I was obsessed with The Art of Drowning back in high school. So obsessed that I wanted to share my love of the band with everyone. I did a horribly shaky rendition of "Morning Star" in front of my confused drama class, sported an AFI sticker on the back of my beat up 1984 Dodge Ram, and even sang "Days of the Phoenix" at a school rally. Along with Thursday, AFI made hardcore accessible for a punk rock kid who didn't stray too far from his NOFX and Dropkick Murphys CDs -- who knew hardcore could retain its edge, and be so damn catchy at the same time!
Fast-forward 6 years, and my love for AFI's music became more nostalgia than anything else, leaving my true passion for the band behind with prom and geometry class. When Justin asked me to review AFI's top-secret show at Slim's, I felt like I was going to see how an old friend was doing, rather than attending a rock show. As soon as I reached the venue and saw how many kids were packed in Slim's, I realized that AFI was doing just fine without me.
Due to my 9-5 (curse you Virgin Mega Store!), I was unable to catch the opening bands Ceremony and another band I can't remember, and for that I apologize profusely. After what felt like forever, the kids started to get impatient, and began chanting "through our bleeding, we are one!" A fog machine began filling the empty stage, and the crowd started screaming fanatically as "Miseria Cantare -- The Beginning," the eerie opening track off of Sing the Sorrow emanated from the speakers. One by one, the band members emerged from the thick fog to the cheers of 700 bodies, leading the crowd to chant "Love your hate, your faith lost, you're now one of us."
Then the Bay Area quartet burst into a theatrical hour-long set, complete with an amazing light show, singer Davy Havok doing a front flip into the crowd, and a tuneful precision that only a group of seasoned veterans could pull off. The most noticeable difference in AFI's sound is Havok's new appreciation of the guttural scream. Havok shrieked like a panther stuck in a bear trap throughout the entire set, adding a brooding heaviness to AFI's music that wasn't previously noticeable.
The band mostly played stuff off of Sing the Sorrow and The Art of Drowning, and while these tunes don't mean as much to me as they did in high school, the boys sure know how to put on a good show. As an encore, the band came out and closed with crowd favorite "God Called in Sick Today," and Havok stepped out into the crowd and sang the final verses while being held up by his legions of followers. Watching one excited dude rise up above the rest of his peers and sing along next to Havok reminded me how much this band means to so many kids.
AFI played with the enthusiasm of a band that just wrote their first batch of tunes, and with the talent of a band that has been rocking their instruments for years. The band danced around the stage like they were entertaining an arena, and with the amount of passion and musical ability those guys have under their belts, one can only imagine what they could accomplish with a bigger budget and a larger stage. Even if you have kind of grown apart, it's always good to catch up with an old friend, and it's even better to find out that their future is as bright as their past. Expect big things from this band in the next year...