Radio 104 Fest: It’s Not Really ‘Back’

What makes a fest? Let's start with more than three bands.

| Jason Bagley

It was the spring of 2002. I was a freshman in high school and spent most days avoiding math and most nights in a friend’s basement watching TV, playing video games, and adding layer after layer to an oversized rubber band ball that my friend’s mother would come to hate when he left for college and the swollen ball didn’t.

But breaking up the routine so brilliantly that spring was Radio 104 Fest, an annual music festival of more than 20 rock bands that was sponsored by a local radio station, WMRQ-FM in Hartford, Conn. Headliners that year included Blink-182 and Green Day, which Billboard would crown Rock Artist of the Year three years later. It was a memorable event.

And then the music stopped. Despite the popularity of this annual festival, which in 2000 drew about 20,000 people, WMRQ struggled with ratings. In 2003, the station became WPHH, a hip-hop station, effectively pulling the plug on Radio 104 Fest forevermore.

But time moves on and after graduating college, gaining employment and maintaining a long-term relationship, I, along with others in my state, had all but given up on the prospect of a Radio 104 Fest return. Until I heard this on the radio: “Radio 104 Fest is back.” I pulled over posthaste, called my emergency contact. She had heard the same. Rock on.

I soon learned, however, that this Radio 104 Fest would pale in comparison to 2002. In fact, only three notable bands — Panic! At the Disco, Atlas Genius and Local H — had committed to the event. I called the radio station, which was back in the hands of WMRQ, to inquire about the “other regional acts” mentioned on the website where you could buy tickets for the Nov. 13 event. I was told that the station was still trying to recruit local bands to play.

I felt deceived. So did others.

“Just three bands? Hardly a festival,” someone opined on the station’s Facebook page.

“Is it only going to be the three bands or the huge show like it used to be?” wrote another.

“Get back to us when you pull of(f) a real 104 Fest,” wrote yet another disappointed party.

What makes a musical festival? Surely it takes more than three bands. And given the precedent set by past Radio 104 Fest rockathons, it’s questionable to bill this year’s event as a return to those memorable performances.

“Connecticut has waited for over a decade, and it’s back!” WMRQ declares.

I’ll continue to wait.

Jason Bagley

Jason Bagley, writer at, is still romantic about journalism and believes in its power to educate and inform.

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