Fifteen Bands for Fifteen Dollars

May 14, 1994.

Weeks from graduation, my friends and I drove to the park-and-ride and took the Metro from safe and boring Fairfax County, Virginia, to RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Tickets in hand, we had our bags searched, and we joined 30,000 other concert-goers for the HFStival, what for us (or maybe just me) was an epic concert put on by the local alternative rock station.

On the inner stage: Counting Crows, Cracker, Violent Femmes, Rollins Band, Toad the Wet Sprocket, James, Meat Puppets, Pavement, Afghan Whigs.

On the outer stage: Six other bands I really don’t remember, even with Wikipedia’s help.

I do remember that I wore cut-off jean shorts (grunge-style, not Daisy-Duke-style) and neglected to put sunblock on my legs so I went home with bright-red burned patches on only the left side of my lower legs.

I also remember that I packed cucumber, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on homemade whole-grain bread for my concert-day lunch and that the sandwiches became hopelessly soggy by the third band.

And I remember that while I wanted to get closer to the stage, I was terrified of getting caught in the mosh pit. (Yes, there was a mosh pit in front of Toad the Wet Sprocket. I didn’t get it then, and the intervening 19+ years have not shed any more light on the phenomenon that was the mosh pit.)

Actually, I don’t think this was my first concert. I think my friend Michele and I went to see Lush and Weezer in DC a couple of months before this, and my friend Berni and I might have gone to see Veruca Salt at GMU before this, too (although that might have happened a year later. And might not have been Veruca Salt. Stuff kind of runs together after a couple of decades).

And I know that my parents took us kids to see Helen Reddy when she performed at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Or so my memory goes. I know that I must have been nine or ten and had only the vaguest notion why we were sitting on the grass listening to music we heard nearly every day from the tape deck in our Volvo station wagon.

But the HFStival is the concert that stood out when The Waiting posted this week’s “Remember the Time” theme (for which I am publishing about two minutes too late to link up, but I’m having trouble sleeping and decided to just post anyway). I still remember the catch phrase from their radio ads: “Fifteen bands for fifteen dollars.” It was both epic and affordable.

What was the first concert you attended?

6 thoughts on “Fifteen Bands for Fifteen Dollars

  1. I am SO glad you wrote this (and, BTW, no worries about linking up;) ) because I got so excited when I started reading off the list of bands you saw at that festival. I absolutely loved Toad the Wet Sprocket when I was growing up. I mean, seriously: Walk On the Ocean?! They don’t make ’em like that anymore.


    1. Theirs were some of the lyrics I used to put in letters to friends across the country. They just said what I wanted to say so much better than I could. (They were also one of the few bands that made the cut when I moved from cassettes to CDs.)


  2. I recall sitting on the grass at Ravinia Park in Highland Park IL (now called “Ravinia Music Festival”), for a live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. I don’t recall if we could actually see the performers, or if it was acted out as a rock opera in full costume—or if it was just the musicians and singers facing the audience.

    But I do recall that it featured Yvonne Elliman, who is the original ‘Mary’ and rose to fame for her rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Everything’s Alright”. I owned the 2-disk LP with the 2-headed “U”-shaped angel facing itself. I really wanted to hear Yvonne belt out those songs.

    You said that your first concert memory was 19 years ago. I was in Junior High, and so this would make it closer to 4 decades. Scary! Sidebar… My Dad recalls seeing a skinny kid perform for troops at his air base in North Africa. It was a young Frank Sinatra. I guess that he has me beat in spades!


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