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What’s Your Best RFK Stadium Music Memory? Readers Weigh In.

From the Beatles to Michael Jackson to U2, the venue hosted some amazing concerts.

Photograph by MSgt. Ken Hammond/Wikimedia Commons.

The show’s nearly over for RFK Stadium. Last week, the Washington Post reported that the city plans to raze the stadium by 2021. While the venue is best known as the longtime home of DC’s NFL team, it also hosted a ton of concerts as well, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, U2, and many others. Alt-rock radio institution WHFS held its annual HFStival there until 2004, just before the station left the airwaves in 2005. And in 2001, Michael Jackson organized the famously long United We Stand: What More Can I Give concert to benefit victims of 9/11, which featured Mariah Carey, Aerosmith, and the Backstreet Boys, among others. The Beatles’s gig came just two weeks before their last paid live concert in 1966. The 47,000-seat stadium’s been largely empty since DC United stopped playing there last year, and it remains to be seen exactly what will become of the grounds, though the city has plans for a recreation and event space.

In light of RFK’s impending demise, we asked readers to send in their best music memories from the stadium. Here are a few highlights. Have a story of your own? Send it to feedback@washingtonian.com.

I have two vivid RFK concert memories. The first was the lightning strike [that hit multiple audience members] during the Tibetan Freedom Concert. I was standing about 30 feet away and felt the heat from the lightning before I heard the sound. It literally came out of the clear blue sky. Second memory–and a much happier one–was the end of the HFStival in (I think) 1994. Cracker was the closing band and a group of concertgoers made a conga line in the upper decks of the stadium. —Becky Middleton

My wife and I attended the concert after 9/11. So many popular acts performed, from Aerosmith to P!nk to James Brown to Michael Jackson to the boy bands, etc. It was supposed to be a several-hour concert. The problem was that organizers didn’t plan for each performers’ requirements for their set–unlike opening acts who had to follow the headliners’ equipment, these were all headliners so it took far longer between sets to set up. As such, the concert went 13 hours. They ran out of food and water…but not beer. At one point, someone went out and bought hot dogs to replenish the food supplies. Not buns or condiments, though. When I went to get nourishment, I ended up grabbing six hot dogs in my hands with no bun or condiments and running back to my seat with the “food” as Aerosmith sang “Walk This Way.” My wife hates hot dogs but I made her eat a couple just to get something in our stomachs after drinking and listening to an epic concert all day. It concluded with one song by Michael Jackson: “Man In The Mirror.” —Michael Tine 

We went to the 9/11 benefit concert in 2001 to see a whole long list of bands. I remember Michael Jackson was a headliner among many other great performers like…O-Town. There were four of us, we were in our early 20s, and we were excited. The concert had the potential to be epic. What was most memorable for us was how long this concert lasted. My memory isn’t amazing, but I swear it was 14 hours long. By the time we decided to grab dinner, all the vendors had sold out. I mean, this is only a few hours into a marathon concert. Somehow, my boyfriend at the time was offered a hot dog from some random guy. I think he paid $20 for this black market hot dog. Four adults shared a hotdog. We were desperate. The evening continued to spiral downward from there. The concert itself was painfully slow with long transitions in between acts. People were hungry and cranky. Don’t get me wrong, I remember this night with fondness. It was a memorable evening–something only an easygoing younger me could handle. Nowadays, not so much. We still laugh about it often. —Shama Whitley 

We attended a number of concerts over the years at RFK–Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and several Grateful Dead shows. One of our vivid memories is when Bob Dylan was the opening act for the Dead. On a 100-degree day in July 1986, Dylan came on stage in leather pants. At some point Dylan expressed his displeasure with the RFK staff who were using sprinkler hoses to cool down the masses crowded near the stage. An unforgettable RFK experience! —Wendy and Scott Miller

I bought a ticket [in 2015] to see Foo Fighters’ 20th anniversary bash. By all standard concert measures, it was quite amazing. Dave Grohl, who recently badly broke his leg, was seated on a throne/scooter of his own design. It lit up all around, and allowed him to sit and play. Grohl mostly played from his mobile throne, which sat on the main stage, but could roll up to the center aisle stage amidst the crowd. He told stories, made fun of himself, brought his mom onstage and gave her a kiss, and asked the crowd to sing along more than once. It was so good, I nearly forgot I had been puked on. —BJ Martino

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Nathan Diller
Editorial Fellow

Nathan is an editorial fellow at Washingtonian. Originally from Nashville, he graduated from Columbia Journalism School with a master’s degree in 2019. His work has also appeared in SPIN, NYLON, and Nashville Lifestyles.