Write a letter to a band that has gotten you through some tough ass days.
Taking from the same list as yesterday, I was kind of contemplating doing something like this anyway.
Someone in a Facebook group for one of the bands I follow was putting together some kind of digital scrapbook of fan memories and tributes to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary. I’m not sure that I can really put anything together for something like that but I am going to branch off and write a letter, here, because I need something to write about for today.
To AFI, to Davey, Jade, Hunter, and Adam,
Only five years younger than Davey, I was in high school when I first heard your music. I was 13 years old when Kurt Cobain died and while my musical revolution had definitely started with Nirvana, it really gained traction with what followed. Green Day, Rancid, Weezer, and, yes, AFI were really responsible for the music that shaped me and created the person I would become as an adult.
It was Black Sails in the Sunset, however, that really resonated with me and it was the darkness of that album that drew me in and made me a true fan. Strangely, during a considerably brighter time in my life as I struck out on my own for the first time as a newly minted adult, attending university nearly 300 miles away from the only home I’d ever known.
But that is my origin story. That is my how I became a fan story. This is meant, however, to tell you how you got me through some “tough ass days.”
When I was 23, grappling with REAL adulthood (because let’s face it, university is adulthood with training wheels), graduating college, figuring out what I was going to do with the next step of my life, I was hit by a speeding freight train in the form of a soul-crushing break up.
Oh, good, another “you helped me through my break up” story. I’ll spare you the details of that because I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. The real point is I went through something that tore my world apart and left me completely numb. Nothing made me happy and, probably more importantly, nothing made me feel anything. I had an amazing friend, sister, who lived (and still does) on the other side of the country (I am in Western Colorado, she is in Eastern Tennessee), putting, among other things, two time zones between us. But even though she was two hours ahead of me, she would stay up with me until the wee hours of the morning. What I had thought was her keeping me company while I avoided nightmares, was, I found out later, actually her fear that my broken heart would kill me in my sleep. That’s how broken I was.
An easy 95% of that time she spent sitting up with a (heart)sick friend was spent decoding a mystery. This was all during the time between the release of Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground, which included an elaborate puzzle. 337, Clandestine, the “true” STS track order, waiting to find out what other DFers had learned from the Bullet for My Valentine merch guy, all of that was central to our endless nights. Even when she wasn’t there with me – through the magic of the internet – I was digging through the puzzle, watching and rewatching the Clandestine video for the billionth time to figure out what was in the box.
I know it’s easy to say “X Band saved my life,” but I can’t say that you didn’t. That the distraction, that being able to immerse myself in the mystery didn’t save my life. I can’t say that I wasn’t broken to the point of falling asleep and not waking up from the stress my heartbreak had put on the rest of my body. I can’t say that I was. All I know is that you helped. I cannot measure how much you helped. Even now, more than ten years later, you are there for me when I need to submerge myself in something deep and emotional.
I have been to three very different AFI shows over the years, the most recent with 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park on the Carnivores tour. I will take every opportunity I can to see you in the future and I will be front and center for Blaqk Audio in Denver in May. Another musician with whom you have shared the stage, Mat Devine, said it better than I ever could: In times of crisis, when I felt unloved or alone, when others would turn to prayer, I’d put my headphones on.
Those headphones have filled my ears and my heart with AFI for 20 years and will be for years to come, for years after you have chosen to step down and move on. I think I could even safely say it’s been 20 amazing years (for me) and I’ll be behind you for 20 more and beyond.
Thank you. For everything. For every note, for every poignant, heartwrenching, exquisitely mesmerizing word. For creating a world within your music and your followers that is incomparable.