Please excuse the fact that this story with be flooded with excess sentiment, both regarding the band and not. I'll try to be somewhat succinct and not stray too wildly.
My first time seeing the lovely source of our fandom was July 20, 2003 at Warped Tour in the parking lot of the then-Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. I consider this day to be, with no exaggeration, one of the most important and memorable days of my life so far. It was to be a whirlwind summer. I lived in South Carolina at the time, graduated high school in May, and had booked a trip to see my favorite band for the first time halfway across the country.
Why would I pick a 30-45 minute set on a traveling tour that would venture closer to my home? This would be the day that I met my ex-girlfriend in person for the first time and the actual beginning of a 6 year relationship that happens to be the only romantic relationship I've ever had. We met online through a chat room for a different fandom and became close. I eventually made a very out-of-character risk of choosing to fly to meet her. What better way to ensure at least something went right that weekend than to have it coincide with seeing AFI for the first time? We were supposed to meet the previous day but circumstances caused us to have our first meeting as a "jump in the van, we're running late for Warped" hassle as she, her father, and 2 of her friends picked me up from a hotel. Honestly this may have made it easier for two shy introverts.
The day progressed in a wonderful way, seeing various bands, meeting The Used, etc. The excitement was palpable, almost frenzied, as the time for AFI's set drew closer. Neither of us had much concert experience at the time. We weren't exactly close to the stage, but had a great viewpoint from one side. As the first notes of Miseria Cantare rang out, I felt an exuberance previously unknown to me for the second time in one day. The throng of people came to life, seemingly moving as one. By the time Davey was belting "Nothing from nowhere I'm no one at all," my feet were off the ground. I was being moved along with the crowd, not crowd surfing, but just as part of the mass, as "one of us." I think I can point to that moment as when I knew going to concerts would be a huge part of my life, as I found something that I felt was meant to be a part of me. From Miseria Cantare to the crowdwalk of God Called in Sick Today, I was mesmerized.
I've seen AFI numerous times since that day and have had several incredibly personal positive experiences involving the band that are dear to me. This magical day was the beginning of a journey that continues to the present and hopefully for many years to come.