AFI Live @ Marathon Music Works – Nashville, TN

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AFI was pretty awesome last night, I have to say. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect as this was my first time seeing them, and their music catalog is incredibly diverse as their style changes with just about every album that they release. I guess I expected their live style to be somewhat toned down to match the sound of the newest album Burials.

But let me tell you, I’ve never been happier to be wrong in my entire life.

The show has a strange feel to it, as the crowd was just as diverse as AFI’s music. There was a pocket of younger straight edge kids close to the front, there were party girls dressed to the nines, there were a handful of dude-bros with tight muscle shirts and cups of beer, there were old-school horror punk/deathrock folks wearing Samhain jackets, there were denim jacketed hardcore tough guys, and it was an all around well rounded crowd, even if I personally thought the dude-bros would be better suited for a completely different show.

The opening bands were surprisingly awesome, as well. I had never heard Coming or Youth Code before last night, but after the show, both were definitely bands that I want to add to my library of music. Coming was this really bizarre industrial and hardcore influenced band that I couldn’t exactly put my finger on, genre-wise. The first part of the set that I saw was straight industrial with a guy grooving on bass while two other guys screamed over a bass heavy programmed drum beat. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, one of the guys grabbed a guitar while the other hopped on a drum set to show that this crazy group of people were also a hardcore band. I’ve seen several incomprehensible bands on stage with seemingly no real direction other than being weird. Normally, I wouldn’t be a fan of a band like this, but Coming seemed to have a bit of method to their madness, which resulted in me not hating them at all, and actually enjoying them quite a bit.

Youth Code was also really awesome. Really, really awesome. I have a deep love for industrial music that I don’t really let out that much due to my love affair with the genre being almost ten years ago and not hearing a newer band that really impressed me. Considering that most electronic music these days focuses on the dance aspect and being a lot brighter and drug influenced, most groups within the electronic genres don’t really appeal to me. I do like a nice slice of the dark side affiliated with old school 70s, 80s, and 90s electro/industrial music, and it was a nice to surprise to see a band like Youth Code that was clearly inspired by a lot of hardcore to bring that influence to an electronic genre. Could they be starting a resurrection of music like early Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and KMFDM? I certainly hope so because in the days of “the long tail” in the music industry, it’s a nice change of pace to see a band like this get some national exposure. I really like this band a lot, and I’ll do whatever I can to hear them regularly and see them live again.

And then there was AFI. In my past, I didn’t love AFI, and it wasn’t until pseudo-recently that I started exploring their music to appreciate how awesome they actually are. When I first exposed to the band, it was around Sing The Sorrow, and that’s absolutely all I knew about them. I had friends that adored them that had been fans for several years at that point, but all they ever let me listen to was Sing The Sorrow. At the time, I kind of liked it, but certainly didn’t love it. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were scheduled to go to a wedding that was several hours away, and I decided to get a couple of CDs for the trip so that we would have something different that we could listen to. Since my wife and I met around the time Sing The Sorrow came out, I decided to pick it up because I figured it would be a fun trip down memory lane that we could take alongside our trip. It worked, and I fell in love with that album because all of the memories that it brought back to me. I also picked up the All Hallow’s EP, and that’s what made me an AFI fan.

Having the exposure to the older, horror punk influenced AFI, I knew this was a band that I needed to explore and come to appreciate. After almost burning a hole in that CD, I went on to the A Fire Inside EP, The Art of DrowningBlack Sails in the Sunset, and all of the older stuff. I became obsessed. It had been several years since AFI released CrashLove, which I still don’t really like, and I figured, as I’m sure a lot of others did, as well, that Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s main focus would remain on Blaqk Audio, and that AFI was never coming back. Well, just when I started to fall in love with AFI, I saw that Burials would be getting released. Color me excited. The chance to see AFI live was something that I could not pass up, and as you know, I love Burials.

Christmas 2013 came, and my wife gave me tickets to see the show that I went to with her last night. Again, we loved it. I think I expected a lot of stuff off Burials, which would have been fine, but they managed to take several songs from different eras to make a nice, balanced set list that made everyone in attendance leave happy. There were songs from almost every album including “File 13” from Very Proud of Ya, several songs off The Art of Drowning, “God Called In Sick Today” from Black Sails in the Sunset, several songs from Sing the Sorrow, and a handful from Decemberunderground. While I, and the denim-jacketed gentleman behind me preferred the older AFI songs, it was clear as day that the majority of the Nashville crowd really preferred the Decemberunderground songs the most.

Aside from the song choice, the band also put on an amazing show. The energy level for the show was at maximum, and it didn’t appear that a single step was missed with all of the band members’ performances. Even when Davey lost the microphone, the crowd picked up the singing parts, and it was beautiful. The bands stage presence was also amazing. Everyone played their parts to perfection, and I don’t just mean musically, the members of the band played their roles to perfection as well. Adam’s drums were fun, energetic, yet easy going. Hunter on bass provided a solid platform and center for the band, while still remaining active and fun to watch. Jade played the mysterious, aloof guitarist, and Davey Havok was an inspired front man with enough flash to match the likes of someone like Prince, James Brown, or Michael Jackson. Havok presented himself as an icon, while still seemingly approachable in the sense that it wasn’t just business as usual for him, but that he was also genuinely having a good time. And that’s one of the things that really surprised me about the performance. Everyone there, the crowd, the bands, everyone, seemed like they were having a really good time. Considering the fact that I don’t think anyone would really describe AFI as a feel good band, that was shocking to me.

And while I had a great time, I almost felt guilty for being there because of some of the people that were around me. One girl was stating over and over how she was about to die of excitement, and another was singing along to everything with tears in her eyes and bawling every second there weren’t lyrics. It was beautiful to see how much this music meant to them. I highly respect those two ladies, and I hope they had a great time, as well. This performance meant a lot to me, and it was a fantastic experience. I got exactly what I need from this show: an emotional release, excitement, exposure to new music, singing out loud to songs I love, and a chance to see a band that put on a fantastic performance.

I can’t wait to see all of these bands again.

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