Photographs by Katrina Wong Shue
Sometimes it’s fun to go to a show you normally wouldn’t attend so experience something outside your comfort zone. Admittedly I signed up to review this show by accident, and only really knew AFI through their 2006 hit Miss Murder, which I don’t particularly like. I was going to cancel until I did some research and found out the band had been together since the early 90’s and have 10 full length albums together, an impressive feat by anyones measure.
For some reason I skipped AFI over in my punk-hazed teen years, and haven’t been paying much attention to the genre since. Nonetheless I embarked on the endeavour of familiarising myself with their extensive back catalogue in the days before the show. Starting in 1991, AFI initially embraced a fast-paced, upbeat hardcore sound, releasing a string of EP’s which they later described as ‘East Bay hardcore.’ Beginning with their 1999 album Black Sails in the Sunset, they changed their sound to embrace darker deathrock and goth rock sounds, while still keeping to their hardcore roots. Subsequent album The Art of Drowning in 2000 added elements of alternative rock to their sound and paved the way for widespread success in the early to mid 2000’s.
Given the range of subgenres they have played in the 25+ years they have been active, I wasn’t surprised to see a good spectrum of fans in attendance, both young and old. The excitement in the room was palpable as the lighting dimmed and red strip lights flashed on stage before the band walked on. Opening with the 2003 hit This Celluloid Dream, lead singer Davey Havok gave the opening lines to the audience, holding his mic stand out into the crowd before joining in. The moshpit was alive from the first moments of the performance, and security was kept busy dissuading crowd surfers from the onset.
The following songs ran the gamut of AFI’s range, from tracks on the latest album such as Aurelia and Snow Cats to older fan favorites like Love Like Winter and Leaving Song Pt. II. One thing that was consistent through these songs was the infectious energy and vocal range of vocalist Davey Havok. His enthusiasm and confidence onstage was impressive, and it was obvious from their chemistry that the band has been playing together for decades. I noted a couple of times how well the members meshed together, as well as how hard they were working onstage to put together the best possible performance for the fans.
Entering into the 2006 track Rabbits Are Roadkill On Rt. 37 Havok remarked to drummer and fellow originating band member Adam Carson that he must be having trouble with this one since they hadn’t played it for some time. The crowd seemed appreciative of some more obscure tracks, and happily sang along to they lyrics.
The end of the night was a homage to old school fans, with the encore (1999’s Leaving Song) leading into Girls Not Grey and finally 2001’s Lost Souls. While I can’t say the show rekindled my interest in punk or post-hardcore, it was undoubtedly a tight, energetic performance from a group of musicians who love what they do, and cemented AFI in my mind as a formidable live act.