I should be elbow deep in original fiction right now, but instead I want to talk about last night’s AFI concert.
For those not in the know, AFI, shorthand for A Fire Inside, is a musical act. It’s hard to describe them. At their roots they’re a California-based Punk band, but over their 22 year career their music has gone through many evolutions.
I was in high school when I discovered AFI. I stumbled on their album ‘Sing the Sorrow’ when I was a freshman, about a year after the record’s release. It’s full of dark songs, filled with words like ‘anathema’ and ‘preternatural’. Exactly what I wanted to listen to while reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. From my love of ‘Sing the Sorrow’ I had to have their older stuff too. So, I bought ‘The Art of Drowning’ and ‘A Memorandum’. I remember being surprised at how different the music was. Instead of the lilting melancholy, the poetic affliction, there was coarse shouting, and far more frantic riffs. These were punk albums. I was baffled. But, I couldn’t deny their awesomeness. I was hooked.
When AFI released ‘Decemberunderground’ I had no idea what to expect. What I got was a continuation of the poetic, but instead of the visceral dark so common on ‘Sing the Sorrow’ I was greeted with electronics and generally more catchy songs. I loved it. I absorbed it. I was officially a fan.
And then the lead singer, Davey Havok, and guitarist Jade Puget announced they were focusing on a side project entitled Blacq Audio. Ok, I can roll with that. They put out two albums, though I only bought the first one.
AFI seemed to fall off my grid. My musical tastes continued to grow and change, and as I aged I forgot my goth/punk love affair with the band.
Years went by. My hotmail inbox stopped receiving newsletters from the band’s website, and though I rarely listened to them, they were always on my iPod, never totally forgotten.
I got the email in August. AFI new single and tour. There was a link to the video, and I said to Trevor, “let’s watch this and see how bad it is.” In my defense I thought the band had broken up ages ago, so far off the grid they’d fallen. So we watched the video and were stunned. It was amazing. The melancholy, poetic, visceral darkness was back. And holy hell when did Davey Havok start growing facial hair?! That one video reignited a fervor only a fan can understand. It’d been almost 5 years since I’d seriously listened to any of their music, and I was suddenly desperate to see Portland listed amongst their tour dates.
And there it was. Roseland Theater, Portland, Or. On Halloween. I bought the tickets a week later.
In the almost three months from ticket purchase to the show I discovered an entire album had been released without my knowing, and I promptly bought it and learned every word.
But, this is a lot of back story just to tell you how epic last night’s concert was. I’ve been to more than my fair share of concerts for my age. Linkin Park twice, Korn twice, Staind, System of a Down, Green Day, Snow Patrol twice, Jason Mraz, Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, Placebo, Papa Roach… And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
This was the best show I’ve ever seen.
The show was sold out, and the closer it got to 9 o’clock the more cramped the small venue became. As the lights went out the crowd starts chanting, “Through our Bleeding, We are One”, a line from ‘Strength Through Wounding’, from one of AFI’s older albums. So, we’re chanting and fist pumping as the band walks out through the dark. We’re cheering, and then the song we were chanting actually started playing. It’s the only time they played that song on the entire tour, and the first time they played it since 2003. The first time in ten years!
The song is short. But before my ears can adjust from the amps, before my chest can stop vibrating with the bass, AFI moves into ‘The Leaving Song pt. 2’. And we all lose it. I’m head banging, fist pumping, and screaming my lungs out. The crowd is roiling, a living thing with one need; to move. And it keeps moving all the way through ‘Girls Not Grey’. Still, Davey hasn’t really acknowledged us. He hasn’t been conversational, and we’re happy that way, it’s about the music after all.
The last symbol crash echoes through the room as we cheer the end of ‘Girls Not Grey’ and Davey walks away. Rolls his neck. Preparing. Before he turns back to us, we hear it. The eerie scraping sound, an echo, the beginning of their newest single ‘I Hope You Suffer.’ The song that reawakened my love for AFI. The drums and bass hit us hard, and Davey returns, his voice is nearly lost in the crowd’s chanting. He sings the first half of the song leaning out over the crowd, dramatic and chiseled.
“Pretend I’m no longer here….”
The music turns, entering the bridge. As he sings, “All hope for forgiveness dies,” Davey’s crouched, almost face to face with the lucky bastards in the front row. The guitar echoes out a keening, poignant sound, and Davey steps out ON TO the crowd!
He sings the rest of the song from this position, and it is the most badass thing I’ve ever seen someone do at a concert. He pulls this trick one more time before the show ends.
‘File 13’, ‘Love Like Winter’, ’17 Crimes’, ‘Ever and a Day’, ‘The Leaving Song’, ‘Heart Stops’, ‘Kill Caustic’, ‘Beautiful Thieves’, ‘Miss Murder’ all fly by. And then they play the one song everyone can lose their minds to, ‘The Days of the Phoenix’. This may have been the song where Trevor stiff armed a girl to keep her from running into me, but I didn’t even know because I was too busy flailing and screaming to pay any attention to the world around me. It was right after this that we watched someone attempt crowd surfing in our relatively calm corner of the room, and subsequently get dropped. Good times. Then they play an oldie, ‘God Called in Sick Today’.
And then AFI thanks us, and say goodbye. The lights go out and they exit stage left.
But we’re not having it. “Through our bleeding, we are one! Through our bleeding, we are one! Through our bleeding, we are one!”
And they come back and play a cover of the Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’. I’ve always loved that song, so Trevor and I danced, sweaty messes that we were, and it was cute.
And then the tearing guitar of ‘Dancing Through Sunday’ rips through me, and I am a girl possessed. I don’t know if I’ve ever danced and jammed so hard to one song in my life. There’s something irresistible about the song just playing from my headphones, live it was downright undeniable. I was forced to dance, there was no choice in the matter.
And then, their actual farewell, ‘Silver and Cold’. The song that hooked me on them in the first place. The single and video that was so dark and intriguing that my vampire filled mind could not say no. And it was wonderful. My body aches today, reminding me that I’m not 15 anymore, but I don’t regret a single minute of AFI’s set. It was more intense, active, and amazing than I ever could have imagined. Even Trevor, who isn’t very familiar with them, had a great time.
I will never miss an AFI show ever again!
Anyway, I need to get ready for work now. I’ve wasted enough time while the laundry tumbles in the dryer in raptures over the best concert of my life. Hopefully I didn’t bore y’all too much!