It seems like just yesterday I was standing outside 924 Gilman Street with AFI/Blaqk Audio’s Davey Havok as he swooned over a blue-haired girl who had smiled at him, grabbing my arm to contain his excitement. Yet it also feels like several lifetimes ago. I suppose it’s hard to believe nowadays that he’d be nervous in the presence of beautiful women but, as he wrote here and here, they liked to give him grief and his apprehension was understandable.
Not long after that episode, we were in his tiny studio apartment, giggling about one of the many racy fan letters AFI received after MRR ran their first interview (issue 137). We didn’t foresee AFI’s endurance and its evergrowing legion of devoted fans. Heck, after our lives diverged sometime in the late ’90s, I had no idea they had outgrown small punk rock shows until I saw them perform again in 2003 during their Sing the Sorrows tour.
I had arrived in London with my new travel buddy Domo-Kun to conduct research for the novel I was working on at the time. It involved a walking tour that encompassed London’s historic punk and rock’n’roll venues, listening to John Peel’s show on the radio (what a thrill!), a bus tour of England’s mystical sights (Stonehenge, Glastonbury, King Arthuer’s grave, Avebury), and a walk-through of the London Astoria. One day I thumbed through Time Out and learned that not only were Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Nick Lowe playing separate sold-out shows the next evening, so was AFI.
On a whim, I headed over to the Forum the next afternoon in hopes of catching the guys once they were done with soundcheck. To my surprise, despite doors opening at 7pm, at 4:30pm there was already a long line of people waiting to get in. In addition, dozens of kids were hanging out by the side of the venue, which was apparently where the band’s dressing room overlooked.
Though I thought there was little chance the band would venture into this mob scene, I joined them and met fans from London, elsewhere in England, and even Europe. They were quite competitive with each other, detailing how long they’d been listening to the band, how many times they’d seen and met them, etc. Several times they’d rally together and chant one of the guy’s names, hoping for a response. Occasionally Dave, Jade, Adam, or Hunter would stick his head out the window and the kids would cheer. It was quite exciting, actually, and all that unbridled enthusiasm swept me back to my very first concert (Lollapalooza #1, with Siouxsie & the Banshees, NIN, Henry Rollins, Ice T, and Jane’s Addiction). At one point Dave affixed a small basket to a rope, filled it with vegan cookies, and then lowered it into the crowd, much to everyone’s delight.
Hunter, the new member of AFI at the time, came out and was immediately mobbed by autograph and photo seekers. I’d never met him before but managed to fight through the crowd and ask him to tell the others that I was in town. He obliged and eventually Dave hung out the window (cue an explosion of cheers) to look for me.
Their show turned out to be a bonafide concert, complete with an enormous stage, dazzling light show, and 2100 screaming, pulsing fans. I was awestruck, both by the audience’s fervor and the band’s performance. Their stage presence had always been energetic and spirited but it seemed to have multiplied tenfold since I last saw them a good five years prior. I recall getting goosebumps and a touch misty-eyed as I watched them work the stage and the crowd. The entire venue shook underfoot for the duration of the show. It’s times like this that I regret not being a better photojournalist, but c’est la vie.
Here’s another installment of Dave’s troubles with women, which appeared in My Letter to the World #8, published December 16, 1993 (click for a larger view). For more literary endeavors by Dave, you might want to check out his debut novel Pop Kids, which comes out today.