Alternative Press publisher Mike Shea
Music Awards ceremonies can be rather formal affairs with rock stars dressed up in tuxes and designer dresses. In other words, they can be pretty fucking boring. Not the inaugural Alternative Press
Music Awards, which took place last year at Voinovich Park behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The irreverent event launched with a red carpet meet-and-greet in front of the Rock Hall that drew a throng of fans who wanted to catch a glimpse of celebrities such as Paramore singer Hayley Williams (who looked great with bright blue hair), Slash (who, of course, wore his signature hat) and the Misfits (who were decked out in make-up and cartoonish outfits) as they walked to the event.
The awards lived up to the hype as Panic! at the Disco singer Brendon Urie opened the show with a medley of Frank Sinatra tunes. He got a little help from his friends in Cleveland’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra. A real smart aleck whose musical legacy practically gives him the right to make fun of other bands, Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus served as a MC for the event.
The stats from last year are rather impressive. The event reportedly drew a crowd of 6,500 and the award show trended No. 1 worldwide for 24-plus hours through Facebook and Twitter and had an overall 2.5 billion combined impressions.
“Last year was pretty incredible for us,” says AP
publisher Mike Shea. “It was bigger than we thought it would get. A lot of it had to do with the social media aspect. It just blew up and continued on after the event. We trended worldwide on Twitter for 24 hours. We were No. 1, which is incredible.”
In order to put up more impressive numbers than last year, the magazine has upped the ante for this year's event, which will take place at Quicken Loans Arena. It's also partnered with Tumblr and Snapchat.
“We want to see how big we can make it this year,” says Shea. “Not more than a day after last year’s event, we started talking about it. We realized we should have been talking about this year before we ended last year’s event. We’re already talking to bands about next year.”
All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat will host the awards. Voting began in March for this year’s event that will again acknowledge underground bands that other institutions tend to ignore. Weezer — whose 2014 album Everything Will Be Alright In the End
is nominated for the Album of the Year — will be the headliner. Panic! At The Disco, Taking Back Sunday, Motionless In White, All Time Low, New Found Glory (featuring Hayley Williams), Echosmith, Halestorm and the Madden Brothers are all slated to perform. The Contemporary Youth Orchestra will accompany many of the bands. In addition, Deryck Whibley and Sum 41 will reunite for the event, and Simple Plan will return to the stage after a three-year hiatus. Black Veil Brides, who won the Most Dedicated Fans award last year, will also play a special set.
“With Weezer playing, that was awesome and a surprise to us,” says Shea. “That was a total get. We are so happy about that. We have Halestorm, one of the top metal bands in the country, coming. They wanted to come. We like that. We like inclusiveness. They’ll have a special guest. Rob Zombie coming to pick up the Vanguard Award is awesome. We’ve been behind him since his White Zombie days. The guy is a legend and we’re really happy about that. Newfound Glory with Hayley Williams will be a really special moment. The return of Sum 41 will be good. The band has been rehearsing for more than two months now. The return of Simple Plan will be awesome.”
He says that the emo group Taking Back Sunday has a special surprise that could be the “whoa!” moment of the night.
“It will be an interesting night,” he says. “We’ll see who wins and what kinds of speeches are given. This year will be more interesting because all the bands know what the show is like. They know it’s something you can make a moment of or you don’t. They know they can get a lot of traction online, and we’ll be streaming worldwide on YouTube. Our world-wide reach will be much larger. A third of our votes are coming from overseas. They’re coming from Brazil and Indonesia and the Philippines.”
In addition, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is set to open the exhibit Never Give Up: Alternative Press Magazine At 30
, the night before the awards. It chronicles how Shea, the editor of his high school newspaper, started the magazine in 1985 when he asked “a couple of skater kids and a few music fans to whip together a bunch of reviews of new and classic punk records along with a few sentences about whatever cool shows they had gone to recently for this new fanzine I had been piecing together out of my bedroom.” He went to Morse Graphics and bought a bunch of graph paper and sketched out the first issue. The rest is rock 'n' roll history.
would become the first U.S. magazine to have bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Korn, Radiohead, Oasis, Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Smashing Pumpkins on its cover. Special artifacts that will be on display include contact sheets from various photo shoots, cover art from hundreds of issues, letters to Alternative Press Magazine
from fans and celebrities, early art work, video interviews with musicians featured over the years, footage from prior award shows and Vans Warped Tours. The exhibit opening on July 21 will kick off with a special Sonic Session featuring Danish alt-rock group New Politics and Vinyl Theatre, one of AP’s “100 Bands You Need to Know In 2015.” The exhibit will be on display through the end of the year.
“We’re totally honored and flattered — we never ever thought we’d have an exhibit at the Rock Hall,” says Shea. “I pulled out the desk that AP was started on. It still has the Exacto cuts on it from when I used to cut out the pages. We’re still in shock.”
Shea admits the magazine has exceeded his expectations for it when he started it some 30 years ago.
“We didn’t think we would continue for a year when we started,” he says. “I think that’s worked. We didn’t know if we’d be around for a year or for five years or for ten. And that’s worked for us. We’re going to keep that in mind and not plan for too far down the road. When we don’t do that, we stay alive. Maybe it’s an expectations game, I don’t know.”
AP Music Awards Featuring Performances by Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, All Time Low, New Found Glory with Hayley Williams, Taking Back Sunday, Simple Plan, Halestorm, Black Veil Brides, Echosmith, Sum 41, Motionless in White, The Madden Brothers, 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, Quicken Loans Arena, One Center Court, 216-420-2000. Tickets: $62.99-$202.99, theqarena.com.