Saturday afternoon passersby on Commonwealth Avenue probably noticed the urban campsite set up in front of the Paradise Rock Club. Half of the nice Tennessee couple occupying the blue tent had lost her voice and couldn’t tell anyone much of anything. The other half explained that they dashed straight from AFI’s Terminal 5 show the previous night straight to Boston, and set up temporary living quarters upon their arrival sometime around the break of dawn. Securing a position near the front of the stage was crucial, and impossible, they figured, unless they got here mega-early.
But the blue tenters’ bid for first dibs on standing spots was already kaput. That distinction belonged to the owner(s) of the red tent established closer to the box office. The 10 or 12 individuals lined up behind the encampment would have to compete for the remaining space that, within four or five hours, would be within spitting distance of Davey Havok — he of elastic vocal cords and the guise of a Jhonen Vasquez drawing made flesh ‘n bone.
Flashing forward a bit, AFI commenced the festivities with “This Celluloid Dream,” off 2003’s major label breakthrough Sing The Sorrow. “This Celluloid Dream” was not a hit single, or a single at all, during that album’s promotional cycle 14 years ago. It’s more-or-less buried on side two of the vinyl; the tenth of, when we include the hidden track “This Time Imperfect,” 13 songs. If a band aim to get a packed house all riled up for a subsequent hour-and-a-half performance, “This Celluloid Dream” is not at all an intuitively prudent song to start off with.
And yet, everybody in the at-capacity Paradise crowd knew every lyric to “This Celluloid Dream.” Later on, it seemed like maybe 33 percent sang along to “Now The World,” and that one’s a bonus track on one of Sorrow’s international editions, which means it technically wasn’t even officially released in this country.
At this stage in their 25-plus year career, AFI can take for granted that a sizable fraction of their audience is not buying a ticket to their first AFI show; maybe not even their second or third or fourth. The punk-ish California quartets’ will to embrace their catalogues’ deepest cuts — previously demonstrated during their tour supporting 2013’s Burials — does wonders to kill the looming threat of monotony. I mean, yeah, it would’ve bummed me out that they didn’t do “Totalimmortal” off 1999’s All Hallows EP, except I bet I’ve seen them play “Totalimmortal” three times already. I’ve never seen they do “Now The World” before, and of course I never saw it coming. But the smart money says “Now The World” is at least one fan’s favorite AFI song they never expected to hear live in a zillion years, and for that person, for four minutes on Saturday night, AFI was the coolest band in the entire space-time continuum, even if reviews of their tenth and latest full-length, The Blood Album state the contrary.
And speaking to that matter, The Blood Album is just fine! It’s okay! “Hidden Knives” is a pretty rad song! “So Beneath You” is also pretty rad! I dig “Snow Cats” alright! That’s three really good songs! Three is plenty! So it’s fine. Everything with The Blood Album is fine.
“New York sucks. Boston is much better,” announced co-singer-guitarist Domenic Palermo at the onset of Nothing’s opening set. “I’m not saying Boston is good, just better than New York.” After at least a decade of poptimism dictating much of its surrounding discourse, rock and roll is overdue for an injection of precisely that type of irreverence. Plus, I’m really tired of every out-of-state musician telling us how much they allegedly love Boston, so I appreciated Palermo’s candor almost as much as the utterly audible Philly four-piece’s penultimate deployment of “Get Well,” one of the best songs Billy Corgan ever forgot to write.
Before Nothing, California’s Souvenirs perfectly serviceable, effects-heavy indie rock deserved more attention from too many people standing nearby me conversing as if gathered around a 2 a.m. eight ball.