HFSTival 2011 - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Written by Rob Queen    Friday, 02 December 2011 16:45    PDF Print E-mail

Photos By: Erin Williams

This was the first HFSTival I have been to since 2001, and the years have not been kind to what used to arguably be the premier east coast music festival. This is not a reflection on the acts that graced the stage that day, as there was some great music to be heard on both the main and local stages. I think it is more a symptom of the fact that nobody really seemed to know that it was even happening. In years past, the HFSTival grew to mass proportions, capable of stretching the waist bands of RFK stadium and Fed Ex Field. This year... not so much. It seemed that every person I told I was going to the show had the same response: "there is an HFSTival this year?" Moreover, 2011 marked the return of WHFS to the airwaves. Albeit on a new frequency (FM 97.5), WHFS is indeed back and in good form, playing to the same indie market that they have always catered to. It just seems they have really dropped the ball on getting the word out though, and this was definitely reflected in the turnout for the show. The most unfortunate thing about this is that a lot of people missed out on some great music.

I showed up just as Vessel were finishing their set on the Local stage. I was a bit bummed because I was really looking forward to catching these guys. I had a chance to rap with their singer Pollux a bit later in the day and he said they had a real good set and gave me some ear candy to take home...tasty stuff. Not long after, the Gin Blossoms took to the main stage. I have to say I was never really a fan of these guys, but I was shocked at how many songs I recognized out of their set. They sounded good, but I began to question my manhood the longer I watched them, so I split off to check out some of the other goings on around the venue. The one thing that stood out to me from observing the crowd milling about was the amount of beards...it looked like a Neil Fallon look-a-like contest. Rightfully so, as this marked one of only three area appearances for Clutch in the past two years (the last a year ago, also at Merriweather and the other an intimate acoustic set the following night at Red Palace in DC). I caught a good bit of most of the bands on the local stage throughout the afternoon...FunkMnkyz and Pasadena were the standouts for me.

Clutch took the main stage by storm. Crowd beards aside, it was very obvious that these guys were the main draw. I watched their set side stage and it was without a doubt the most full the pavilion was for the duration of the day. I am so used to seeing these guys in a headlining slot that it was a little weird to see them play a short, festival set. Left me wanting more, which is definitely not a bad thing. Jimmy's Chicken Shack followed them on the main stage and tore their set up also. They were actually a real good lead into Flogging Molly. I like Flogging Molly, I don't think I could listen to them all the time, though, because their music really makes me want to throw pints of beer down my neck - again, not a bad thing...just not conducive to getting things done! But caught in the moment, I definitely threw a few back watching their set...good guys, too.

To round out the day I went to check out Lionize on the local stage. These guys spent the summer on the Warped Tour and just sounded phenomenal, you could definitely tell they have been on the road for awhile. They just had that "we've been on the road for awhile" tightness and confidence about them. For my money they should have been on the main stage in the slot right before Clutch, but nevertheless...they killed it. One of my favorite sets of the day.

I managed to catch a few minutes of the Avett Brothers before it was time to pack up and get out of Dodge, and I definitely dig their sound; it's a pretty eclectic mix.

All in all, it was a good show. I just really wish that the fine folks at WHFS had done a better job of getting the word out...that was the difference between it being a good show and (what could have been) a great show.