A real tragedy
It is with a sad song in my heart that I bring you all this truly bad news. 99.1 WHFS has been taken off of the air. Without warning to their listeners in any form, at noon today the station switched over to a Spanish network. I listened to the Sports Junkies this morning (as I do everyday) and they said nothing about it, which leads me to believe they didn't know.
Growing up in the DC area and being of certain cultural persuasions, HFS was a bastion of cool. Untainted by the forces that be at Clearchannel, they actually managed to maintain their status as an alternative rock station, amongst the detrius that surrounded them (the Evanescence-friendly DC 101 not withstanding). The yearly HFStival was not only the biggest concert of every year, it was a rite of passage for every metro area teen. Where else will girls learn the evils of bikinis with tie tops? My uncle remembers recording Weasle's broadcasts in the 70s. I feel like I've had a personal relationship with HFS since I was about 12. The perrenial occupant of the number one button on my presets, it's woken me up, put me to sleep, driven me to work and school, and accompanied me on countless errands and afternoons of reading or hanging out in my bedroom. It served as my beacon, letting me know I had officially crossed back over into Northern Virginia on those drives home from Charlottesville. It played the music that launched me into my grunge-era adolescence, and stayed cool past the days of flannel. An HFS sticker adorned my first car, and my highschool locker.
The shock and dismay among all the people I've talked to about this is substantial. The fact that all of the websites affiliated with the station are crashing their servers while fans try and access them (hence no link for this blog entry), and their phone line has been giving me a busy signal for the past 20 minutes, tells me that this is not a change people are going to take lightly. Though they have been suffering in ratings in recent years, this station has been a beloved stronghold, an intangible landmark for anyone that's had the pleasure of being a listener. Nothing was contrived or pandering (without being very self aware, at least), and you could always count on HFS to give you the things that nobody else would. Their DJs have always been more real than anyone else's, and have always been really, really good at their jobs. You never felt as though you were being spoonfed listening to HFS. It's that sense of comeupance that went hand in hand with the alternative genre they peddled. This is probably what brought them their ultimate demise, as the more you move towards the fringes (as Liz points out), the more you're listening to CDs or your iPod instead of the radio, for lack of any substance or quality. Well, the last shop for quality has apparently closed down. I think most people can agree that the only runner up is 94.7, classic rock (whose decision to include artists from the burgeoning of my hay day - like RHCP and Counting Crows - is another topic alltogether, and horrifying all its own), probably the only other frequency remaining that doesn't play Nelly; however, there is a distinct difference between rocking out to the past, and rocking into the present. I have a hard time stomaching this whole ordeal, as I (nor anyone I know) never heard it mentioned on air at all. There are ongoing promotions and sponsorships. They recently opened a new studio. Last week the junkies raised $25,000 for tsunami releif. The pieces just don't add up. But I sure am puzzled.
It is a true disservice to the loyal (though waning) fan base of the station to have so surreptitiously ended its tenure. Aside from my angst and dismay over the close of this era at all, I feel largely robbed of a proper goodbye. Muchless a proper warning. If given their own way about this, HFS would surely have celebrated the end to this era, with a killer party.
I can only hope this is some sort of elaborate prank, but I fear that it isn't. And I'm really not looking forward to the Junkie-free drive to work in the morning. The last thing left for me to do is to say goodbye to my beloved favorite radio station. I really will miss you; I'm having an unexpectedly emotional reaction to this news. I didn't even realize I was personifying the station just then, but I think that's the thing that made the real difference at HFS - it had a personality. The powers that be made a sad decision for culture, for the future of DC's youth, and for me. The ramifications of corporations placing importance on money over matter is another topic completely, but all things aside, today is a sad day. 99.1 will no longer rock on. Bon Voyage, HFS. You will truly be missed.
Afterthought: There is a lot of press running on this topic now; you can find lots of articles discussing the move, but the basic message throughout is that the powers that be sold out. What a turn of poetic tragedy!