What do you do when someone has a huge party every year and doesn’t invite you or any of your friends? You throw your own. And that’s exactly what Alternative Press did in creating the first annual Alternative Press Music Awards. AP has always been on the forefront of covering underground and alternative music that often go unrecognized in the mainstream. Since many of the artists that they love would never be recognized by awards ceremonies like the Grammys, they created a show of their own to give them recognition. The event was hosted by the always funny Mark Hoppus, who explained why AP decided to have such an event: “Because no one was going to do it for them.”
The APMAS were held in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The event was outside, which was a gamble that worked out well for everyone. Nice weather and good music all around made for a great show for the 6000+ attendees. With appearances and performances from artists like Joan Jett, Slash, Billy Corgan, The Misfits, A Day to Remember, Pierce the Veil, Yellowcard, twenty|one|pilots, All Time Low, Every Time I Die, letlive., Sleeping with Sirens, and many, many more, the event was just that much better.
The focus of the show was the award portion. The award came in the form of a small statue called a “Skully.” Fans voted online in the weeks leading up to the show about who they thought should win each award. A number of talented bands and musicians won the 15 awards given out this year, and they were:
Best Vocalist – Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco
Best Live Band – Pierce The Veil
Breakthrough Band – Crown The Empire
Best Bassist – Jaime Preciado, Pierce The Veil
Best International Band – Bring Me The Horizon
Artist Philanthropic Award – All Time Low
Best Guitarist – Phil Manansala, Of Mice &Men
Vanguard Award – Billy Corgan
Best Drummer – Mike Fuentes, Pierce The Veil
Icon Award – Joan Jett
Most Dedicated Fans – Black Veil Brides
Guitar Legend Award – Slash
Song Of The Year – All Time Low w/Vic Fuentes of Pierce The Veil
Album Of The Year – Bring Me The Horizon, Sempiternal
Artist Of The Year – Fall Out Boy
While the awards were meant to be the focus of the show, there were incredible performances keeping the show going the entire night. Joan Jett performed on stage with Slash playing lead guitar. Twenty|one|pilots rocked the entire park when lead singer Tyler scaled the scaffolding and sung from above the lighting rig, while drummer Josh played on top of a board held up solely by audience members. All Time Low played multiple songs, joined by pop-punk veterans Yellowcard and New Found Glory. Sleeping with Sirens played their song “Alone,” joined by Cleveland-native Machine Gun Kelly. Body Count played a set with some angry words from Ice-T. A Day to Remember put on a performance that even Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry said he enjoyed greatly (my parents think it just sounds like noise). The Misfits got scary with their brand of horrorpunk once it was dark outside. All of their performances were brought together by the supportive playing of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra.
The existence of this event is significant for the alternative music scene. For a long time, bands in underground and alternative scenes have gone unrecognized- not only by award shows, but by other big players, like record labels. There has always been a DIY ethic for many bands in underground music scenes, and AP has shown that it can stretch farther than just releasing music on your own. Instead of hoping you get invited to an award show (which you probably never will), throw your own. The fact that this show ran the way it did, and received as much support as it did, shows that this music scene is strong and tight-knit (it now gives us another thing to rally around). And the message, as many speakers repeated all night, was that this show was for us. For the fans. For the kids who love this music.
Not only was the award show in itself a victory for the scene- there were a number of other things that were well done about it as a standalone production. The inclusion of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra was extremely well orchestrated. They weren’t just introducing presenters and speakers with intro music. They were playing along with every performance, and it was done well. It added a great live element to performances that was unexpected.
AP also made an excellent choice of a host in Mark Hoppus. He’s experienced and funny, and didn’t take himself too seriously, which worked perfectly. One of the best parts of the entire show was Mark Hoppus bringing it all together.
The outdoor venue worked really well. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are usually held inside, so it was surprising to see that this event was completely outside. But with beautiful weather and the lake right next to us, the environment and show were that much better.
The history lesson was a nice touch as well. Many new readers of AP/fans of the bands nominated for awards are younger. A good portion of them are clueless about alternative bands and musicians that originally paved the way for bands that exist today. Having older musicians like Joan Jett, Slash, Billy Corgan and The Misfits speak and perform was nice, because it really reminded everyone where many of these bands came from (and gave something for parents accompanying their kids to enjoy during the night. One dad next to me was rocking out hard to The Misfits).
While I would say the APMAS were a big success, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t problems along the way. Early on in the show there were a number of mic problems. Backing audio tracks played before they were supposed to. The first award of the show was delayed in being announced because the presenters were sent on stage without the Skully or an envelope telling them who the winner was. The video screens went black a few times during the show. And while the screens worked most of the time, the videos prepared for the show were often incorrect or poorly prepared, showing the wrong band member for an award (ex: showing the band’s singer when the award was for Best Drummer), or in some cases, even showing the wrong band on screen (ex: I believe the video screen said All Time Low and showed a Pierce the Veil video, or visa-versa). The live audience also sometimes felt forgotten, when the show went to a commercial break and the audio cut out, leaving us in silence for a minute or two at times before the orchestra members started playing music after looking at each other confused during that time. Additionally, I thought it was odd that Fall Out Boy only played one song to close out the show, after they had just won the Artist of the Year award, and when almost every other band had been allowed to play two songs (some bands played four or five songs). (Also, since Joan Jett played all of her songs with a guest joining her on stage, I thought it was a missed opportunity that she didn’t play “I Love Rock n Roll” with a number of people on stage with her, but I digress.)
Even with the mishaps included, the show was a victory for our scene. The fact that one of the biggest magazines and tour production companies from the scene threw this event (Alternative Press and the company that produces Warped Tour) may seem a big incestuous, but they know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. It was a quality production (that needs to work out a few kinks for next year) that recognizes and gives exposure to hard working bands in this alternative music scene, and it further enforces the DIY mentality. This scene has made a place for itself, and it’s here to stay.