathering all the photos, writing stories for each and putting them in proper order took me weeks, but a big help was my website (bobleafe.com), where I have about 30 pix under the Us Festival listing. And they all have stories with each pic, so it was a lot easier to just steal from my site instead of scanning each pic again and rewriting almost 30 stories.


As I did on my site, I’m posting every act in the order in which they performed, so you can see what I saw in the same sequence. Let’s begin:

Slight correction: Day 1 ended with the Clash performance, which isn’t on my site (but is here).


First act: The Divinyls

Note: the first caption only makes sense if you’re familiar with this very honest song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv-34w8kGPM


After the Divinyls, I went backstage and found Ann Summa chatting up head honcho Steve Wozniak:


Next up:


After INXS, Candice, Jesse, and Steve Wozniak make an appearance onstage:

The picture tells me that Jesse was grabbing the mic to complain to the crowd that he was being touched inappropriately.   😉


On to Wall of Voodoo’s Stan Ridgway:


I don’t recall what was going on in the pit at the moment, but Paul Natkin points something out to NYC photographer Ebet Roberts:


Backstage question: whose license plate was “HQ ONE”?


Onstage: Oingo Boingo

And if your response to the second caption line is, “Oh yeah? Name one!”

Well, maybe you’re familiar with the opening theme music you’ve heard on most Sunday evenings for the last 33+ years on “The Simpsons”.


This image should dispel the notion that shooting from the pit at this show was “so close, you could touch the performers”:

Plus, you’re jammed in there with a lot of other photographers and you can only shoot the first 3 songs before being returned to ”the cage” backstage. Keep this shot in mind until after Motley Crue on Day 2, when I worked out something highly advantageous to me.


Sometimes, I managed to avoid “the cage” for some “Press Island” events:

Looks nice and calm, doesn’t it?


This particular event there was Clash-related:


Back to the pit for the English Beat and their sax guy, “Saxa”(!)


Besides the performers right in front of us, there were plenty of things to shoot right behind us, like this poor guy:


Next up was A Flock of Seagulls:

You remember Mike Score – the guy who inspired most of us to refer to the band as “A Flock of Hairdos”, right?

I saw him strolling through the hotel lobby the next day, but coiffed a bit more normally…………wish I had gotten a shot of that!


Back on Press Island, Ranking Roger from the English Beat gets interviewed:


While I was backstage, I saw this amazing string of balloons:


One guy was the connection between two strings of balloons:

Surprisingly, there were no other photographers around! How did that happen? Who cares? Click!


My favorite personal story of Day 1:


Here’s CREEM magazine having fun with that shot:


Back to work to shoot Men At Work (how redundant can you get?):


Press conference by the final band of Day 1:

Leafe the Lucky strikes again!


Pissed or not, the Clash gave a rousing performance:

But what’s that in Joe’s mouth?



Doesn’t help much, does it?


It’s been a long day. It’s time to find the backstage bus and get back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep. Day 2 is gonna be a monster!




You just knew in advance that this would be THE day that everyone would talk about forever. There was not a single crappy band in the hard-hitting bunch. That’s probably why this day had the highest attendance (almost double Day 1!).


Quiet Riot kicked things off and they did not disappoint:


How good was the Crue? The next FOUR shots are all stolen from my site:



After that, I was so inspired to get more and better shots that this happened:

That had to be one of the best, quick-thinking (he says modestly) solutions I ever came up with for ANY show I’ve ever attended and it certainly changed everything for THIS show.


How’s THIS for a crowd shot?


I was really feeling my oats by now……..and then – all of a sudden – I noticed this gorgeous girl standing on the ground by the corner of the stage trying to get my attention (she didn’t have to try very hard).

I immediately took a picture of her as her friend took one of me:

Although she was 15-20’ below me, we tried to communicate, but everything was just so loud that neither of us could understand a word of the other………..and I had to get back to work.

I was hoping I’d find her later, but – of course – that didn’t happen.

OH MAN! So near and yet……………….


I had to trade that wonderful possibility for this crazy-looking thing:


And look who only has eyes (I think) for Ozzy:

(What would Sharon say?)


Back to work (and from a much better vantage point than the pit):


This location also let me see some of the unfortunate things going on:


Security didn’t seem to mind too much about having to carry this audience member over the barrier:


My favorite Ozzy US Festival shot:


Next up was Judas Priest. This is a still from a YouTube video that shows me photographing Priest singer Rob Halford:

Gotta love the new, uncramped proximity I now had.


And here’s what I was able to shoot from that spot:


Shirtless stagecrasher! This guy is mentioned in possible connection with a certain drug in the published writeup near the end of this post:


This poor girl! I’m guessing that she was pulled over the barrier (I didn’t see it), but what’s up with her LEFT leg? It looks like a chunk of it’s missing just below the knee:


Is that a skimpily-dressed security guy behind her carrying her prosthetic leg? Whatever is going on, I have never before viewed a scene like this at a concert…………..or ANYWHERE!


Priest was followed by Triumph:


Then came one of my favorites – Scorpions:


During the Scorpions’ set, I noticed something I’ve never seen in ANY coverage of this Festival. I think that’s a video camera of some sort, but I have no idea what that third crew member is doing on it:

I’m half-expecting Rocket J. Squirrel to make an airborne appearance. More on this on Day 3.


The NERVE of this video guy ruining my great end-of-show Scorpions photo!

(Actually, I didn’t see him in the dark until my flash lit him up.)



Time for the headliner and for the place to go nuts………….and they did!


Be sure to read the story on this one because it leads to the one after it:


This is the 1:58 still from that video showing me missing the shot:


And Eddie’s walk-off slide into home with the winning run sends everyone home and happy……….except me (I TOLD him to hold the guitar lower and not block his face!).

Just kidding – VH was the perfect capper to this absolutely wild day.


Here’s a picture of me and some of my friends that appeared in the New York Daily News the next day:

I don’t think anyone who was there will ever forget Metal Day at the US Festival!



Because I was exhausted after Metal Day and because I had already photographed Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul at the WNEW-FM (NYC) Christmas Concert at Radio City Music Hall in December of 1982, I felt justified in sleeping an extra hour and missing the band kicking off Day 3.

To sort of make up for it, here’s a picture I took of Steve Van Zandt in the same band in 1987 at Madison Square Garden:


So the first band I shot on Memorial Day was Berlin and here’s singer Terri Nunn:


I didn’t shoot Berlin’s whole performance, because there was something I needed to do and this was my last chance to do it: take a stroll around the back end of the periphery of the crowd (which I thought might be somewhere in the vicinity of Ogden, Utah). Hey – a Robert Klein reference!


From my site:


There were other interesting things to see………….is that a spy balloon from China?

There appears to be another one off in the distance. And note the guy on the right wearing an Us Festival t-shirt. You’ll see another one later on.


I guess if Miller can push their beer at 10am, Camel can very subtly push their two-story tall cigarettes that – according to the pack – taste like a camel (no wonder no one’s sitting near it):


I’m guessing that this is how that Daily News photographer got the crowd shot you saw above at the end of Day 2:


Back to work………….


Quarterflash’s Rindy Ross sticks her tongue out at the microphone:


Highlight performance of the day (with a personal story about the end of the day):


Bono shares the stage with John Lennon:


During U2’s performance, is this girl protecting herself or grabbing a piece of ass?


Bono roars………….


…………….and then strips to the delight of the crowd:


………AND gets a little support from security:


This audience member seems to approve………….so why is she sticking her tongue out at me?


Bono takes to the air and is never seen again………..at least not in this post:


Next up………DB from MP:


Dale takes a crowd shot with her Polaroid camera and has a unique way to display her work (and if you look closely, you can see that the picture she took shows the pit and the crowd):


I don’t know what happened to this person, but being strapped in isn’t a good sign:


However, rocking out to Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders) and Joe Walsh are very good signs:


During Joe’s set, our friend from yesterday – Mr. B. Moose – makes a return appearance on the video cam. Still no idea why, but maybe he made a deal with the video crew like I did for better access:


By the way, here’s my tribute to him 20 years later (and 20 years ago):

Back to our show………….

Time for the penultimate performance of the entire Festival – Miss Stevie Nicks:


Finishing off the festivities was David Bowie. I remember a lot of confusion and disappointment among the photographers over who could shoot and how many songs (if any) they could shoot, with the end result being that many of them didn’t get to shoot at all.

I was turned down, but whatever Grinch made that declaration didn’t know about my “in” with the video crew, so I got to shoot from my lip-of-the-stage spot.

But he never seemed to be close to my location. I got fewer than 20 shots, but I only like a couple of them…………..and not that much.

CREEM ran two of them and had some caption fun with this one:


And if you don’t get the reference…………..



And so the Festival ended on not the best of notes as CREEM had more fun with this great photographer group shot by Jeff Sourner:

Photographers who were mentioned in this post and are shown in the picture include: (crouching down: Ann Summa and Paul Natkin………….Ann’s finger may be poking Ross Marino in the navel………..Ebet Roberts (shades) is next to Ross and I’m standing behind Paul).


We’re not the only ones who felt that way. Read this great article by John Mendelssohn in the August 1983 issue of Record (put out by Rolling Stone). Among other problems, he refers to the “Bombs Away” situation the photographers were faced with while confined to “the cage” that I mentioned earlier.

Click this twice so it’s readable:





You may recall a picture of someone I photographed wearing an Us Festival t-shirt during my AM stroll on Day 3. I said you’d see another one later on. Here it is:

I recently found this rolled up with dozens and dozens of old t-shirts. It (and the next one) was easy to find because all my other tees are black.


While I can find Us Festival t-shirts all over the Web, I can NOT find another one like this Ozzy/Us one:

I’m guessing it was a very limited edition either only available at the show or maybe just backstage to guests and press. If anyone can clear that up for me, let me know.


Not sure, but I probably bought the program and the button on eBay:


The last item – a CD of the English Beat’s performances at BOTH Us Festivals – has one of my photos on the front cover. Which one?

Mine’s the one that’s in focus, shows an open eye (this guy’s awake!) AND an instrument being played with two hands (he says, cattily).

I’m sorry, but two performances and that’s the best photography they could come up with for a cover?




(As I head east over the Rockies)



There’s ONE more picture I took that’s loosely-related to everything you’ve seen here, but you’ll have to go to an old post on this blog to see it and read the story.

It leads off the post and is the exclamation point to this very long week, but it took a little detective work to connect it to everything else:


Since that post is a “Best of” for the year, there are other pix I hope you’ll find interesting. In fact, the second pic is one you’ve already seen here from Day 1 of the Festival. The third pic shows where some of the photographers were the next(?) day.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this tribute to the largest event I ever photographed. Consequently, this may be the largest blog post I’ve created so far.

It’s taken about 5 months to gather/scan/edit/write about all the slides and negs, but I wanted to show EVERYTHING I saw and experienced – the good, the bad and the ridiculous.


Was it worth it?



One Comment

  1. John Mulligan May 24, 2023

    Hi Cuz, I hit just about every big outside show on the east coast from Watkins Glen in ’73 through Stompin’76 before I started as a roadie and contract security staff for the Capitol Theatre and the shows they were associated with. Detrimental to your general health but more fun then I can remember. ALOHA

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