The New WHFS

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Monday WHFS returned to the Baltimore FM airwaves on 97.5 with many of their classic DJs such as Tim Virgin and Gina Crash in tow. Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” heralded the rebirth of one of Baltimore’s best-loved alternative rock stations.

Ever since their abrupt format change to Latin music in 2005, listener outrage saw that the HFS format was resurrected and re-resurrected as it bounced from frequency to frequency. The annual HFStival continued in tribute to the station’s legacy.

Though yesterday’s relaunch of HFS is being trumpeted as the triumphant return of the classic alt-rock station, it’s unclear whether this is the real thing or just another revival. According to Baltimore Business Journal HFS’s playlist will focus heavily on the mid-nineties music longtime listeners have come to associate with the station. So it may sound like the HFS you remember, but there’s a difference between playing nineties music in the nineties, and playing it now. Time will tell whether the new HFS will be a relevant force in the second decade of the 21st century or just a fun bit of nostalgia.

In the ’90s left-of-center independent bands were being signed and promoted at an unprecedented rate as major labels scrambled to replicate the success of groups like Nirvana and R.E.M. Today commercial rock radio has all but banished the thoughtful angst of Generation X, and replaced it with good old-fashioned macho posturing. Will HFS seek out the under-the-radar acts which are the spiritual successors to the ’90s alt bands, or will they make do with major label “new rock” fare to pair with their vintage playlist? (They just played a Black Keys song, so I’m hopeful.)

To be fair, it’s hard for any radio station to be relevant anymore. In the post-MySpace (and way-post-Napster) Internet age, music fans are far less dependent on in-the-know DJs and programmers to hear new music. During today’s request-friendly morning show, HFS DJ Tim Virgin put it this way: “You guys are finding out about new music before I am!”

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