Posts Tagged ‘AFI’

Riot Fest Chicago 2013 – Three Day Review

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment


If you follow live music, you have to admit that the mega festival movement is getting a bit stale. Every year we get massively overhyped announcements from the likes of Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo that have music blogs buzzing for a few days before everyone realizes the lineups are basically the same and tickets, flights, and hotels would cost a small fortune.

Riot Fest is by just about any definition, a mega festival. This year’s edition featured some big names (Fall Out Boy, Blink-182), some even bigger reunions (The Replacements), four different stages, and thousands and thousands of attendees who packed Humbolt Park in Chicago over three days.

What makes Riot Fest special however, is what it lacks in comparison to its counterparts. For one, the festival isn’t all that diverse. It was created to celebrate Chicago’s proud punk rock tradition, and while its lineup now stretches to include more mainstream acts and a few oddballs (Public Enemy, anyone?), it continues to have a more focused lineup than most other major festivals.

It also lacks the commercialism of many of today’s larger festival. Local food trucks and vendors provided the food, and there was plenty of booth space for independent record labels, local clothing startup-ups, and charities selling bottled water for a buck. The tickets were cheap as well, especially if you bought early. My three-day pass cost a whopping $70.

Riot Fest also lacks the type of party atmosphere that defines so many major festivals. This isn’t to say that attendees weren’t ready to have a good time, but for most part, the primary focus was always on the music. Artists repeatedly marveled at the enthusiasm of the giant crowds that came to sing along, even in Sunday’s pouring rainstorms.

Friday’s lineup got things off to a good start as fans searched for the best vantage points and learned the lay of the land. While a number of small acts took the stage early, some attendees played speed pitch at the carnival located just behind the main stage, while others hopped on the Ferris Wheel.

On the “Rise” Stage, Andrew W.K.  made at least one reference to partying between every song and was  followed by GWAR, who showered the crowd in fake blood and defeated Giant Zombie Jesus (seriously).

Later that night, Fall Out Boy used every trick in the book to captivate the hometown audience, with ramps, a giant light show, and a piano that magically appeared from underneath the stage. Their set was capped off by a visit from Chicago Blackhawks executive Danny Wirtz, who happened to bring the Stanley Cup along with him.

Saturday welcomed the festivals biggest crowd, with many in attendance gathering at mid-day to watch back to back sets from punk stalwarts Pennywise and Flag (featuring members of legendary hardcore outfit Black Flag).

Blink-182’s headlining set that night had fans lining up as far as the eye could see, and their hour and fifteen minute performance was impossible not to sing along to.


Sunday started with an 11:30 set from Hot Water Music’s Chuck Regan. Despite the early start and drizzle that had began falling, hundreds of die hards still showed up to appreciate the master at work.

The rain began to pick up as more and more fans arrived, but slowed slightly during a thirty minute set from Connecticut’s Hostage Calm, who made a good impression on the large crowd that had gathered in anticipation of the Wonder Years set that was up next. The Philly crew, led by lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell put on one of my favorite sets of the entire weekend, with their energetic live show receiving a huge reaction. Campbell later said the day was one of the best of his life. High praise indeed.


Saves the Day took the stage for a set filled with older fan favorites as the storm hit it’s peak. I couldn’t see lead singer Chris Conley very well around all the umbrellas, but he did sound pretty good.

As the Saves the Day set ended and the rain began to lighten, what seemed like the entire park converged on the “Roots” stage for one of the weekend’s most anticipated sets. While the Brand New camp has been relatively quite over the past few years, the band remains a huge cult favorite and a “can’t miss” live act. I felt bad for anyone trying to compete with them on one of the other stages.


After opening with three tracks from 2009’s polarizing Daisy, the band strung together some of the most recognizable tracks from across their catalog.  After group closed with an epic version of “You Won’t Know”, a large portion of the crowd rushed over to the main stage, where AFI had just kicked off their set.

The final performance of the festival belonged to the Replacements – a band that had played exactly one show in the past 22 years, with that coming only a few weeks earlier at the Toronto edition of Riot Fest. Their return has generated an unbelievable amount of excitement from their fans, and a whole lot has been written about their Toronto performance (google it if you don’t believe me).

My first impression was that this didn’t look or sound like a band making a much hyped comeback. There was no flashy stage setup, and lead singer Paul Westerberg even stopped mid-song to admit that he couldn’t remember the verse on more than one occasion.  Despite these miscues, the band sounded good and was able to captivate not only their longtime fans, but also an entirely new generation of fans that had the chance to observe the historic return.

The Replacements’ set was a good representation of the festival as a whole – it may have lacked the polish and shine you expect from such a happening, but if you were there for polish and shine, you were probably in the wrong place to begin with.


AFI Dives Head First into Boston Headlining Show

November 19, 2009 Leave a comment

The Unseen
House of Blues Boston
October 25th 2009

I’ll start this review by saying this was my second time seeing AFI in less than two weeks, and I’ve already written a glowing review of their Providence Performance here. So, I’ll just get the praise out of the way early. AFI once again sounded great and brought a boatload of energy to the stage with them. They once again played a set that was a little too short and a little too thin on older favorites. And once again, they made both of these concerns seem like an afterthought with their performance.

The night began with the realization that AFI isn’t as big as they used to be. The House of Blues was as empty as I’ve ever seen it, with the mezzanine level closed off and floor only about half full. The only opening act was Boston’s own the Unseen, an old-school punk band that played solid set and was well received by those in the crowd.  The group’s mohawked frontman Mark Unseen was even able to inspire a large circle pit towards the end of the set as he jumped down from the stage and allowed those at the front to do the vocal work.

AFI would make thier traditionally grand entrance and start the set just as they had done in Providence, with “Torch Song” and then “Girls Not Grey.” Seeing as that the band doesn’t change up their setlist very often, I wasn’t expecting many surprises. However, it was obvious from the start that lead singer Davey Havok and Co. were ready to give it their all on what was the last night of the tour’s first leg.

During the set’s third track, “The Leaving Song Pt. II,” Havok would do a flying somersault into the crowd, causing a free for all that had everyone at the front of the venue wildly grabbing for a piece of the charasmatic frontman. After clawing his way back to the stage, Havok would jokingly scold one fan for trying to rip off his shoe.

This would not be Havok’s only foray into the crowd, for he would return later in the set for a successful head-walk. The band would throw in the set’s big surprise with “The Despair Factor,” a rarely played track from 2000’s The Art of Drowning. During this song it became clear that while many of the band’s fair weather fans might have skipped the show, the diehards were well represented. This became even more clear when the band would play “Don’t Make Me Ill” from 1995’s Answer That and Stay Fashionable. Havok once again climbed down from the stage to share the mic with the enthusiastic fans pressed up against the barrier.

Once again, the band’s new songs may not pack the same punch as some of their older counterparts, but they still sound great in a live environment and had those in the crowd singing along. As in Providence, AFI would preform Crash Love lead single “Medicate” towards the end of the set, and it would once again receive only a luke-warm reception compared to the other Crash Love songs.

After closing the set with “Love Like Winter,” the band would return to the stage for an encore that began with undoubtadly the show’s best moment, “The Interview.” The often spectacular light show would be put on hold for a song as Havok and guitarist Jade Pudget would trade lines on the somber Decemberunderground track.

Closing the set with “Miss Muder” and “Silver and Cold,” the band would put an exclamation point on a show that had witnessed quartete at their best. While they had put in a very solid effort in Providence, they seemed to bring something extra to the Boston show. Havok’s stage diving antics showed he hasn’t lost touched with his hardcore roots, while Pudget, bassists Hunter Bergan and drummer Adam Carson were once again supurb in providing the soundtrack.

It’s unfortunate that AFI’s constant reinventions haven’t sat too well with the fans who flocked to the band during the Sing the Sorrow era, but it is obvious that they’re the ones missing out, as AFI continues to put on spectacular live shows. The crowd at the House of Blues would certainly attest to this.

After a Three Year Wait, AFI Returns to Providence

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

other new daveyAFI
Lupo’s, Providence RI
October 14th, 2009

Three years. That was the last time AFI had visited the northeast or done any major touring. For die hard fans like myself, it had been far too long. With the release of Crash Love, AFI was finally ready to hit the road and debut their new tracks, new outfits, and new hairdos.

Their second of four New England appearances brought them to Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in downtown Providence, where they had last appeared along with the Explosion in 2006. That show had seen the quintet at the height of their popularity, supporting both a chart topping record in Decemberunderground and single in “Miss Murder.” Crash Love has not seen the same type of success, which may be why the band performed as if they had something to prove to those in the audience.


Cater getting up close and personal with the crowd

The show featured only one opening band, UK-based hardcore outfit Gallows. What could (and probably should) have been another bland set from a band most weren’t familiar with turned into a thoroughly enjoyable 40 minutes. This was mainly due to the antics of frontman Frank Carter. After playing two songs that featured little crowd participation, Carter climbed down from the stage and into the crowd, mic in hand.

Positioning himself at the back of the small dance floor, Carter proceed to sing the remainder of the set from the complete chaos that surrounded him. While I haven’t been to many hardcore shows, I found this move to be both unbelievable and completely awesome. Gallows is apparently bigger in Providence than I had expected, for there were a host of bandanna-clad fans ready to mix it up and show off their headcore dancing skills.

And of course, there were some not so savvy fans who decided to join in as well. One was a young female who shoved Carter and then challenged him to a fight. The somewhat stunned frontman stopped the music and had the girl repeat the question into the mic, which earned a laugh from the rest of the crowd. Carter then shook his head and jokingly encouraged the girl to pick a fight with any of the other boys in the crowd, for they would be happy to oblige.

After closing the set back on stage with “Orchestra of Wolves,” Gallows would make their exit, along with at least a handful of their fans. After the standard 30 minute wait, AFI took the stage, one member at a time, dressed in their trademark black, except for lead singer Davey Havok. The charismatic frontman instead was decked out in a sparkling polyester suit. I don’t think anyone was surprised.

They would being the set with “Torch Song,” the first song from Crash Love. While it is a solid track, I don’t think it works well as an opener, and most in the crowd didn’t seem to think so either. Things would pick up quickly though as the band ripped though “Girls Not Grey” and “Leaving Song Pt. II,” both of which woke the crowd up in a big way.

Next the band would debut another Crash Love track, this being “Too Shy To Scream.” Unlike “Torch Song,” this did inspire quite the sing along, as did the moody “Ever and a Day,” the only Art of Drowning-era song to make the set list.

HPIM1475Throughout the set Havok danced around the stage as if he were the lead actor in a dramatic play, while guitarist Jade Pudget and bassist Hunter Burgan barely avoided crashing into each other as they raced back and forth. After playing “Kill Caustic” and “End Transmission,” Havok stopped to ask if anyone in the crowd was 18 years old. After a few in the crowd cheered, Havok proclaimed “so is this song” before launching into “Self-Pity,” which appeared on 1995’s Answer That and Stay Fashionable.

Following “Beautiful Thieves” was “Dancing Through Sunday,” which featured a blistering solo from Puget that was one of the highlights of the set. It’s remarkable how good this band sounds live, especially compared to some of their counterparts.  The show would then slow down considerably with “The Leaving Song” and “On the Arrow.” Both were a very nice addition to an otherwise fast paced set.

The band would close with the trio of “Death of Seasons,” “Medicate,” and “Love Like Winter.” Despite being Crash Love’s first single and most familiar track, it inspired only a half-hearted sing along. “Love Like Winter,” on the other hand, not only sounded CD-quality but also inspired another huge response from the crowd.

As the band walked off stage and the house lights stayed down, I took a look at my watch to seenew davey that the band had spent less than fifty minutes on stage. I was hoping for a long encore, but knowing the band rarely played long sets, certainly wasn’t expecting one. After returning to the stage, the band would play an upbeat cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” before transitioning to two of their biggest hits, “Miss Murder” and “Silver and Cold.”

While “Miss Murder” may not be the band’s most original work, it certainly brings the house down in a live setting, and it didn’t disappoint tonight. Closing the show with “Silver and Cold” was an interesting choice and it worked well, as Havok raised the mic stand high in the air and let the crowd do the singing during one part of the song.

As “Silver and Cold” concluded, the band took their bows, and slowly left the stage. The set had only lasted an hour, and it absolutely flew by. It’s almost understandable that AFI would play a shorter set, for even a world class athlete would be exhausted after sprinting around stage the way they do. Havok’s vocal theatrics also must be commended. The frontman deftly moved from vocal cord-shredding screams on “Kill Castic” and “Death of Seasons” to huge melodic choruses on “Girls Not Grey” and “Beautiful Thieves.” Overall, the show was another memorable AFI performance, and while the absence of older material was disappointing, the new Crash Love tracks packed the type of punch that could rock stadiums. Maybe some day.