Two of my close friends have a devout love for AFI, becoming friends (partially) because of Jade’s haircut circa 2009. Neither of them had seen the band live before, and so the hours leading up to AFI’s show at Toronto’s The Phoenix on January 31st were filled with anticipation and car sing-a-longs to Decemberunderground (2006).
Waiting in the cold, in the long line that stretched up Sherbourne Street, was made doubly worth it as we finally piled inside the venue and saw a table of PUP merch. The special guests hadn’t been announced prior, but the Toronto-based indie rockers were a nice complement to the Californian headliners.
PUP played a solid set of material from their debut, self-titled EP. “Lionheart” and “Factories” are two favourites of mine, but it’s impossible to be bored or lose interest at any point during their high-energy “slap-you-in-the-face”, kick you in the gut sets. PUP closed their set by mentioning that they had albums and t-shirts for sale. We’ve been living off of vegetable soup and sleeping in our van, they said, going on to claim that it was a healthy but impoverished lifestyle, their sincerity justifying the purchase of an album (though the tracks and the grotesque, dental-themed artwork are, really, more than enough of a reason to buy their music).
Then, from the photo pit, I watched the last few groups of people pack into The Phoenix. There was a young guy with a foot-tall mohawk and a silver-haired lady right up at the guardrail, the two of them standing just a few rows of people apart. For those first three songs—“The Leaving Song Pt.2,” “Girl’s Not Grey,” and “I Hope You Suffer”—both of them, at any point during which I glanced the crowd, were singing along.
But before that, everyone had been chanting, “Through our bleeding, we are one,” a line from the song “Strength Through Wounding.” The lights dimmed, replaced by diffused, red spotlights, offering just enough of a glow to see Davey Havok position himself on the drummer’s platform. His back was to the crowd, making visible the studded cross on his black leather jacket. Everyone was quiet; all attention was on Havok. With electrocution-like quickness, he jumped down and ran across the stage, scream-singing “Don’t waste your touch, you won’t feel anything / Or were you sent to save me?”
For the last minute of “I Hope You Suffer,” walking on the crowd replaced crisscrossing the stage, outstretched arms feeling Havok’s calves (weird) and taking pictures (normal), before security helped Havok back up on stage and the band jumped back 18 years in time, playing “File 13” from Very Proud of Ya (1996).
In fact, the band seemed to be placing emphasis on their older tracks, playing just three songs from the newly released Burials (2013): the aforementioned “I Hope You Suffer” in addition to “17 Crimes” and “The Conductor.” I had no complaints, though, as it’s the old AFI I like best. Everyone else, seemingly, felt the same, cheering the loudest for “Love Like Winter,” “Beautiful Thieves,” and “Kill Caustic.” As soon as AFI rolled into “Miss Murder,” the crowd (which had been less riot-filled than I had anticipated) suddenly amped up. I knocked my friend in the shoulder and told him to give me his phone, keys, wallet and go crowd surf, as there had been a lack of crowd surfing throughout. The super stoned guy who, up until “Miss Murder,” had spent the show gently swaying back and forth with eyes half closed was suddenly trying to start a fight by threatening to poke out another guy’s eyes. With his middle fingers. And amidst all that, everyone was singing along to the bleak but beauty-filled lyrics, full lung capacity for the “whoa-oh-ohh’s.”
AFI ended their encore with “Silver and Cold” from Sing the Sorrow and it felt as though everyone let out a collective sigh. The mohawk guy emerged from the crowd with his punk-rock hair wilted, and as the line for coat check shrunk the line forming outside AFI’s tour bus grew, fans bearing the cold to (fittingly) get their Decemberunderground vinyl signed.
For more concert photos, click here.
Leah Edwards |