Last night, a smattering of current pop punks, former scene kids, full-sleeve tattoo enthusiasts, guyliner pros and skinny jean aficionados converged at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena (yes, the Church Of LeBron James). It wasn't for basketball, though -- they all assembled in one place to celebrate Alternative Press magazine, a staple of the alt-rock and punkish musical scenes since 1985, at its second annual Alternative Press Music Awards (or APMAs for short).
I was there to see New Found Glory and Panic! At The Disco, mostly. Oh, and Weezer. But we'll get to all that in a minute.
The first thing you need to know about the AMPAs is how its red carpet is the one place you're likely to find dudes rocking more makeup than women, but that's probably because there is a wayyy greater proportion of dudes in the alt-rock game than ladies.
From the cheesy teleprompter jokes spouted off by hosts Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat of All Time Low to the brief but still dynamic live sets from a whole crew of alternative bands, the APMAs were kind of just like every other awards show, structurally at least. To me, they were a chance to live out every musical dream the 16-year-old version of myself once had. These are the best moments from that show, or the ones that made my inner emo kid leap (or two-step) for joy.
All Time Low's All-Time Alt Medley
Alex and Zack from All Time Low hosted this year's APMAs, plus the band's rabid supporters, the Hustlers, took home the coveted Most Dedicated Fans award, and Rian won Best Drummer -- so there was a lot of ATL all night. But the best moment came right up front, when the band kicked off the show with an awesome medley that traced the history of alternative music. From punky Joan Jett and Ramones riffs to the pop-punk goodness of Jimmy Eat World and to "Sugar We're Goin Down" of course, the medley was a great primer for n00bs AND a fun nostalgia trip for alt lifers like me.
Sum 41 + DMC = Sum-DMC, In All Their Rap-Rock Glory
Yes, you read that right: rap-rock. That thing we pretend didn't happen even though we all watched countless hours of TRL with Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park stuffing the countdowns week after week. And by "we all," I really mean me. I was obsessed with Linkin Park, and I liked Sum 41 a lot, too, especially "What We're All About" because it was the very epitome of rap rock. Then the APMAs roll around, and Sum 41 pops back into my life, and that's great because they play "Fat Lip" and I kinda lose it. BUT THEN the band brings out Darryl "DMC" McDaniels -- yes, that DMC, the very architect of OG rap-rock -- to swap rhymes with singer Deryck Whibley on "What We're All About," so I freak out further. In the absolute best way possible.
Halestorm And Corey Taylor Dusted Off A Grunge Classic
This one's way less emo than grunge or proto-grunge or whatever you'd call Temple Of The Dog, but to me, it was still a big deal. I grew up with Pearl Jam constantly playing in my dad's car, so to hear Corey from Slipknot sing "Hunger Strike" -- originally recorded by the super duo of Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell -- with Halestorm was like giving a one-time rock-radio staple a few more years of life left before it fades out into the ether of memory forever. Plus those high notes, man. Halestorm's Lzzy Hale absolutely nailed them.
Simple Plan Returned!...But Wanted No "Responsibility"
There was once a time where "I'd Do Anything" to see Simple Plan in concert and... OK, that's not actually true (but it's a good joke, right guys?). I liked them, they were fine, but I wasn't enamored or anything. So when the Canadian quintet rushed on stage and exploded into one of their sugar-high pop-punk classics, I remembered how much fun they really are. And THEN, when the sweetness was at its peak, singer Pierre Bouvier brought out a special guest: Mike Herrera from MxPx! The two swapped vocals on MxPx's "Responsibility," perhaps an ode to how the rest of the world views Millennials (but written way back in 2000). It was the defining power-pop moment of the 2015 APMAs, bar none.
Taking Back Sunday Once Again Screamed Into The Void
I had expected "MakeDamnSure" or "A Decade Under The Influence." I had hoped for "Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team)" or "You're So Last Summer." I got "Better Homes And Gardens," a standout track from the band's 2014 album Happiness Is, and it was a pleasant surprise. Taking Back Sunday are still around, breaking hearts and helping the angsty embrace their inner turmoil, and this song felt like an adult version of that. Singer Adam Lazzara sings about "when you took that ring off" and pulled at his own ring finger while screaming "IT WAS ALL FOR NOTHING!" I guess this is growing up.
New Found Glory Slayed AF With Hayley Williams
Paramore's Hayley Williams and NFG guitarist Chad Gilbert are without a doubt the power couple of the pop-punk realm. Even AP thinks so -- they grace the cover of the latest issue. Together on stage, they effectively tear things up on NFG's latest single, "Vicious Love," which the band just dropped a new music video for yesterday. Watching Hayley sing right at Chad, then bounce back to center stage to wail with vocalist Jordan Pundik was like watching a firecracker pop. And then NFG ripped into "My Friends Over You" and I jumped. I actually jumped, people.
Panic! At The Disco Sang Queen Because Theatricality
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Panic!'s Brendon Urie rolled up to the APMAs looking dapper AF in a red cocktail jacket. He made good on the Vegas-lounge promises implicit in such attire by later sitting down at the piano and gently leading his band into the best rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" we'll ever get without Freddie Mercury (bold statement, I know). It was a far cry from the Panic! I used to broodily blast on the bus, but it made SO. MUCH. SENSE. Urie's penchant for theatricality was what drew to me to them in the first place, and it really doesn't get much more theatrical than Queen.
WEEZER PLAYED "EL SCORCHO," GUYS
Seeing Weezer as the de facto godfathers of an awards show like the APMAs makes me extremely happy. As singer Rivers Cuomo told the pre-show AP interviewers, when they dropped the Pinkerton album in 1996, the magazine tore it to pieces. And now look at them headlining the outlet's awards show! So many bands today are inspired by Weezer in one way or another, so it was cool to FINALLY behold all their geeky, heavy, emotional goodness with my own eyes. They did it through "El Scorcho," probably my favorite Weezer song, and through "Go Away" -- which Candy Hearts' Mariel Loveland also sang on -- and through "Buddy Holly," which got everyone in the crowd to magically scream "ooweeoo" during the chorus. I tweeted during the set that I just can't, and really, I still just can't. It was Weezer, man. It was perfect.
I Took A Selfie With AP Founder Mike Shea
...and he was super duper cool, all the while being one of the biggest forces in the alternative world for three decades. Thanks for a killer show, Mike!
Check out the full list of APMA winners here. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in my room with a stack of CDs from around 2005 or so. DON'T BOTHER ME, MOM.