Thursday, January 13, 2005

HFS is Dead

In the Washington, D.C. area 80's, WHFS used to be only one place you could turn your dial and hear something other than Whitney Houston or Madonna. Nobody else played R.E.M. before 1987. Nobody else played the Cure before Just Like Heaven. Hell, nobody else played the Pixies until last year. They didn't give away tickets to Pink Floyd or NKOTB; they gave away tickets to shows at the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat. Sonic Youth, Elastica, Cinerama. If you wanted to listen to a station without having to hear the same five songs played every two hours, HFS was your only choice.

So the almost unannounced demise of HFS yesterday, where Washingtonians rudely learned that HFS switched to a Spanish-language format, is a little sad, but not tragic. Sad, because you remember the good days, the first HFStivals, and the quirky DJs. Not tragic, because at the end, the station turned into that which it originally despised. HFS became a beast that needed a good shot in the head to put it out of its misery. After Nirvana, when "alternative" and "grunge" owned the airwaves, HFS reminded us incessantly that "We're the original alternative," and "We played it first, everyone else is just a cheap imitation." And then alt-grunge evolved(?) into rap-metal, and HFS played it into the ground. No more bands that you never heard of. No more weird 2-minute silences at 2 A.M. The same five songs. Every two hours. Predictable. Boring.

I wasn't aware of the switch until this morning, because I didn't even tune in at all yesterday.

So we're left with this hole now, but it's a hole that has been there since the mid 90's. Our WFMU is the free-form format WRNR Annapolis, 103.1, but you can only hear it on the east side of town, and though the music is reliably good, they play mostly adult-alternative. The DJs are the aging (in a refined way) HFS firees and evacuees. WTMD from Towson comes in every now and then. And that's it. Until we get something worthy of some of the best music fans in the country, we can only fill that hole with XM or mix CDs of singles from music blogs.

Washington Post story here.

So I dedicate this song to HFS.
When you're in your little room
and you're working on something good
but if it's really good
you're gonna need a bigger room
and when you're in the bigger room
you might not know what to do
you might have to think of
how you got started sittin in your little room

-Little Room, White Stripes

1 comment:

SugarDuck said...

The Washington Post had a good online discussion yesterday, some good stories from listeners (free registration required).

I agree with you, I was not surprised that HFS got killed. It had turned really lame the last few years. It seemed to have gotten stuck in the mid90s. As one of the commenters said, there's only so many times you can play "Jane Says" before people will stop listening. I had stopped listening a long time ago.

At least we have WRNR.