How the Nationals and 9:30 Club revived HFStival

'90s rock bands are making a comeback, and D.C. music lovers are wasting no time getting them to the District

NBC Universal, Inc.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, HFStival was one of the biggest annual rock concerts on the East Coast. After more than a decade, the iconic event is making a comeback, thanks to joint efforts from a long-time central figure in the D.C. music scene, Seth Hurwitz, and the Washington Nationals.

Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club and concert promoter I.M.P., says that ‘90s rock bands are experiencing a resurgence in popularity today. 

Recently, the Pixies, Modest Mouse and Cat Power played to a crowd of 12,000 at Merriweather Post Pavilion – an impressive accomplishment considering their historical attendance. The resurgence extends beyond that lineup, with other acts like Garbage, Incubus, Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service drawing enthusiastic audiences. 

“These bands are doing more business than they ever did,” said Hurwitz. 

Last week, I.M.P. teased the return of the HFStival and unveiled the lineup of 11 bands. Many of these bands had played the original HFStival decades ago. Hurwitz emphasized the careful curation of the lineup, aiming to feature artists who haven’t been seen in a long time but are still great performers. The inclusion of Garbage, Incubus, Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service reflects the strategy. 

While Hurwitz himself didn’t promote the original HFStivals, he had a personal connection to the legendary WHFS radio station that created the event. 

“Back in the caveman times,” Hurwitz said, “I was a DJ on WHFS during high school in the ‘70s.” 

However, the idea to bring back the HFStival wasn’t his. The Nationals approached him, recognizing the current craze for ‘90s music, and said they’d like to do “a festival or a show.”

"I have to give the Nationals credit," Hurwitz said. "They came to us and said 'Hey, '90s music is going crazy right now. We've got to do something.'"

Hurwitz recalls the moment when HFStival was mentioned during a meeting. Everyone agreed: Why not bring it back? 

As for whether HFStival will become an annual event like it was in the ‘90s, Hurwitz remains optimistic. The lottery sign-ups indicate strong interest, and he hopes the event will be successful enough to warrant future editions. 

“I want people to have a lot of fun that day,” Hurwitz said. “And that’s really the key to future events.”

The HFStival is scheduled for Sept. 21 at Nationals Park. For those who missed out on the initial ticket lottery, there will be another chance to purchase tickets. 

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