▣The Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles, CA ▣Friday, February 24th 2017
The musical landscape as we know it is ever-changing. With different generations, new artists are always popping up and music evolves into a new form. Also in that vein, older artists will broaden their sounds and mature while hopefully maintaining their original style that initially made them who they are.
The artist I am reviewing is a band called AFI, acronym for A Fire Inside. The band has been playing for about 20 years and began as a hardcore punk band out of the Bay Area in California. AFI would slowly grow their sound by adding goth-rock influence, in addition to more theatrical song structures and harmonies. AFI rose to alternative rock prominence in the mid-2000’s with records like Sing The Sorrow and December Underground, and though the musical landscape at least in terms of popularity have changed, AFI have maintained a very dedicated core fan base ranging from the older punks to the younger crowds who while may have not been into the band for as long still hold their records close to heart and show the same devotion as the older fans.
On February 24th, 2017 AFI would play the first night of a two night set at The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, California with the bands Souvenirs and Nothing as supporting acts. The line to enter the venue wrapped around the building, with loyal fans clad in Misfits shirts and flannels out in droves. As I entered the venue, I noticed the line for merch was incredibly long which although was slightly disconcerting to me because it meant it would be very difficult to get my hands on any for myself, it made me very happy to see the unwavering dedication of so many fans to support an artist that they held very dear to heart. I’ve been attending concerts since I was in my early teens and I’ve come to believe that purchasing records and clothing straight from the artist is the best way to support them.
Now onto the show itself! The sound at The Wiltern is one of the best that I have experienced so far in Los Angeles, and the theater itself has a very old-school fear to it. I made my way into the audience and was able to come fairly close to the stage, as only a specific number of people were allowed into the pit area right in front of the stage and those were the people who had camped out and been waiting throughout the entire day. I only caught the end of Souvenirs’ set, and while I wasn’t blown away I was not able to catch enough of it to give a fair assessment. The band Nothing would begin playing after, and their style was very reminiscent of 90’s alternative bands such as Garbage, Bush and The Cranberries but more dissonant with some longer instrumental parts. I had no previous knowledge of the band, and can say that although it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea I can see why they have their own fans that their sound caters to.
Soon after Nothing’s set ended, the audience became abuzz with fervor knowing that we were about to see the act we had all been waiting for. Other crowd members had informed me that they were a great band live and as I had never seen them, my anticipation only heightened. Very soon, the lights would dim and fans would begin chanting lyrics from a song off Black Sails in the Sunset, one of the band’s earlier albums which bridged the gap between the hardcore punk and the modern alternative rock sound we know today.
The band began and the energy in the venue was palpable and the crowd began jumping up and down as the second song was the hit Girl’s Not Grey off Sing The Sorrow, a song that gained consistent MTV and radio play in the mid-years. The sing-a-longs were everywhere, and the band moved with ferocious energy. Keep in mind these guys are in their 40’s and stage heroics are hard enough in teens and 20’s, so to see singer Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget play with refined fervor was almost dream-like. The set would continue with songs spanning the band’s career from Days of The Phoenix, an emotional punk anthem (off The Art of Drowning, 2001) to I Hope You Suffer, a goth/rock/techno hybrid sound (off Burials, 2013) which the band has near perfected. The light show and smoke would change depending on what album a song was played off of, a nice touch which definitely added to the almost cinematic experience. On more than one occasion as well, Davey Havok would make his way into the crowd to join in singing along, and each time the place would explode with energy.
AFI would finish their set, then play two songs off Sing The Sorrow (Silver And Cold and This Celluloid Dream) as an encore, which seemed fitting due to it being held in most regards as their finest musical hour. For me, this was what I had hoped for as STS was the first album by AFI I had ever experienced and owned when it came out. The songs played, the crowd rejoiced and sang along in harmony and the night would come to an end.
After the last song, I felt like I had crossed a musical act off my bucket list. I have gone through times where I may not listen to AFI as much, but they have always been dear to me. My friend that I had went with and I both regularly play the band’s albums at our work and when people recognize it we are able to share our love for the music which to me is one of the best parts of being a fan, the ability to connect with others and speak a musical language all our own.
AFI has just wrapped up their tour in support of The Blood Album, a great work and my favorite since December Underground, with the single Snow Cats currently garnering rock radio play. They will be playing one-off dates and festivals as the year goes on and I implore those who read this to go catch them when they come to a city near you, as it is a show not to be missed for any fan of alternative rock. Through our bleeding, we are one!
Review & Photos – Will Johnson/Contributing Writer
Check out the bands website for more info!