A lucky group of several hundred fans, donning black jackets and studded belts, lined the sidewalk outside of Slim’s in San Francisco Thursday night to gain access to an exclusive concert by local punk band-turned-superstars AFI.
“This show is a bit out of the ordinary as the band is definitely playing much bigger venues these days,” said Tracey Buck, a publicity representative for Slim’s. According to Buck, the allotment of tickets sold out in less than ten minutes.
Opening the show, Los Angeles-based quartet Scarlet Grey displayed a broad pop-punk vocabulary with a seamless series of melodies. A performance from Bay Area locals Said Radio followed, but their hardcore-punk sound and indecipherable lyrics seemed to interest only a handful of dedicated fans, who thrashed about for the duration of the band’s choppy set.
It wasn’t until around 10 p.m. that the crowd sprung to life, when AFI guitarist Jade Puget jumped to the edge of the stage to play the opening riff of the hit single “Medicate.”
Vocalist Davey Havok appeared wearing a flamboyant gold jacket, which he promptly tossed aside. The band pleased both their long-time fans and new followers with a medley of songs off several stylistically different albums, from the 1997 old-school punk release Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes to 2009’s more gothic Crash Love.
With Havok’s conversational comments between songs and the band’s upbeat, ready-to-rumble demeanor, AFI had little difficulty shifting from the chorus shouts of its powerhouse punk anthems “Dancing Through Sunday” and “Kill Caustic” to the softer intricacies of its mellower pop tunes such as “End Transmission.”
AFI stormed through a fourteen-song set with equal parts effortlessness and raw energy. Though their frequent touring could have easily resulted in a mechanical performance, every band member was lively and engaged the crowd.
Although Havok admitted he “couldn’t find the key” for one song played off the album Very Proud of Ya, the misstep was a footnote in an overall animated and memorable performance, and was most certainly forgiven when he front-flipped onto the flailing hands of concertgoers.
While the band has gained much success in recent years — Crash Love debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200, and they headlined Live 105’s Not So Silent Night with Muse in December — AFI made it clear Thursday evening the members still remember their beginnings as the small punk band that practiced in the basements of Berkeley fraternities.
“I am not pandering when I say this, San Francisco,” yelled Havok, “but it is so good to be back.”
After finishing its initial set, AFI returned for a roaring three-song encore that concluded with Havok thrusting the microphone out over the crowd heartily singing along as the band churned out an album-perfect version of their 2003 hit ballad “Silver and Cold.”
AFI, who first played at Slim’s more than a decade ago, formed in Ukiah and the Bay Area in the 1990s and found mainstream success with their 2003 album Sing the Sorrow. Its latest single from Crash Love, “Beautiful Thieves,” was released in February. In what promises to be a strong representation of the Bay Area music scene, this summer the band will support East Bay natives Green Day on a nationwide tour.