K.K. DOWNING Looks Back On JUDAS PRIEST's Performance At US FESTIVAL: 'I Would Love To Do That All Over Again'
May 31, 2023
Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing has reflected on the band's appearance at the US Festival exactly four decades ago.
Sponsored by Steve Wozniak, formerly of Apple computer, the US Festival (US is an acronym for "Unite Us In Song"),held on Memorial Day of 1983, was a massive three-day celebration of technology and culture, with a temporary stage and open-air venue paid for by Wozniak himself just for the purposes of the festival. The event featured "Heavy Metal Day" on May 29, 1983 with the aforementioned JUDAS PRIEST along with the following stellar lineup: MÖTLEY CRÜE, OZZY OSBOURNE, QUIET RIOT, TRIUMPH, SCORPIONS and VAN HALEN.
The festivals included large air-conditioned tents featuring the US Festival Technology Exposition, a dazzling display of then-cutting-edge computers, software, and electronic music devices. Also making a debut were installations of "outdoor rain," perforated PVC nozzles that sprayed water to fight the fierce hundred-degree heat.
Despite the historical value of the performances, the festival was a failure, with two reported deaths at the 1983 festival and Wozniak and promoters losing some $24 million. Setbacks aside, the performances remain a worthy footnote in rock history.
In an audio message sent to BLABBERMOUTH.NET, Downing looked back fondly on PRIEST's participation at US Festival, saying: "Hi there everyone. This is K.K. Downing just stopping wishing US, the US Festival a very happy 40th anniversary. And I must say, what a cherished memory that was for me and the band. Undoubtedly the biggest audience and biggest festival we ever certainly played or probably ever will play. Surely a one-off spectacular event.
"I remember, I recall well flying in to the festival and out of the festival via a helicopter," he continued. "They were saying that the crowd was so big that the best way to get in and out was that way, which was fantastic, obviously. Flying in to the festival, looking down through the helicopter windows, it was an astonishing sight.
"Yeah, I would love to do that all over again. A fantastic lineup, obviously, with so many people — Ozzy, ourselves and QUIET RIOT, VAN HALEN and TRIUMPH. It was just a fantastic experience. A difficult gig — it was probably 110 [degrees Fahrenheit] in the shade. But, yeah, we were certainly up for it and well oiled. I think we were on tour at the time, which was great.
"But, yeah, [it was] a wonderful experience," Downing added. "And a big hello to everyone that was there on either side of the barriers, working the stage, playing or, obviously, in the audience. It would be great if we could experience that again at some point in our lives. Until then, I wish you all good health and travel safe. And thank you all for keeping metal alive. And I hope to see you all out there on the road again very soon."
As previously reported, Downing's new band KK'S PRIEST will make its live debut on July 6 at Downing's KK's Steel Mill in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. KK'S PRIEST will also make a couple of European festival appearances this summer, including the Time To Rock festival, set to take place July 8-10 in Knislinge, Sweden, and the Alcatraz open air hard rock and heavy metal festival, which will be held August 11-13 in Kortrijk, Belgium.
Downing is joined in KK'S PRIEST by former JUDAS PRIEST singer Tim "Ripper" Owens (vocals),along with guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE),bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX) and drummer Sean Elg (DEATHRIDERS, CAGE).
KK'S PRIEST will perform tracks from the band's debut album, 2021's "Sermons Of The Sinner", plus new material from KK'S PRIEST as-yet-unreleased second LP, plus many a PRIEST classic thrown in for good measure.
K.K. formed KK'S PRIEST after JUDAS PRIEST turned down his offer to rejoin the band for their 50th-anniversary tour. It followed a couple of celebrated stage appearances, first with former MANOWAR guitarist Ross The Boss in the summer of 2019, then with a one-off lineup that included former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson and former PRIEST drummer Les Binks later that year.
Downing was reunited with JUDAS PRIEST for a performance at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony last November at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
PRIEST received the Musical Excellence Award at the event, which honored Eminem, Dolly Parton, DURAN DURAN, Lionel Richie, Pat Benatar, EURYTHMICS and Carly Simon in the Performers category.
Downing left PRIEST in 2011 amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance. He was replaced by Richie Faulkner, nearly three decades his junior.
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