The stars came out early last night in Cleveland.
A cavalcade of rock luminaries (both past and present) descended upon North Coast Harbor yesterday to celebrate Alternative Press magazine’s 30th anniversary at the first-ever AP Awards Show.
Founded by longtime editor Michael Shea, the Cleveland-based magazine has been covering up-and-coming bands, counter-culture fashions, and punk / skater lifestyle issues since the mid-1980s and has evolved from a “free, take on” newsy in concert club lobbies to a bona fide (and highly respected) trade periodical.
It just never occurred to Shea and staff to mark AP’s third decade with a high-profile awards show until publicists, record label executives, and other industry insiders began encouraging a gala event of the sort that transpired outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Or perhaps Shea did consider some sort of party, and was just too humble to blow his own trumpet until confidantes prodded him with a few “Hey, it’s alright to be proud” suggestions. The AP publisher realized in early planning stages that a soiree of this magnitude would be a boon not only to his magazine—but to the city and its died-in-the-wool music fans.
Shea needn’t have worried. An impressive sampling of today’s hottest stars journeyed to the North Coast for the awards bash, some scrubbing other plans, making detours in their travel itineraries, or cancelling an otherwise off day just to be present for what will likely be remembered as this summer’s preeminent event.
The festivities—sponsored by Gibson Brands and Monster Energy Drink—started over the weekend with a pair of shows at House of Blues Cleveland on E. 4th Street. On Monday afternoon, premium ticketholders and VIPs flocked aboard the Goodtime III for a warm-up cruise down the Cuyahoga River that boasted live bands (Ghost Town, Issues, Marmozets) and bonhomie.
Red carpet activities—hosted for live broadcast on AXS TVby dapper-dressed, clean-shaven WWE Superstar CM Punk and lovely blonde singer Juliet Simms (of Automatic Loveletter and TV’s The Voice)—commenced in the plaza outside the Rock Hall at 5:00pm and featured appearances by nearly every performer, presenter, and award nominee on the bill.
A slew of fans (predominantly young females) lined the barricades and stanchions to greet the stars, some having camped out all day for the thrill. They weren’t shy about shouting messages to their favorite singers (sometimes describing what they’d like to do with them). Some lucky onlookers were obliged with hugs, autographs, and “selfie” photos with rockers who ducked under the chains, and it was cool watching the bridge between rock star and devotee crumble away every, both metaphorically and literally.
The noise was often deafening, but the enthusiasm was infectious, and the air humid—but electric.
Cleveland still isn’t accustomed to this sort of glamour, even with Hollywood movie studios flooding the buckeye state in recent years to capitalize on Ohio’s tax incentives for their blockbuster productions. And it’s only every third year that the Rock Hall’s induction ceremonies actually occur here in town, drawing the big movers and shakers from Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville.
Among the head-bangers and hip-hoppers spotted posing for paparazzi and chatting with journalists: Rappers Ice-T and Coolio; Pierce the Veil; Motionless in White; The Summer Set; For All Those Sleeping; The Color Morale; The Word Alive; Ice Nine Kills; Falling in Reverse; Asking Alexandria; Twenty One Pilots; Sleeping With Sirens; Echosmith; and Less Than Jake.
Slash (of Guns ‘n’ Roses) showed up around 6:00pm with his band, The Conspirators (featuring Myles Kennedy of Alter-Bridge), fresh off their gig at The Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield Park Sunday Night.
Hosted by Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, the awards show and concert took place on a makeshift stage at Voinovich Park on the E.9th Street pier, overlooking Lake Erie from the shadow of the Rock Hall’s distinct glass pyramid.
We caught up with CM Punk before the sometime-wrestler started welcoming the other red carpet dignitaries. With his prodigious tattoos concealed beneath a fancy suit, the punk-loving pugilist from Chicago looked more like a Wall Street banker than a Black Flag aficionado.
“I fell in love with The Clash and The Ramones,” Punk told us. “But I listened to a lot of stuff growing up.”
“Music was different in the ‘80s, you know what I mean? There wasn’t a country top ten or a hip hop top ten. There was just a Top Ten. I listened to a bit of everything: Duran Duran, Motley Crue. And Living Colour, obviously. My little league team, The Indians, our song was “Cult of Personality.” So everything’s coming full circle for me. I might get hit by a bus soon. But this is a very cool event, and I’m glad to be here!”
“We played Cleveland like a thousand times as a ‘local’ band, so it’s cool to come back for something like this,” said Levi Benton (of Miss May I).
When asked about his musical influences, Echosmith guitarist Jamie Sierota regurgitated a surprisingly retro list of mentors for so young a group: New Order, The Smiths, and Joy Division.
Sierota’s band mates (younger brothers Noah and Graham, and singing sister Sydney— all still in their teens) share his love for their Cleveland fanbase.
“We love the city, we love playing here because they really love the music,” he said. “And there are a lot of musical roots here. So it’s always an amazing experience.”
“It’s this massive scale, yet we’re still able to say we’re home.”
Emmure’s Frankie Palmeri concurred. “It’s great to be here, just to be recognized for doing what you love."
Emmure’s latest record, Eternal Enemies, was released in April on Victory Records.
Asked about correlations between Cleveland his hometown of Lodi, New Jersey, Misfits bassist Jerry Only smiled.
“We got the Giants, so it gets pretty rowdy!” chimed the spike-shouldered bassist, who looks leaner than ever.
“With Cleveland, once you roll away from these big buildings, you’re in the same atmosphere as Jersey,” he continued. “It’s the same everywhere. Kids are kids, and parents are parents. And if you give the kids something they can sink their teeth into that isn’t abuse to their parents or their relationship with their folks, they can all enjoy it.”
The historic aspect of the awards wasn’t lost on Only, whose band is regularly cited as a major influence by everyone from Metallica to Green Day. Along with Only, the group now includes legendary punk guitarist Dez Cadena and drummer Eric “Chupacabra” Arce and is managed by singer / director / producer John Cafiero (of Osaka Popstar).
“It’s a multi-generational thing, music and The Misfits,” Only reflected, his slick “devilock” hair glistening in the sun. “We’re keeping it going, keeping it clean, lifting weights, and taking it to the streets. We want to be good role models.”
“If you think you can make the world better, that’s where you start, with the kids.”
The sun hadn’t quite set by the time the awards show-cum-concert kicked off, but the six thousand in attendance were ready to rock into the night.
Awards were presented in requisite categories for things like Best Vocalist (Brendon Urie), Best Live Band (Pierce the Veil), Best Guitarist (Phil Manansala), Best Bassist (Jaime Preciado), and Best Drummer (Mike Fuentes). But there were also accolades for Best Breakthrough Band (Crown the Empire), Philanthropic Award (All Time Low), Best International Band (Bring Me The Horizon), and Most Dedicated Fans (Black Veil Brides). Punk rock queen Joan Jett was given an Icon Award, while Billy Corgan went home with a Vanguard Award.
Other performers and presenters included Mayday Parade, letlive, Silverstein, Suicide Silence, We Came As Romans, Paramore, and Bayside.
Collaboration was the name of the game: Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco sang Frank Sinatra tunes with symphonic backup provided by Cleveland’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra and Conductor Liza Grossman. The orchestra also accompanied Fall Out Boy on their hit single, “The Phoenix” and hometown hero Machine Gun Kelly on the rapper’s own “See My Tears.” Tyler Carter (of Issues) allied with the fast-rhyming Coolio on “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Asking Alexandria conspired with Jonathan Davis of Korn on Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” The Misfits got an assist from Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides.
The lack of competition between bands was refreshing. But that sense of “democracy, not rivalry” was perhaps most apparent in the performances by All Time Low—who welcomed members of Yellowcard, New Found Glory, and Pierce the Veil onstage to help out on “A Love Like War” (which got the nod for Song of the Year)—and Joan Jett, who jammed with Laura Jane Grace (Against Me) and Slash.
Slash—himself a 2012 Rock Hall inductee (with Guns ‘n’ Roses)—accepted a Guitar Legend Award from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.