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AFI’s dramatic rock finds Sunday afternoon niche

Ramon Ramirez

Davey Havok has ditched the mop and guyliner for an industrial beard–but he’s still got the studded jacket. AFI’s other three emo veteran members, Adam Carson, Hunter Burgan, and Jade Puget, still don black; high-kicking and busting out Pete Townsend windmills like they’re in zero gravity.

“Dude I haven’t heard this song in 10 years,” an area man in a CamelBak said after the band opened with 2003’s “The Leaving Song Pt. II.” That track opened the door on Butch Vig-produced breakthrough “Sing the Sorrow.” AFI is still chasing that perfect storm album.

“We used to play hardcore, it sounded like this,” Havok said after singing one while floating on mosh-obliging sympathizers.

He’s always been an underrated rock and roll Jesus as a frontman–theatrics, style, cult of personality. I have at least one friend with a deeply personal AFI tattoo. Having a point of view and ideas can get you a Sunday Honda Stage slot well after the commercial bubble bursts. Here, tiny pockets of gamers surge through and say “sorry we’re trying to get to the mosh” as if that were a fenced off, fest-sanctioned zone.

It wasn’t all good. Some of the newer stuff has electronica samples and recalls Orgy at its least essential. You could differentiate which era Havok channeled by whether he pouted into the mic stand Scott Stapp style (new), or went chord-less and stomped like a punk rock bull all over the place (old). He slid down the median and sang into adoring faces in fashion no one has done as well at this stage since John Legend in ’09. The person in the horse mask lost it.

“It’s so early and it’s so sunny and you’re still here and that means so much to us,” Havoc said, “We’ve been on tour for about a year.”

The band has apparently retired its ’90s throwdown punk epic “Total Immortal,” and so 2006’s “Miss Murder” took us home with a mighty response. Fire’s still there.