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  • Paula Sangeleer

Career Highlight: HFStival, 1999-2003

If you were listening to rock-n-roll in the mid-Atlantic at the turn of the 2000s, there's a good chance that you remember or have at least heard of WHFS, a progressive rock station with a strong signal in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The station became legendary, at least in part, because of its massive, annual music festival, HFStival, which was always held in a stadium. I was a part-timer at the station between 1999 and 2003, mostly doing weekend shifts. But even part-timers would be involved with HFStival, doing some live on-air spots, from the location, and also getting to do some stage introductions. Sometimes they pair you up with a full-timer for the big stage, and sometimes you'd get to do the intros by yourself on the little stage outside. But that was all exciting, too.

One of the things that made it special was being in the moment with the bands, many of which are now much bigger than they were then. The 1999 main stage was headlined by bands like Limp Bizkit, Run DMC, Bush, 311, Everclear, Filter, Buckcherry, Jimmie's Chicken Shack, Powerman 5000 and Fuel. Good Charlotte was just a band from Waldorf, Maryland, before they started getting spins at WHFS, and they played on the Locals Only stage that year before launching their first coast-to-coast tour with Lit.

I liked the excitement and experience of being backstage and behind the scenes in the production, just to see how it's done. To see what they're doing beforehand and how it gets there, and how many people are involved in making it happen. What a lot of people don't realize is that when you see a show of any kind, or hear a radio show, that usually is one person doing everything. But for any kind of a stage show, there are so many people involved to make it happen, from the truck, to the lights, to the wires; so many people that that make it happen. It's not just the dancing monkey out there--that monkey has a full circus. Not just that--it was a 12-month process with multiple people to make this happen.

Backstage, you might run into the biggest acts in the world, like the Foo Fighters, Godsmack, Staind or Rage Against The Machine. It was also a chance to see the bands coming up interacting with legends like the B-52s, in full regalia, walking through the tunnel to get to the stage. There's a palpable energy coming from the artists who are getting ready to hit the stage in front of 65,000 people. It's intense.

I love all that stuff and that's just what happened backstage.

When you stepped out onto the stage for an introduction, there was a wall of sound that would hit you from a sold-out RFK Stadium. Even up in the broadcast booths at RFK, they had these creaky windows that would open to let the roar of the crowd, and the smell of everything happening down below. It was amazing. I have a very intense impression of those concerts; I can still feel it, hear it, smell it, because it was so intense and so cool.

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