HFStival Returning With Death Cab, Postal Service, & ’90s Alt-Rock

HFStival Returning With Death Cab, Postal Service, & ’90s Alt-Rock

If you grew up anywhere near Washington, DC in the ’90s or ’00s, then there’s a very good chance that you had formative experiences at the HTFstival, the big annual show put on by the local alt-rock station WHFS. At its peak, the HFStival, a mid-Atlantic version of the KROQ Weenie Roast, would sell out DC’s RFK Stadium, and some of us would make a ritual out of camping out across from the Hecht’s parking lot on the night before tickets went on sale. The HFStival actually outlived WHFS, which finally went off the air in 2008, but the show hasn’t happened since 2011. This year, it’s coming back.

Today, the 9:30 Club’s social-media channels announced the grand return of the HFStival, which will happen 9/21 at Nationals Park. It’s a one-day, one-stage fest, so you won’t get a chance to see the Dismemberment Plan outside on the second stage at like 10 in the morning, as I did in 1997. The one-two Ben Gibbard punch of the Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie, two bands that never planed an HFStival, will serve as headliners, and the rest of the lineup is heavy on ’90s nostalgia.

Most of the acts on this year’s bill are HFStival veterans. We’re looking at a 2024 stadium festival bill with Incubus (HFStival ’01), Bush (’95, ’99), Garbage (’96, ’05), Filter (’99, ’00), and Lit (’99, ’04, ’10). The Violent Femmes are coming back, and they actually headlined the second-ever HFStival in 1991, topping a bill that also included Gang Of Four, Robyn Hitchcock, and the La’s. (Violent Femmes also played the fest in ’94 and ’04.) The bill also includes Jimmy Eat World, Girl Talk, and Tonic, all of whom have somehow avoided playing an HFStival until now. (That’s not a surprise with Girl Talk, but it is with the other two.)

If you have the time and the inclination, I recommend some time perusing the Wikipedia page of past HFStival lineups, since that shit is wild. It really gives a fascinating time-capsule glimpse of alternative rock radio as it changed over the years. Consider, if you will, the lineup for the first stadium-sized HFStival, in 1993: INXS, Iggy Pop, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Stereo MCs, Belly, Matthew Sweet, The Posies, X, and Velocity Girl. Damn.

The most recent HFStival happened in 2011 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, with the Avett Brothers and Flogging Molly headlining. Matisyahu and Kanye West topped one of the two-day bills in 2006. My first HFStival was 1995, and it opened with Shudder To Think playing in a damn stadium. Tony Bennett and Courtney Love made surprise appearances. The Ramones played last, but Soul Asylum were the de facto headliners, and there were rumors that Dave Pirner got into a backstage fight with Les Claypool. (Pirner was dating Winona Ryder at the time, and Primus had just released the song “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver.”) PJ Harvey, General Public, and Mike Watt played the big indoor stage, while Hum and Archers Of Loaf played on the second stage out in the parking lot. There was a rave tent. Just about everyone from my high school was there. I had the best time.

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