Sometimes, Washington is as hot as Bangkok. OK, I stole that line, but it was baking hot at RFK Stadium Saturday for the HFStival, the annual, all-day, relentlessly eclectic rock extravaganza put on by local radio station WHFS-FM (99.1).
An estimated crowd of 60,000 blazed under a pre-summer sun, moseying in and out of the stadium from parking-lot attractions that included a forest of beer trucks, giant inflatable corporate logos, two more bandstands – one for national acts, the other for local acts such as Washington Social Club and Jimmie’s Chicken Shack – and, for the truly adventurous, a Ferris wheel.
The only thing in seemingly short supply was water. Dexter Holland, lead singer of SoCal surf-punkers the Offspring, had the right idea: a fire hose. With it snaking across the stage and slung over his shoulder, Mr. Holland sprayed an infield full of fans eager to lap up anything wet.
Gates opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the headlining act, the Cure, finished at 11 p.m. sharp. By then, fully two-thirds of the audience – too young, perhaps, to be excited by the resurgent English new wavers – had leaked out of RFK and hopped the Blue Line home.
Outside the stadium, the second national stage showcased two of the most interesting acts of the festival: the garage punk of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and Modest Mouse, a Washington state band making a pit stop before touring with Lollapalooza this summer.
Both bands got lost in the hurly-burly of the parking lots, alas. Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, dogged by microphone defects, was conscious of the less-than-hospitable setting.
Inside the bowl, it was familiar, uptempo Offspring hits such as “Self-Esteem,” “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” and “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” that found the sweetest spot of the day, after the satellite stages had closed and everyone filed inside. (Immediately preceding the Offspring, the alt-metal band P.O.D. played for 40 muddy, indistinct minutes.)
Viewed high from an upper concourse, the audience heaved, bounced and fist-pumped in unison with the Offspring, with human potholes opening for the guys to mosh the tar out of each other.
The yellow-shirted security minions perfected a routine for catching successive waves of crowd surfers: Step up; cradle body; pivot; send body on its way.
Rapper Jay-Z, strategically sandwiched between rap-metal and pop-metal, went over surprisingly well.
Songs such as “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “99 Problems” (buoyed by a great Billy Squier sample) proved as hooky as P.O.D.’s “Youth of the Nation” and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”
Counterintuitively, the boys moshed during Jay-Z, too.
All moshing stopped by the time of the Cure, as the face of the black-eye-shadowed Robert Smith, still looking like Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands,” appeared on the tall, slender video screens that flanked the stage.
The effect of the Cure on HFStival was like that of an after-dinner liqueur: aged, mature and settling to those accustomed to it; too hard to stomach to those who were not.
Mr. Smith and Co. opened with a song from their forthcoming album, and the unfamiliarity doused the fires stoked earlier by the Offspring.
Old Cure classics such as “Pictures of You” and “Fascination Street” persuaded a few thousand stalwarts to stick around.
Most left, having already put in up to 12 hours of festival carousing – a long, hot but often rewarding shift.