HFStival No More

Washington, D.C.’s largest alternative rock station, WHFS-FM, quietly changed its format January 12th to Spanish-language music. With the switch, one of the U.S.’s oldest radio fests has come to a close.

WHFS began in the 1960s and was one of the more influential radio stations in the market. With the help of the radio station and its alternative music programming, the annual HFStival at RFK Stadium headlined artists that would not have done so in other markets.

The fest sold out in 2004, drawing about 60,000 fans. Last year’s event was produced by independent promotion company I.M.P. (Previously, it was produced by Clear Channel, the irony being WHFS is an Infinity radio station.)

I.M.P.’s Seth Hurwitz – who was a DJ at WHFS in 1976-77 while he attended high school – told Pollstar his company was in the early stages of organizing this year’s Memorial Day weekend event when the format change occurred. Because RFK recently gained baseball’s Montreal Expos as a tenant, I.M.P. was shopping other facilities.

But Hurwitz was more concerned with the passing of the storied radio station.

“People are dazed and shocked and they’re all thinking of their own personal memories of which WHFS era was important to them,” Hurwitz said.

“There’s a cultural and emotional history for WHFS. It went through several phases, each one vital and important, and it certainly was a big part of the Lollapalooza era. It was first on a lot of those bands. We had Echo & The Bunnymen doing 5,000 people here before they could do 1,000 anywhere else.”

However, Hurwitz believed that recently, WHFS was becoming too focused on promoting its shows, playing artists booked for its festival or other WHFS events.

Infinity entered into a strategic alliance with the Spanish Broadcasting System in October, which in hindsight was telling.