Berlin, Huxley's Neue Underwelt, October 4th, 2006
The venue looks like a theme park. It takes forever to find the place (read: we are apparently very bad at asking for directions, and even worse at following them). From the warmth of a pug-filled bar (yes, multiple little pugs scampering hither and yon) across the street, I wondered how it was we had actually made it to the place, and just what the hell is it we've embarked on.
At the venue a very stern woman in sensible shoes yells at me for not tipping her in the bathroom. I think: Whatever, lady. They don't do that where I come from! Being Canadian, though, I immediately feel guilty about this thought. Lest she think ill of me, once I have change, I race back in to tip her. She thinks this is totally foolish, and from what I can make out, it seems that she tells me so. Oh, well. Chalk it up to cultural differences.
The show is great, though we miss Dispute thanks to our stop at the bar o' pug. The Explosion do their best to get people pumped up, and by the end of A.F.I.'s blinding white and very tight set, I really remember why it is I love this band so much.
Munich, Backstage, October 6th, 2006
The venue is nestled in what I can only describe as an industrial wasteland of warehouses, gas stations, and a weird complex of "clubs" that look more like airplane hangers. If we didn't have a native guide whom we were able to strongarm into coming to the show with us, we'd have no idea where the hell we are.
We decide since the venues A.F.I. play in North America are usually a bit bigger, we're just going to push our way to the front and get a good spot. The place is lined with bleacher-like steps, and it kind of feels like we're trapped in a bear-baiting arena, but whatever, you only live once. We're holding our own, until during A.F.I.'s some turd starts hurling lit cigarettes into the crowd from the safety of the top-most steps. Ashes fall, A.F.I. fans. They really do fall.
On our way to the bathroom, Elle and I get trapped in the coat check line with dozens of spotty, smelly, shirtless people. Like salmon swimming up stream, we struggle against the current to the bathroom, where we find absolutely nothing to dry our hands with. Elle attempts to make use of a giant poster on the door, which comes off and falls to the ground. As we grope our way back through the line a giant bald man with forearms like trees bellows "Das ist Kaput!". He seems kind of pissed off; enraged, even. Which is a bit of a shame, because his response kind of makes us think it's the funniest thing that has ever happened anywhere.
Cologne, The Palladium, October 7th, 2006
There is a curious one-way human traffic conduit to all facilities in this venue. We try to bribe the security man to let us in the opposite staircase, against the flow of traffic to use the bathroom. He is impervious to corruption. We use Sonia's magnificent excuse: "My friend cut her foot and it's bleeding really badly!". He is having none of it. Stoic, totally unmoved. I do see the ends of his vaguely Bavarian handlebar moustache twitch and quiver at the lie about the bloody foot, though.
Too much fun is had, both at the show and after it. I nurse a mild fear that some of us may actually be too drunk to board the plane, but it all works out in our favor. On the plane we meet some A.F.I. fans from Finland who are also making the pilgrimage to London, for the next show. I love that A.F.I. inspires this in people.
London, Brixton Academy, October 9th, 2006
This is the biggest venue A.F.I. have ever headlined in the UK, and it's packed to the gunnels.
From a distance, I momentarily mistake the giant anti crowd surfing signs that flank the stage in this venue for artistic renderings of sporks. What? No cutlery in the pit? Who the hell designed these things? They are useless, and nobody pays attention to them, anyway.
We spot a dissenter, in a just for shits-and-giggles homemade "GAY-FI' shirt. I am reminded of a kid I once saw at a Misfits show, who paid the entrance fee just so he could embark on a fool's errand to clamber up onstage and attempt to beat up Jerry Only.
In desperation, Elle painstakingly uses a rolling paper to salvage a perfectly sound Parliament cigarette that has been sitting on the floor. This is how legends are made.
Nottingham, Rock City, October 10th, 2006
Everywhere we stand at this venue, we are trapped behind gangly fourteen year olds kissing. I'm kind of grossed out, but they are all over the place, so I run for the safety of the bar at every possible opportunity. Fortunately, this is easily done, because the place is kind of like a rabbit warren, and seems to have secret hallways everywhere. While the stage is tiny, they seem to have allowed space for a bar with a dancefloor around every corner. Curious, but very, very handy.
After an awesome show by all three bands, we head to one of these crazy dancefloors. Dry ice a plenty, dudes in leather vests with fringeâ€¦I feel strangely like we are trapped in soft rock video, and expect Pat Benetar to emerge from a cloud of really chalky smoke at any moment. It's kind of surreal.
As the party ends and the night winds down, the streets of Nottingham present some confusion. There's way too much West Side Story action. I'm all for musicals, but these people could neither dance, or sing. They just moved in formation, lobbed bottles, and yelled at each other.
London, Metro Club, October 11th, 2006
The Explosion headline, with Dispute and local act Gallows opening. Dispute is at their very best, and it kicks ass to see The Explosion in a small venue.
But the Gallows - oh man. The singer is angry as fuck and calling everybody a cunt. Most of the kids at this club are there to see these local hardcore heroes, it seems, which confuses me, because the lyrics are literally the worst thing I have ever heard. At one point I actually here him say something to the effect of "In the belly of the shark/ it is cold and it is dark." Michelle and I share a glance, and I all I can say is whoa. Whoa. Before I can fully recover, he's yelling about divorce, telling his mom he loves her, and calling us all cunts again.
As he clambers onto the bar with reckless enthusiasm that I can only assume springs from an impulse to show us all how outrageously motherfucking tough he is, I realize I'm strangely at home in London.
Bristol, Bristol Academy, October 15th, 2006
Dispute singer Jeremy Lux is giving it the old college try when it comes to engaging larger crowds with between song banter. I'm not entirely sure he's comfortable, and he makes brave decision to take bunny ears from a fourteen-year-old A.F.I. fan in the audience. He actually puts them on his own head and rocks out with them for a few brief moments, before thinking better of the arrangement. I start to think he may, in fact, be the best thing that has ever happened, anywhere.
Davey Havok slips onstage as he sings "Days of the Phoenix." He seems neither hurt nor the slightest bit phased by this, which is awesome. I, however, have trouble getting over the fact that he actually fell, whilst singing, "I fell into fantasy".
After the show, fans wait outside the venue hoping to catch a glimpse of the A.F.I. guys. A handful of them have bigger ambitions that simple autographs and photo ops - they have song requests for the band's next show. The trick will be finding guitarist Jade Puget and getting him to agree. When they eventually track him down, he concedes to their requests, for the fee of 15 pence.
Manchester, Manchester Apollo, October 16th, 2006
During The Explosion's set, Elle and I find a safe spot to drink and dance, while Michelle and Sonia make use of their photo passes. I realize much later that we are blocking the disabled toilet. Oops! Michelle and Sonia are informed in no uncertain terms by security that it is "not professional' to dance while taking photos. They opt not to take this under advisement, because EVERYONE dances to "New York Can't Dance." Duh!
I spot two kids of about sixteen, rocking out like crazy. Like everyone around them, they dance and shout for literally the entire time The Explosion are playing. As the sets change in preparation for A.F.I., one kid takes a gamble, and suggests excitedly to the other that they should go to the merch stand and buy The Explosion's album. "Nah", says the second kid, as he composes himself and jams his hands in his pockets. He looks down at his sneakers "Reckon it'd be well poppy". They both assume kind of an awkward, defeated posture. It's clear that the first kid wonders if he's said too much, and the second kid, who kind of wants to buy the album but now that he's committed himself to total disapproval on grounds of possibly poppy-ness, is stuck. Awwww, bless. Your loss, kidlets!
A.F.I. make good on their promise, and treat us all to "Morningstar."
After the show, at the stroke of eleven and with military precision, venue security herds us outside into the teaming rain. I encounter for the first time in my life an ultra aggressive breed of bootleg merch guys, who actually trample gaggles of children as they try to push into the venue to hawk their hideous, knock-off wares. Is this the Britain of Dickens? Are children expendable? What the hell is going on?
We hide in the Pee Nook, that outside cave-like corner most venues have, where tramps take refuge from the elements, and 15 year olds drunk on popsicle colored wine coolers try not to piddle or puke on themselves. I am desperate to get out of the cold, driving rain. Michelle acquires a free sweater with hideously pixilated bunnies from bootlegger who assures us A.F.I. have made it based on the fact he has so much merch to sell. We don't care, we just need something to huddle under. But we do pass the message on to A.F.I.'s Hunter.
I spy an awkward kid approaching A.F.I.'s drummer, Adam Carson. I am kind of surprised by the cheek of the kid, who asks him sign a giant, crappy bootleg poster from the band's previous tour. I'm not at all surprised, however, by Carson's gracious acceptance of the request.
Glasgow, The Barrowlands, October 18th, 2006
Last night of the tour, and it's kind of sad. Michelle and I have photo passes, which is an especially big bonus in this giant, drafty scout hut of a venue. She heads up to take photos of The Explosion. What happens in the next few minutes prevents me from making the trek with her.
I am transfixed on the sidelines, having spotted two guys sporting giant, fake moustaches. This is an homage to The Explosion's drummer Andrew Black, and it's kind of awesome. They are bearing a giant blue banner with the band's name splashed across it. As I'm contemplating whether or not they've spelled "Explosion" right, I see Michelle get nailed full on in the head by some yob's full cup of beer.
A.F.I.'s set, though, it's damn the torpedoes. Up we go, determined to make the most of our three-song limit and our last night following the tour, and projectiles be damned!
I'm trampled by some wiener who thinks he's a professional, and is thus more important. It works out okay, though. I'm just as happy to risk wrecking some of his shots by making sure my sharp little elbow is totally in his way as much as possible. There really is a limit to the number of times someone can step on my feet and pin me to the barricade, before I decide their creative outlet just isn't all that important.
Beer falls, fast and furious in a hail of cheap cups and stickiness, but it's worth it for the shots.
A.F.I.'s encore of "God Called in Sick Today" gets the same reaction is always does. I hear kids on the fringes of the crowd talking excitedly amongst themselves as Davey walks out onto the outstretched arms of the crowd: "I TOLD you he'd do it! Didn't I say he'd do it?!". It's amazing, even after the shows and all the crowd walks that have gone before.
The show ends too quickly. Kids spill out into the streets and clog every exit they can find in the hopes of catching their heroes. People are peeing in the streets, the few and the dedicated crowding in for all the photos they can, as b.b. pellets fly out of windows at bootleggers and other assorted miscreants.
Probably a totally average night, for Glasgow. But a good end, all told. A bit like the Wild West, but a very good end nonetheless.
Next page : Photos from the shows. Click the thumbnails for a larger version. All photos by Michelle Brook.
Photography: Michelle Brook