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Chris Slack Reviews AFI & Poison The Well Live in Seattle

By Chris Slack, Contributor
Wednesday, November 12, 2003 @ 6:36 PM


AFI, Poison The Well and Autop

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I’m an old school punk/hardcore fan but am not ashamed to admit that I am a total newcomer when it comes to AFI. They’ve been getting a lot of buzz lately so I was interested in checking them out to see if they were all they were cracked up to be. Their show in Seattle was totally sold out; fortunately I was able to get a press hookup (Thanks Amanda!) so as soon as I finished my typical 12-hour day managing a bunch of game testers I was off to the show.

Upon arriving at the venue I was surprised to see a line that measured at least two city blocks in length; I’m used to seeing half empty venues and sparse lines until after the opening act is well underway. The people in line were pretty much as I imagined. The classic-style punker (leather, bristles, acne and studs) was conspicuously absent. The line (and the crowd inside) mostly consisted of what I like to refer to as the new school of punk rockers; suburban kids decked out in clean band shirts looking like their parents just dropped them off and the expected hordes of emo kids. Many were obviously very excited to be seeing AFI, the others appeared to only be there for the social aspect of the concert. Regardless of that, they paid their money so they all had a right to express themselves however they chose. Let’s get on with the show itself.

The opening band was Island records recording artists Autopilot Off. Chris “Houston” Hughes, the bands guitarist, stated on their website, “We want to bring an aggressiveness back, but in a real way.” I paid pretty close attention, looking and listening for this aggressiveness but if it was there it went over my head -- they just seemed like another pop punk band to me. Real punk is about anger, aggression, defiance, and the desire for change in the system while Autopilot’s music and stage antics seemed to be more about happiness and having a good time. People who enjoy acts like Lagwagon, Sum 41 and other similar bands would probably enjoy these guys but not me. I think the crowd felt the same way; the band got a lukewarm reaction at best.

Florida’s Poison the Well was the next act to hit the stage. I’ve heard them before and consider them a decent metalcore act so I was looking forward to checking them out in the live setting. I had a hard time shooting photos during the three songs I was allowed simply because the energy of the music and the performers was getting to me and I wanted to watch the band rather than concentrating on getting good shots. To me the band mixes the riffage of speed metal acts like Slayer with the stomp of tough guy hardcore acts like Hatebreed minus the excessive breakdowns of the latter and similar acts. The guys were all over the stage, on the monitors, and as in the face of the audience as the 6-foot barrier would permit. Despite the constant motion and raw aggression, the band sounded tight as hell and put on a great show that impressed a LOT more people than Autopilot off. There was a good deal of “hardcore dancing” going on in the pit, something I don’t think a lot of the audience was prepared for, however nobody seemed to get seriously hurt so all was good. Poison the Well put on a kick ass set that anyone into modern hardcore should enjoy so make sure to catch them if they show up in your town.

Poison the Well photos from this show can be found at http://www.shadows.com/gravemusic/live/afi-ptw101903/ptw.shtml.

I had not heard a note of AFI prior to the concert; the appearance of the audience outside and the first band to play had me anticipating either some happy pop punk or watered down “life is so hard” emo rock. When they started pre-fogging the stage before the band came on I had a feeling that I would be wrong and all expectations were thrown out the window. Frontman Davey Havok got on stage to the shrill screams of a thousand teenage girls I thought to myself, “Holy shit, it’s Dani Filth… but wait, this guy is taller”! If his height didn’t make it clear enough, he soon differentiated himself from Dani when he began singing -- his voice reminded me of a more powerful Perry Farrell, somewhat high pitched but not to the point of being aggravating and very well controlled. Even though his appearance wouldn’t suggest it, Davey could be the definition of a frontman; he had the crowd mesmerized and a number of young girls in tears from his mere presence. I mentioned the mobility of the members of Poison the Well in the last paragraph, AFI made them look like Deicide once they got underway. I don’t know if I have ever seen a band move about the stage as much as AFI did. All of the members, minus the drummer of course, were constantly shifting positions and playing together. From the guitarist walking out on the thin railing of the barricade to slap hands with the people up front to Davey’s front flip (over the six foot wide barrier) onto the crowd these guys were showmen in every sense of the word and knew exactly how to work an audience. While their music wasn’t particularly technical, it conveyed a wide variety of feelings from one song to the next: joy, anger, misery, extreme aggression (sorry Mille) and loss.

Most people I have spoken with referred to AFI as being a punk or hardcore band -- I rarely got that impression from the show I saw. I would only classify 3 or 4 of the songs I heard as being punk, the rest sounded like melodic and emotionally charged hard rock. Now that genres and style are behind us I can honestly say that AFI puts on one of the most entertaining live shows out there. With the right push and a slightly different marketing strategy they could be huge without having to change their style to the blandness of other arena class acts. I regret not getting into the band earlier and suggest others get past the bands image (and the hype) and check them out at the first opportunity.

AFI photos from this show can be found at http://www.shadows.com/gravemusic/live/afi-ptw101903/index.shtml.

AFI set list:

Miseria Cantare
Lost Souls
DOTP
Bleed Black
Ever & A Day
Cruise Control
Celluloid Dream
Morning Star
TLS pt II
This Secret Ninja
No Poetic Device
Silver and Cold
Dancing through Sunday
GNG
Total Immortal
Death of Seasons
God Called in Smith Today

(Photos by Chris Slack)


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