Fat chance Melanie Szepvolgyi is going to forget this year’s HFStival.
Out of the 30-plus bands at the two-day musical extravaganza going on at RFK Stadium, she had wanted most to see Coldplay, the up and coming Britpop band. She was as surprised as anyone yesterday when lead singer Chris Martin pulled her up on stage to sing.
“I was in the front of the stage, and nobody knew them up there. [People in the crowd] were being so rude and obnoxious,” said the still-glowing 24-year-old who had flown in from Columbus, Ohio. “Then they started playing my favorite song, ‘Trouble,’ and Chris looked down at me and said, ‘You know this song?’ ”
Next thing you know, she’s in the band. “I came here specifically for them, that’s what makes this so wonderful.”
She later got to meet the entire band backstage, an opportunity that left her giddy. Why not? It was like winning a contest you didn’t even remember entering.
“I feel like a little schoolgirl,” she said.
The members of Coldplay chatted with her, autographing pictures and their CD.
“Oh, good, I won’t have to buy them [autographed pictures] off eBay now,” she joked.
Asked why he picked Szepvolgyi out of the crowd, Martin said, “I couldn’t lift one of those ugly meatheads.”
The boost out of the mosh pit also saved Szepvolgyi’s skin, in a manner of speaking.
“I wasn’t going to take off my shirt,” she said.
In fact, there was a lot of flesh being shown on this day that started with overcast skies. When the sun broke through in the late morning, raising temperatures, clothes started coming off. Cameramen seemed all too eager to flash images of bared breasts over large video screens for the WHFS-estimated crowd of 50,000.
For Megan Baldwin, 16, and friend Tristian Flook, 15, both from Frederick, all it took to beat the heat modestly was the ingenuity to seek scissors from the emergency medics on hand. Voila, from jeans to jean shorts.
“It’s 90 degrees out!” said Tristian. “And they won’t let us leave to go to the car,” where they said they had shorts and tank tops. Wrecked jeans seemed a small sacrifice. “If it means being cool, that’s fine,” said Megan.
“That feels sooo much better,” said Trstian.
Most in the crowd milled about the main field area, the upper half of which turned into a sea of humanity rolling in waves, and brave souls undertaking what was by far the most popular ride at the concert: crowd surfing.
Riptides of arms pulled surfers up from the ground, and up and over they went until they reached the waiting arms of the men in yellow [event security], who dropped them safely to the ground behind the stage. They came back into the field by a side exit, like riders bounding off a roller coaster to get in line again.
But by mid-afternoon, a severe thunderstorm warning briefly brought the music to a halt. Yellow rain ponchos – conveniently available for sale everywhere – sprung up all over the field. The sun’s return brought Fuel to the stage and to the crowd, which was again roused by a hard-hitting set that closed with “Hemorrhage (in My Hands)” – the No. 1 modern rock track for eight weeks last year.
Showers greeted the Cult, next in line, only serving to make the crowd surfing more surf-life.
“It was great!” said Megan Carlson. The pierced-tongued West Annapolis 13-year-old had just been deposited back to the ground and was eager to ride again. “It gets you closer to the stage, oh yeah.”
The non-surfers included Michelle Banning and her son John, who sported matching cornrow hairstyles and had staked out their territory at the front of the crowd. “This is his 13th birthday present,” said Banning, 28. They drove out at 5 a.m. from their home in Glen Burnie, “just in case, so we could be right up here.”
Mom said she was here for the band Live and her son for Linkin Park, as she protectively put her arms around him, a human shield against the inevitable body surges that come with being in the best location.
Then there were those who skipped the infield scene altogether.
“This is my eighth or ninth festival,” said 47-year-old Linda Dreyer of Laurel. She was hanging out in the nosebleed seats of the fourth level with three friends, content to take it all in at a distance. “So far it’s the same. It’ll be full-blown soon. One great thing about this festival, every year you see bands that become bigger,” she says.
This year the lineup includes practically the entire WHFS (99.1 FM) playlist with surprise headliners Green Day, hometown faves SR71 and Good Charlotte, Live, 3 Doors Down and Incubus among those to appear.
RFK was filled with a cacophony of sounds echoing through the main stage/field area – like some kind of master mix from a demented DJ. There was something for everyone at the show.
Besides the main stage, the parking lot outside the main gate was filled with all manner of fried food and barbecue, a street stage and the Trancemissions tent, a glorified fumigation hut where dancers converged en masse when it opened in the afternoon. Vendors peddling everything from inflatable furniture, clothing and jewelry filled the high-traffic zone.
One unlikely vendor attracting a good deal of attention was the U.S. Army, whose truckful of simulations like an Apache attack helicopter and a tank, as well as a rifle range, were drawing a crowd.
Jared Speck got dragged in by a friend, but he appreciated the gimmick all the same, though his main reason for being at the festival was, as with most people, the music.
“I’m here to have a good time, enjoy my few days of summer before I start my job,” said the graduating senior from the University of Maryland, College Park. “I’m pretty excited, though the music of today is not doing it for me the way it did 10 years ago. There’s not the same depth as the dark and grungy stuff like Pearl Jam.”
Speck bought the two-day ticket and is looking forward to seeing bands like Staind, Live and Tantric. “Good music comes and goes in waves.”
More typical of the offerings at the HFStival was the Annapolis Fun City Tattooland and Body Piercing. Craig Barrett, 18, of Edgewater served as a bouncer at the door, the piercings on his ears (extra-large holes called gauges) payment in kind for his services.
Most everyone else carried around a musical imprint of the festival – ears ringing and bones vibrating with the bass of hard-rocking guitar bands while they moshed or surfed or just sat and listened.
The eclectic mix of rain and shine, music and food, was exactly what they were looking for.