It's been at least a couple years since AFI have played in NJ, or anywhere really. A few months ago they started posting little teasers, little song clips. That eventually turned into an album and tour announcement. Last night that tour came to Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ.
AFI tapped Touche' Amore' to open this tour. I have seen TA play a few times so I was excited to get another chance to shoot them. Typically, when I have seen them play photos are difficult- the lighting is usually dim, and the band never stops moving. Last night though, last night was lit pretty well, and I was able to get the best pictures I have ever got of them.
Beyond that though, TA is one of the most exciting live bands playing right now. Singer Jeremy Bolm has an insane amount of energy. He also makes sure to make every single person feel connected to the show. The crowd surfing was constant, and for almost every person that surfed to the front, Bolm was there. He was there to shake hands, fist bump, and share the microphone. He got as his knees more than once to sing into the microphone with the kids who came to the front. A couple of times he almost lost the microphone entirely to whoever he was sharing it with.
The band backed Bolm's energy note for note. In fact, towards the end of the set, Elliot Babin was hitting the drums so hard that the cover for the bass drum literally blew to pieces. Which of course, was an open invitation for Bolm to put his head in there, which he did, for about 30 seconds while he screamed into the microphone. Fantastic, just fantastic.
I sat in the photo pit before AFI took the stage wondering exactly what I was about to see. If I am being honest, I guess I would have to say that I have always been more of a casual fan of the band- I owned a couple of their cds. They had a bunch of songs I liked. I liked "I Hope You Suffer" when it came out. In my memory, they were always a bit dark, which I expected to be reflected in their live show. I thought it would be moody and low-key.
I could not have been more wrong.
With the opening chords of "The Leaving Song PT. II" the crowd, and band, exploded. Davey Havok took the stage and like Bolm from Touche'; he never stopped moving. During the second song, "Girls Not Grey", Havok did a front flip over me into the audience. It was so fast that I didn't even know what happened. He spent a lot of time in the crowd actually, standing on hands, trying to connect with every single person in the room.
It seems like over the years, AFI have gone from a theatrical band to a straight up rock band. Gone is the eyeliner and nail polish. In it's place are 4 guys who sound so much bigger live than 4 guys should. Last night, they all played like a band with 20 years in the game, but with the energy of a band who is still hungry.
All in all, it was an amazing show. The audience was wild for both bands, the crowd surfing at an high. I don't think there wasn't one song between the two band that wasn't a favorite with the fans. It seemed a little strange when I first heard about AFI and Touche' Amore' touring together, but after last night, it makes perfect sense.
There are still some dates left on this tour. If you are reading this and they are coming to your town, just go. You won't regret it.