Live Review – The AP Music Awards 2014: Major Awards Ceremony Puts the Spotlight Back On Cleveland

by Adam Pearson

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After several decades of being a premiere source for alternative music, Alternative Press held their first AP Music Awards last month on July 21st. Current chart toppers Fall Out Boy, A Day to Remember, Sleeping With Sirens, New Found Glory, along with rock legends such as Slash and Joan Jett, were only a few of the big names present at this highly ambitious celebration of “underground” music. That is, about as underground of music as a magazine such as AP can feature while remaining on newsstands and selling out at an arena.

In weeks before the ceremony, AP wrote fashion guides for attendees suggesting formal wear mixed with a few punky or casual accessories. Only few people at the show followed such guidelines (myself included, having had my outfit put together by one of the magazine’s unofficial fashion editors). Outside of the VIP section, the classy yet offbeat vibe that AP’s promotional material seemed to anticipate was almost non-existent, as was seemingly anyone old enough to remember seeing non-top 40 music videos on actual television. This became more apparent when typically ridiculed artists such as Machine Gun Kelly, Black Veil Brides, and Sleeping with Sirens came to the stage. In fact, the more an artist was typically scoffed at by the 20+ crowd, the louder and more fervent the screams came at the mere mention of their names. The award for most devoted fan base won by Black Veil Brides was clearly well earned.

For an event as big as it was, the show made a very admirable effort not to take itself too seriously. Opening the show was Brendon Urie performing a tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Luck Be A Lady” and “Fly Me To The Moon.” Shortly after was a metalcore rendition of “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Falling In Reverse with Coolio joining in mid-song, looking as uncomfortable as you would expect him to be. Even Coolio didn’t seem as awkward as Jonathan Davis of Korn covering Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf.” When Davis tried to switch to his signature low growl in the last verse, he became nearly inaudible. It was the kind of performance you’d expect from someone doing karaoke for the first time who thought that two shots was enough to ease the self-consciousness but really needed three.  

Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 hosted the show. In theory, he should have been perfect for the job. Despite not having been at his prime since before most of the audience had reached elementary school, he and the rest of Blink 182 were well known for their humorous live shows and wise-cracking stage banter more so than their actual performances. Unfortunately, Mr. Hoppus was held down by a less than comical script, and had to work hard to muster up the little enthusiasm he had in his delivery. Shane Told of Silverstein had a similar problem later in the show. After telling a few jokes before presenting the award for “best drummer,” he had to say “I don’t write it” a few seconds after the audience was given the chance to laugh yet didn’t.

The same could certainly not be said of 90’s rapper Ice-T and his group, Body Count. Whether he was allowed to write his own profanity laced script, or it just appeared that way by the sheer force of his charisma, his act was easily the best non-musical part the show in laying down the “ground rules for the ceremony” (it was a shame that none of the no-show artists didn’t win any awards, I was hoping to see Ice-T really throw one in the lake).

Other than Fall Out Boy, most of the contemporary artists performed earlier in the show. This surprised me, given the primary demographics attending the show and the magazine’s focus on today’s biggest bands. In fact, building up anticipation for Joan Jett’s performance and Icon Award acceptance became one of the major focal points of the show. She was presented in a heartfelt introduction by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me, before performing a duet with her. Joan Jett had no trouble holding her own when she performed with Slash. There were a few high notes she no longer tried to hit in “Bad Reputation,” but her voice otherwise had the same power it did thirty years ago.  

Also not getting tired with age were the Misfits. While playing classics such as “Die, Die, My Darling” and “Devil’s Rain,” Jerry Only perfected the wails of original lead singer, Danzig, while joined by Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides.

Billy Corgan summed up the entire show with “Young people like you should kick old ****’s like me out of the way,” showing a firm admiration for the youth and its music when accepting the AP Vanguard award. “I’m not a legend, your favorite band is legend.”

The AP Music Awards was a game changing event no matter how we might feel about most of the bands who were there. A televised awards show featuring primarily alternative and heavy music of that size was something most of us thought was a thing of the past, a remnant of the days when entire TV channels existed to play music. At least now we know that it doesn’t have to be.


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