“We’ve been doing this for twenty two years, and this is honestly our first time here!” stated A.F.I. vocalist Davey Havok over the ear splitting screams of fans that packed The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, New York, from wall to wall last night. For a band that has graced the stages of the Vans Warped Tour, the Coachella Music Festival, and has been featured in countless interviews, TV shows, and on magazine covers worldwide, the idea that the multiplatinum rockers from California were making their debut at the famed Hudson Valley venue was as surprising as it was exciting. The unsurprisingly sold out show filled the venue with fans of all ages, some wearing hoodies from the Decemberunderground and Crash Love tours of just a few years ago, while others donned tattered shirts from some of A.F.I.’s first runs on the road. Yet these age gaps were quickly forgotten and all came together to sing, dance, and quite literally lift Havok over their heads as he walked out into the crowd held up only by the hands of loyal fans gripping onto his boots, making a human catwalk for the singer.
Currently wrapping up their Burials tour to promote the album of the same name released in September, A.F.I. were not alone in their journey across America and had brought two very different up and coming bands to get things warmed up in every venue along the way. First to hit the stage was the Los Angeles punk trio Coming. Taking musical cues from punk rock icons Black Flag, The Germs, and Bauhaus, Coming’s noise ridden riffs, distorted bass lines, and repetitive vocals brought some of the older faces in the crowd back to the days of seven inch records and dim lit record stores in Manhattan music underworld. As Coming’s amps and drums were cleared off the stage and replaced with several keyboards by a tall, skinny young man dressed in black and a petite tattooed blonde girl, many were expecting the second act to sound like Blaqk Audio, an electronica project featuring A.F.I. guitarist Jade Puget and vocalist Davey Havok. Instead, the two members of the L.A. based industrial band called Youth Code took the entire venue by surprise with screaming vocals and eerie distorted samples from various sources played lines over heavy synthesizers and pounding drum and bass beats. By the end of the second song, it became clear that Youth Code had far less in common with Puget and Havok’s project and instead took heavy influence from industrial/EDM artists such as Combichrist, Front Line Assembly, and Psyclon 9.
For a band with members hovering at or just under the age of 40, many a rock group would prefer to dial back their stage performance for fear of sustaining injuries worse than they would have in years past. Opening the set with “The Leaving Song Part II”, A.F.I. proved that it’s the life in your years, not the years in your life that determine who you are. With a voice more powerful than ever, Havok spent a majority of the set leaping off the drum riser and light boxes with Puget and bassist Hunter Burgan following suit. Plowing through a 17 song set featuring “The Conductor”, “I Hope You Suffer”, “Heart Stops” and “17 Crimes” from the band’s latest album to the song “File 13” off 1995’s Very Proud of Ya, the crowd seemed more exhausted by the end of the show than the band. Even the youngest faces in the crowd, who probably don’t remember life when Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning were released in 1999 and 2000 respectively, knew the lyrics to “God Called In Sick”, “Ever and a Day”, and “The Days of the Phoenix” as well as anyone else in the crowd twice their age. Throwing in “Beautiful Thieves” off 2009’s Crash Love was as well-received as “Love Like Winter” and “Miss Murder” from 2006’s Decemberunderground. Having kicked off the show with a track from Sing the Sorrow, arguably one of the most iconic rock albums of the 2000’s, and continuing with “Girl’s Not Grey” off the same album, A.F.I. bid farewell to their new friends in Poughkeepsie with a back to back play through of Sing the Sorrow’s mosh worthy “Dancing Through Sunday” and tear jerking ballad “Silver and Cold”.
For a band that has had the opportunity to play some of the biggest shows in the world, A.F.I. seemed delighted to be able to see the audience without high barricades and dozens of security guards between them. The full band name may be A Fire Inside, but the real fire came from inside the hearts and souls of every screaming fan in the sold out Chance Theater who waited for hours in freezing cold temperatures to see a band that may very well have changed their lives.