The inaugural Alternative Press Music Awards
, which took place almost three years ago to the day at Voinovich Park behind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
, set the bar high for the locally based music magazine's annual event.
Backed by Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra, Panic! at the Disco singer Brendon Urie opened that show with a medley of Frank Sinatra tunes. Rapper Ice-T, christened chief of security for the event, made an appearance with two of his bulldogs and regularly walked the festival grounds. Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus served as a MC for the event.
Topping such an event would be difficult, if not impossible.
While this year's event didn't have the same number of unforgettable moments, it did deliver a good quotient of unique performances and appearances even as a last-minute change in venues (from the Q to the State Theatre) created several production issues. You can see photos from the red carpet event here
One early highlight in the four-plus hour ceremony came when Sub City's Dan Campbell arrived on stage with Cassie Wilson, a music fan who won a contest for her concept of creating a database so that disabled fans know what to expect when they walk into a music venue.
A non-profit, Sub City has raised more than 2 million dollars and donated to over 50 non-profit organizations. Wilson, who uses a wheelchair, received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd as she spoke about her love of music and her desire to help other disabled music fans. The significance of Sub City's outreach and Dixon's work wasn't lost on the fans who showed as much enthusiasm for Campbell and Dixon as they did for any of the performers and presenters.
In another emotional moment, the hard rock act Pierce the Veil paid tribute to the late Chris Cornell. The band performed Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" while vintage footage of Cornell showed on the video monitors. Not many singers have the pipes to pull off a faithful rendition of the tune, but Pierce the Veil's Vic Fuentes perfectly captured Cornell's power.
Another highlight came when Plain White T's performed a semi-acoustic rendition of their ballad "Hey There Delilah," from a balcony opera box, serenading the audience below them. Despite the makeshift set up, their performance was one of the better sounding moments of the night.
Backed by a four-piece band and a handful of scantily clad dancers, Machine Gun Kelly performed a rousing two-song set. While the rapper had energy to spare, he succeeded when he rapped and stumbled when he tried to sing. His singing voice just didn't pack the same punch.
In accepting her Icon Award, Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace talked about her DIY approach. "If no label is going to put your record, you put out your own record," she said in a speech that also touched on the importance of "social inclusion." The band's riveting performance in the wake of her acceptance speech included high-spirited renditions of anthems "Teenage Anarchist" and "True Trans Soul Rebel."
While including local hip-hop heroes Bone Thugs N Harmony on the bill made sense from the hometown pride perspective, the band's sing-song delivery (over a backing track) sounded out of sync with the emo and screamo that dominated the night.
Slipknot's Corey Taylor talked about how nu-metal icons Korn "changed metal" as he handed the crew a Vanguard Award. Korn singer Jonathan Davis simply said he was "horrible at this shit" as he accepted the award and thanked fans. For whatever reason, the band didn't perform even though it was originally slated to.
Host Andy Biersack concluded the awards by performing a set with his wife, Juliet Simms. Ultimately, Biersack proved to be a more than capable host. Articulate and funny, he kept the proceedings lively even though an issue with his microphone often made it hard to hear him (at least from the upper balcony where we sat).
In fact, a number of technical issues plagued this year's awards. A skit with shock rockers GWAR had to take place twice because a microphone failure sabotaged the first attempt.
While the State Theatre gave the proceedings an air of legitimacy, the stage wasn't ideal for the performances. The split stage often meant that bands performed so far back from the front of the stage that you had to practically squint to see them. A drum-off featuring Sum 41's Frank Zummo, No Doubt's Adrian Young and Twenty One Pilots' Josh Dun worked well, in part, because the trio performed at the front of the stage instead of at the rear like all the other acts.