A Night Of Firsts


January 15, 2014; It was a night of firsts for this photojournalist… The first time photographing A.F.I, the first time shooting at the legendary White Rabbit venue in San Antonio, Texas & the first time witnessing a gnarly fist fight within the photo-pit itself. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…

It was unusually cold this time of year for San Antonio, Texas… People were bundled up in the 35 degree weather, standing in line outside of the White Rabbit. Periodically, people could be seen taking turns, heading to one of the many hole-in-the-wall’s that San Antonio has to offer across from the venue for warmth & a beer as time ticked closer towards the doors opening.

The White Rabbit is a tiny venue tucked in the center of downtown San Antonio, Texas down St Mary’s Street. A legendary punk venue since 1995. The walls of the venue along the outside & inside are adorned with phenomenal graffiti art from local artists in the San Antonio area which really setting the mood of the place. Murals of Iggy Pop, & Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit on L.S.D were among the wonderful graffiti work painted on the outside walls.

As the doors opened people were eager to get inside the venue for some much needed warmth, only to find out half of the venue is basically outside as the walls on two sides of the White Rabbit were made up of large industrial sized garage doors that were opened to accommodate more fans. You could hear the faint complaints of how “ridiculous” & “cold” the venue was, coming from the people lined up at one of many make shift “Bar(s)” that were set up in the corners of the White Rabbit. It’s not very punk to complain about the venue you choose to see one of your favorite bands at.

Coming (9)Los Angeles native punk band Coming opened the night, showing the younger generation a taste of what good old-school punk sounds like, giving the crowd an angst filled, politically charged set the only way good punk music can. With no time to spare they tore up the stage thrashing around shirtless & on bended knees. In a blink of the eye their set was finished & was being dismantled for the next band.

What seemed no longer than 10 minutes, the second band took stage, industrial duo from Los Angeles, Youth Code began their set with Let the Sky Burn. Hard hitting four-on-the-floor bass started punching people in the chest relentlessly as front-man, Ryan came out with epic strong vocals, shocking the crowd into disbelief. In my honest opinion this band is the result of what happens when Muscle & Hate meets up with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails &Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM to create a genetically perfect industrial Band. Co-Vocalist & Front-Woman, Sara dominated the set with powerhouse vocals leaving Ryan to create his phenomenal manipulations & dance beats to go along with the outstanding performance of Sara who was thrashing from one side of the stage to the other, only stopping long enough to introduce the next song. Youth Code kept the BPMs ticking with tracks like1st & last; Wear the Wounds; No Animal Escapes; and Sick Skinned  to name a very few. Finishing up their set, they played their track from their video Carried Mask off their self-titled LP Youth Code blowing the crowd away completely…Youth Code (3)

Time is a relentless SOB, as it seems to be always against us. But not on January 15th, no ladies & gentlemen, not at all. Time was indeed on our side, as A.F.I made it on stage earlier than was expected. One of the many blessings of playing a small venue.

The already restless & cold crowd didn’t have much time to wait before A.F.I took stage. A single individual started chanting the band’s name and the chanting quickly changed to “through our bleeding, we are one”.

To the crowd’s very surprise Davey Havok, took the stage standing on the drum stand with his back facing the crowd, wearing his upside down studded cross jacket & microphone in hand. The unmistakable guitar chords to The Leaving Song part II started off their set, sending hands & fists flying into the air as the crowd sang along to every word, verbatim. The excitement could be felt throughout the place by just viewing the looks on each individual face. Each adult & child believed fully in the lyrics they were singing. Faces red with rage & eyes welling over with tears, it was evident these people lived these lyrics.

AFI (12)Havok’s true personality shined through during that first track, when one concert-goer, a body-surfer had made his way to the front of the stage being surfed on the hands of others. The White Rabbits security guards became a little overzealous when said body-surfer made it in their direction, grabbing at this poor kid pulling him so hard his upper torso hit the edge of the stage, causing him to become enraged with the White Rabbit’s security staff, to which a 3 on one brawl broke out in the photo pit. Havok quit singing long enough to squat down and tell the Security to let the poor kid up.

The show continued on with their hit Girl’s Not Grey & was going on without a hitch when the same body-surfer who was brutally attacked by the White Rabbit Security Staff somehow, dangerously made his way back into the photo-pit to exact his revenge on the security guards who wronged him… In my humble opinion it was a little too easy for said concert-goer to make his way back into the photo-pit without meeting any resistance what-so-ever. This is something the White Rabbit should address along with the roughness of their security staff. Last thing any fan of live music needs is another Dimebag Darrel incident, & the last thing the White Rabbit needs is a law suit by some over excited fan.AFI (30)

A.F.I blew the crowd away with their hit I Hope You Suffer… Havok demanded audience participation by climbing onto the backs & shoulders of every “Fall Child” that offered it to them, singing the entire track along with the crowd, making Havok the crowds favorite FAN…. More songs kept coming like a machine gun, spitting songs out in rapid order… Phenomenal tracks like File 13; Love like Winter; and from their 5th studio album The Art of Drowning was Ever and a Day.

By the end of the 6th song from A.F.I, this photojournalist was hooked. Not only was it this photojournalist’s first time photographing A.F.I it was also his first time seeing A.F.I, or really even hearing the band for that matter… He was hooked & ready for more! Each song he heard from that point on was an instant hit to his ears. BAM- 17 Crimes, BAM- The Leaving Song,  BAM- Beautiful Thieves all in beautiful, overwhelming order. And from their 7th studio album Decemberunderground came their song Kill Caustic a Power-Punk Ballad that sent the crowd into a chaotic screams of ecstasy as the diehard Fall Children again sang every lyric word-for-word. Heart Stops; Miss Murder; The Days of the Phoenix… They killed the fans with God Called in Sick Today, only to revive them back, with a cover of The Cure’s Just like Heaven.

Ending the night with Dancing through Sunday and Silver and Cold, their third single of their 6th studio album Sing the Sorrow. It is this 36 year-old photojournalist’s humble opinion that A.F.I put’s on one of the world’s best shows to date, A must see for anyone looking for amazing live music for all ages… Hold on tight Hawaii, they are coming your way soon!

Review by: Jared Wingate 



Youth Code