There will be no flowers
no, not this time

AFI, Sing The Sorrow

July 5. Saturday.

Pictures and a site dedicated to the band… HERE!!

The day started off pretty much as it was determined to continue, bizarre, dangerous and actually pretty scary. The drive to London, one which I have done hundreds of times in my life started off as normal, sunny skies and the promise of stopping at the Twin McDonalds on the 401 for a break. However, not long after our stop, the skies darkened to match the nighttime and the heavens opened with a deluge unlike any I have experienced since my days as a child on the Italian coast when the storms were as legendary as the cars that bear the famous prancing horse. The rain was so heavy that seeing the car in front was impossible, the median had long disappeared and occasionally the front of the car was all but a vague impression. The highway quickly turned into a river, sometimes several inches deep and as we all crawled along with our 4-ways on it became apparent that most drivers were giving up and pulling out of the stream to cling to the banks. The horror lasted all but 10 minutes, but it was an experience neither of us will soon forget. As we exited the storm into bright sunshine (the tornados apparently far behind us) we passed many motorcyclists going in the opposite direction and I can only imagine the terror they were about to experience.

As we approached the hotel, I realized it was the very same on that I had been to on two separate occasions during my time at Western, once for a Rugby formal (after which we were, not surprisingly, banned from the hotel) and once for the Saugeen-Maitland Hall end of year formal which brought back some sketchy memories of some very inebriated people and the final sending off for some of us after 5 years of living and working together. Amazingly, although 11 years later, the place looked identical as it had. Our room was very nice, the front desk people were completely incompetent having given our room to someone else called Nicole with a 27 character Indian last name… Not quite a match if you ask me… and then forgetting to give me my credit card after the fiasco was completed. It was already quite late when we got to our room since we had opted to stop at the mall on the way to find some appropriate clothing to wear to the concert and some snackies for the evening so we opted to take a quick tour of the facilities and then to head out to the show. We found a quiet street close to the bar (the Nac as it used to be, now called The Drink) and parked the Jeep. Our first idea was to take the digital camera but we got turned away at the door so we put it back in the car and tried again. The first band were still on stage so we went out onto the patio to looks that ranged from amusement to disdain. I would hazard I was the oldest one out there, but I would also bet my last dollar that my experience with Punk would far outstrip any if not all of theirs having come from such a rich tradition of punk growing up in England in the early 80’s. Funny how they (by they I refer to those particular fans) are outwardly conscientious of being discriminated against, however are sadly inept at hiding their own self bred bias. However it is their youth that betrays them… get close and talk and they are actually as they claim to be, kind, quiet, introverted and creative kids just looking for a sense of identity but unafraid to at least try to be different.

Soon enough the patio started to empty as people moved inside to the cramped dance floor and bar where the show was to start. Nicole and I stood off stage right so we could not only see Davey at the front of the stage, but also at the back behind the speakers where he occasionally stopped to catch his breath. We also had a bird’s eye view of the crowd, the front row squashed against the restraining fence, the bouncers occasionally plucking crowd surfers and crushed fans from the fray.
The show itself was pretty amazing. The music selection was a healthy mix of the new album and some of their older stuff but what amazed me was not only Davey’s stage presence but also his energy. I have seen my fair share of concerts and am consistently disappointed in the performers who are unable to compare with their studio production while on stage. They are either overproduced in the studio, or just incapable as live performers. But not these guys. They had the energy that you glean from their music and plenty to spare. They connected with the crowd, led them through the gardens of their creation and dispatched them with abandon, it was quite a sight to see. We spoke with the merchandise guy, Fritch, and he assured us that once the show was over that we could get backstage to chat with Davey. This had followed on from several emails to the band and Davey’s family trying to get us to see him while he was in Toronto several months ago, however with my back surgery we were unable to get to the show together. This time however we were not to be denied, and it was about time that Davey met his Canadian cousin and her charming ex-punk boyfriend. Yes… you heard right, it is not just a coincidence that we were at the show and that we have been trying to get to see Davey, but rather a pursuit of Nicole’s family and a chance to meet the son that “Uncle Paul” had been so proud of and spoken so highly of when he stayed up here last summer.

So once the concert was over, we returned to the merchandise area (read bar) and waited until the shirt buying public were gone. Fritch then took us across the stage and up the back stairs into a room where Davey was helping the lighting guy adjust his eyeliner… Hmm.

“Hi Nicole, I can’t see you, but I will be with you in one second” Said Davey, his voice surprisingly smooth and melodic. His makeup assistance done, he came over to us and with a big grin gave Nicole a big hug and told her how great it was to finally meet her. I have to admit, he was everything I had imagined which was miraculous since I had imagined him intelligent, articulate, polite and darn it, attractive too! I guess because we had considered him a relation and spoken about him in the context of family that I didn’t really consider him to be a punk rock star. I think Nicole was somewhat more nervous than I since she tripped over her words on a couple of occasions but nevertheless, the meeting was less of a fan “meet and greet” and more of a discovery of family for the two of them. The time flew by and once we had flattered him with compliments on everything from his demeanor, his vocal ability and his tattoos to his handling of the onslaught of fame we let him go so he could attend to the fans who were still waiting outside the rear stage door.

I was amazed by him, which is hard for me to admit, although I had become familiar with him through his interviews and press coverage. I consider myself a good judge of character, and a better judge of the quality of someone’s soul and on both counts was as comfortable with him as I would be a close friend. We had created some collages for him, some with pictures from his childhood and he was tickled when we showed them to him and was glad to sign anything that we passed his way. All in all, it was a pretty cool experience, and I am glad to say not only that I met a bona fide rock star, but that we got to meet a pretty amazing branch of Nicole’s family tree.

Davey and Nicole

Davey and Me

Visit www.afireinside.ca and sign the guestbook if you would like to know a bit more about them and see some more pictures from that evening.