Late last year, YouTube video surfaced of AFI vocalist Davey Havok jumping onstage with his pals Ceremony at the Berkeley punk venue 924 Gilman Street. The occasion? A cover of “Straight Edge Revenge,” an anthem by hardcore legends Project X. Havok manages to make an inflammatory speech before the song starts (sample: “Fuck God, fuck drugs, fuck alcohol”)–but then is absolutely mobbed by the writhing crowd the second he starts shouting the lyrics, after he commands, “If you fucking know [the song], join me!”
“Ceremony were on tour and I think their drummer couldn’t join them on the road,” Havok says, “and they had a drummer of Have Heart playing for them, who is a straight-edge kid. That made three out of the four members of the band for that evening be straight-edge kids.
“So they asked me if I wanted to sing that night, if they would play ‘Straight Edge Revenge,’ which would put four vegan straight-edge kids onstage — which is the way it would have to be if you’re going to sing that song. And it was really fun.” He laughs. “It was a pleasure to join them."
Anyone surprised that Havok could just casually hop onstage like this shouldn’t be. When he goes to 924 Gilman Street, he says he’s like any other musician: He’s there to support his friends, because his Bay Area pals are in hardcore bands. And when Havok jumped onstage at that show, he wasn’t there as an ambassador for AFI.
“There’s one thing that will unify people beyond any sort of artistic likes or dietary likes,” Havok says. “And that is being straight edge. I’m straight edge; those kids that were singing along with me were straight edge. That’s what that was about. It wasn’t about Davey Havok, it wasn’t about Ceremony: It was about four dudes playing militant straight edge, and 50 kids feeling it.”
Adds AFI guitarist Jade Puget: “[Havok] in particular, still does the same things that he always did. If he wants to go to some dirty show in some club in Oakland, [California], he’ll do that and feel comfortable about it. If you act like you always did, then people are going to respond to that and be like, ‘Okay, this guy is cool, this guy doesn’t think he’s better than me because he’s in a big band.’”
Beyond that, Havok points out that AFI’s long ties to the Bay Area hardcore scene have their own rewards: They keep the band humble and respected and contribute to how he can continue to maintain a low-profile.
“The thing about hardcore kids–most hardcore kids are very much into music,” Havok says. “And if they’re very much into music, they’re into music history. And if they’re very much into music history, whether or not they like what we do, they probably know where we’re from–and they probably know not only AFI’s musical history, but the history of music that lead to AFI. A lot of that goes into the normal lifestyle that I can live at Gilman Street.” — Annie Zaleski