- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

Eminem is the big headliner at this year's WHFStival, scheduled today and tomorrow at RFK Stadium, but plenty of local and national bands well worth hearing are set for the second-tier "street stage" and the "locals only" stage.

A number of respected DJs (including Deep Dish, Paul Oakenfold and Timo Maas) will take turns spinning in the "buzz tent."

Eminem's new album "The Eminem Show" is due out Tuesday, a week earlier than intended because of bootleg copies circulating on the Internet and on the streets. Already, though, the rapper has courted controversy with the video for his first single from the CD, "Without Me."

In it, he dresses like Osama bin Laden, attacks the Federal Communications Commission and beats up Moby. One song on the CD takes a jab at Lynne Cheney. His motivations come through plainly on the chorus: "We need a little/controversy/cause it feels so empty/without me." Whether he sparks an uproar when he performs at RFK today remains to be seen.

Other big-name acts appearing at WHFStival include Papa Roach, Alien Ant Farm and the Strokes.

The band Phantom Planet may not dominate MTV like Eminem, but the group has been building a steady buzz since its first single, "California," arrived on MTV2. Although the Los Angeles band's name may not ring a bell with listeners, the catchy, opening piano riff to the road-weary song "California" likely will spark recognition.

The band's drummer, Jason Schwartzman, may also look familiar. He starred in the film "Rushmore" and was recently seen in "Slackers."

"We all have hobbies when the band has a break," Alex Greenwald, lead singer, guitarist and part-time model, says over the phone. "We started as friends and we're still friends and we're better for it."

The five-piece rock band began when the members were high school students. Its debut, released in 1998, received little press. Phantom Planet's sophomore album, "The Guest," was released in February and the maturing pop-rock sound is quite noticeable.

"The debut took about six months to make, whereas 'The Guest' took three weeks," he says. "We're more comfortable with ourselves now. We did a good job of just capturing the way we were at the time of recording."

The band will open for Incubus this summer, playing its first stadium-sized shows and hopes to record a third record in the fall. It plays the street stage tomorrow.

"We're slightly nervous about it," Mr. Greenwald says of the Incubus dates. "We've been kind of a bar band on a small stage where we can all hear each other. We're just wondering how our little bar show will translate into stadiums."

San Francisco band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club plays on the main stage today before moving to the street stage tomorrow, but not everyone in the band will be a part of the show. Nick Jago, the band's drummer, has had visa problems and is unable to enter the United States.

"It's going to take some time to work out," he says over the phone. "At least, it gives me something to talk about in interviews."

The psychedlic rock band played the 9:30 Club in Northwest earlier this year, touring as part of its critically acclaimed, self-titled debut. In the process, the black-leather-clad trio has become enormously popular in Britain, even while missing mainstream American success.

"We've probably learned so much, and we don't even know it," Mr. Jago says of the band's year on the road. "We don't feel like we've changed really."

Recording for a new album likely will start in the fall, and the band may play some of its new material this weekend. It was unclear at press time who will fill in for Mr. Jago.

Some of the bands playing the local stage have been together for years (Jah Works will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year), but Val Yumm and Her Band of Miscreants has had its current lineup for about four months.

That doesn't mean its young front woman is inexperienced. Val Yumm, who lives in Baltimore, does not disclose her age or real name it's part of her act. But she has been playing guitar since she was 12 years old, inspired by seeing the Smashing Pumpkins live. She's been writing songs since her early teens, after taking lessons from a jazz guitarist. She prides herself on the craft of her new material.

"Now I'll write the music first and I'll kind of hum the melody over it and it just forms words," she says over the phone. "Lyrically is where it becomes true art. I make a collage out of lyrics."

The group is filled out by Randy Miller on bass and Mike Kuhl on drums. A self-titled album is due out this summer, but fans who show up today to see her perform will get a three-song CD with samples of the new material.

"We're 10 times tighter than we were before," she says excitedly. "It just rocks more. You can tell we're all friends onstage and we love what we're doing."

WHAT: WHFStival with roughly 50 acts, including Eminem, the Strokes, Phantom Planet, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Val Yumm

WHERE: RFK Stadium, 2400 E. Capitol St. NE

WHEN: 10 a.m. today and tomorrow


PHONE: 202/432-SEAT

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