Moshed, drunken, and sunstroked adolescents piled up inside four first-aid stations. Teen after teen proffered his body at a booth for piercings and tattoos. Meanwhile, as 22 bands played on two stages at the ninth annual HFStival Saturday at RFK Stadium, slightly older folk debated whether or not their host, WHFS, had sold out.
The station started 30 years ago as a 2,300-watt station in Bethesda and has become a 50,000-watt monster named by Rolling Stone as one of the nation’s “Top 5 Radio Stations.” “They’ve gone from progressive rebels towell, now it’s almost Top 40,” said a 33-year-old T-shirt vendor. “We used to have Greenpeace” as a major presence at the festival, he said. “Now it’s Blockbuster.” The enormous inflatable videotape balloon wasn’t the only traceable corporate fingerprint: Starbucks and various temp agencies were taking names; a Marines recruiting center ran a pull-up contest; and 1-800-COLLECT provided a virtual-reality roller coaster.
But HFS struggled to maintain the festival’s free-wheelin’ roots. The Community Action Fair Tent gave space to do-gooders like AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanityfor a small fee. Also important, said Jeanne Wagner, publicist for the festival, HFS doesn’t make any money from the event. “All profits go to charity,” she added.
“Yeah, sometimes what’s out there affects what’s in here,” acknowledged Lou Brutus, HFS’s morning man. “But generally we’re able to keep it about what counts….You have to feed the beast, but if you can give it little spoonfuls, you can hold it at bay and keep it outside.”
Inside, Barenaked Ladies singer Ed Robertson was trying to minimize injuries. “I think it’s time to get really ‘alternative.’ Because slam-dancing and body surfingthat’s really kind of old,” Robertson declared. “Let’s get a circle and do some line dancing, some square dancing. Now that’s alternative.”
Near the entrance to the stage hovered Kelly Sandifer, a 17-year-old Arundel High School junior, clutching a T-shirt on which she’d written “I Pretend my boyfriend is [performer] Scott Weiland when we’re having sex.” “‘Alternative’ has no meaning,” she said. “There is no alternative to ‘alternative,’ you know?”
Before the show’s last band, the Crystal Method, went out to fill the stadium with its techno-bubblegum, one of the group’s DJs was quizzed backstage by an Associated Press reporter about how one of its songs was sold to the Gap for a commercial. “Have you sold out?” the reporter asked.
Nearby, a host of preteens sported temporary tattoos advertising Doc Martens. Banners proclaimed the merits of Mistic juices and Gibson Les Paul guitars. The stadium TV replayed an old MTV News spurt about a past HFStival before broadcasting a South Park episode.Jake Tapper