The APMA’s, from the view of a former self-professed semi-Scene Queen

The past few days have been a whirlwind: I was asked to cover the Alternative Press Music Awards in Cleveland, Ohio and view an exhibit for AP’s “Never Give Up”, a 30th Anniversary event celebrating the magazine’s influence for the last 30 years at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even better, AP united with Creative Live and organized a speaking forum for songwriters, so I looked forward to that and set off for a trip to Ohio.

A majority of the bands that were going to be at the actual APMA’s are part of a much ‘younger’ scene than the one I am familiar with. I will be thirty in September and the scene I grew up with was during the emo/punk/screamo peak. Think early Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, New Found Glory, Senses Fail, Weezer. Think even earlier, to the Get Up Kids. I’ve never heard a Black Veil Brides or Motionless In White song. I thought Pvris was actually pronounced Pivris, until I was told it’s actually “Paris”.

Years and years later, the bands, the music, the fans, and the scene are clearly different. Watching teenage girls line up outside a hotel waiting for musician sightings, I thought back to my own teenage years. When I was around their age, and a fan of Hanson, these types of fans were known among other Hanson fans for being ‘stalkers’ for camping outside of their NYC hotels, but really, these disgruntled chicks were just jealous that those girls got to meet their idol and they didn’t. I felt odd, walking past these girls, in their band t-shirts, clutching things for their favorite band members to autograph with looks of fandom in their eyes as I retreated to the hotel bar. I used to be one of them, just not as aggressive.

It didn’t matter. I was in Cleveland, the location where Alternative Press and many talented musicians had roots.  I felt the energy as soon as I walked into the hotel bar, a meeting ground for the bands. As I sipped my martini, I looked out the window at the girls lined up, still reminiscing. Then I looked around the bar and set my eyes on tattooed guys with badge-d up jean pockets, indicating they were VIP, most of them from the bands playing the APMA’s or those who were nominated.

I was officially behind the scenes of an atmosphere that I had, for so many years, romanticized as the one that coincided with my younger self. I was no longer one of the ‘fans’. Now, I was a writer for an established magazine and I was among those I had once looked up to. I was canoodling among musicians at a scene reminiscent of Almost Famous, bands walking around as groupies in tight dresses and high heels mulled around them. In my head, I smiled to myself, “It’s All Happening.”

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Now at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to view the exhibit honoring Mike Shea (Editor/Creator of Alternative Press magazine) and the magazine’s 30 years being published, I got the chance to check out legendary items that were made for a museum: Mike Shea’s first Macintosh computer that he had used during his own younger years, handwritten letters from legendary acts, and other artifacts. I got a chance to interview Mike Shea, a man as inspirational as he is revered, who turned out to be very kind and endearing. I asked him what he called ‘the toughest question of the night’, which I took as a compliment. (If you’re wondering, the question was “If you had to choose one word to describe the last 30 years at AP, what word would it be?” His answer was, after taking a few moments to think about it, “David”, as in David and Goliath.)

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Afterwards, press members were able to roam around to check out the rest of the museum. I saw Janis Joplin’s infamous hippie-inspired eccentric Porsche and letters from Jim Morrison’s military-based father trying to convince the powers that be that Morrison was estranged from his family and to not hold his alleged public indecency trial against them. I saw Jimi Hendrix’s watercolor paintings and the suits that the Beatles wore in “A Hard Day’s Night”. The vibe in that museum is impossible to put into words but I would consider it “musically soul-soaring.”

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Later on, Vinyl Theatre and New Politics played a concert inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I had never heard of either bands but I found myself genuinely enjoying both. The moves on the singer of New Politics would make Mick Jagger impressed. I made a mental note to myself to buy their albums as soon as I got home.

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The next day, Wednesday, was the day of the songwriting discussion, held at the same hotel where the bands were staying at, the same hotel I had gone to the day before the exhibit. As I walked past the same teenagers lined up outside, I hurried up the stairs to the floor in which the forum was being held, expecting to see professional writers that were interested in hearing the speakers (Buddy from Senses Fail, Lzzy Hale from Halestorm, Cody from Set It Off and Dan from The Wonder Years) pass off their knowledge on songwriting. I didn’t. Nope, there were young girls lining up for this too, so I slunk my way to the back of the line. I realized I was probably the oldest one in line, and one of the oldest people in the room once we got inside, other than the musicians speaking. I pulled out my notebook to take down notes that I hoped would inspire me.

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That discussion was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for more than to sit in the same room with the same guy who wrote the lyrics to the wildly popular Senses Fail album ,“Let It Enfold You”. Buddy (lead singer of SF) made me laugh, tear up, and he surprised me with his brutally honest stories of being from the ‘older scene’ while oppressing his sexuality with drinking. Back then, you would have never known that Buddy was gay, nor that he was conflicted, as a fan watching him from the pit or listening to Senses Fail albums while driving around with friends. It was enlightening to hear his advice to us (few) writers in the room, as well as Cody’s earnest honesty in his regards to loving boy bands and being inspired by them, musically and professionally. I took pages full of notes and took in every word. I appreciated the opportunity to be there.

When I had originally walked into the room and was looking for a seat, I had bumped into the head of a pretty girl sitting down. “Oops, sorry,” I said sheepishly. She turned around with a megawatt smile and joked, “It’s okay. My head gets in the way sometimes.” “Yeah, my head has a way of doing that too,” I laughed as I sat down behind her. I looked at her outfit and admired her fashion sense; she had a dope leather jacket with studs that I was envious of, and shoes that would make even the biggest non-heel lover drool. I was surprised to watch her get up, go on stage and be introduced as Lzzy Hale, from Halestorm.

My husband loves Halestorm, but I have only heard them once or twice. I was embarrassed for a moment realizing I had bumped into her but I quickly forgot about it as soon as the discussion began. Once it was over, Lzzy and her crew got into the elevator with me and we chatted on the ride down. As we got out, I thought to myself what a kick my husband would get if I sent him a picture of me and his favorite female singer together, so I wondered if I should ask to get a picture with her. I didn’t want to seem like a ‘fangirl’ but since she had been so nice when I bumped into her and we had made small talk in the elevator, I figured I would give it a shot. “Hey, can I get a picture with-“ I began to ask as we walked side by side towards the door. All of a sudden, a thin blonde put her hand up and created a border between us, saying, “Excuse me, excuse me, we’re very busy.” Lzzy looked back at me, apologetic, as I stood there embarrassed, and said, “Sorry sweetie, it was nice meeting you.” I was stunned – this PR chick was treating me like a teenybopper, even though Lzzy and I are the same age.

I was offended, to say the least. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and blow off steam. “What the fuck?” I angrily thought to myself. What was happening in this music scene? Now bands members were too busy to take pictures? What if I had been a fan?   Did that PR person know that she could have ruined my dreams if I had been a die-hard Halestorm fan? Now, I felt protective of all of these girls waiting around outside the hotel, wondering if they would have their hearts broken by some musician that wouldn’t think twice about it. I thought about all those times that I had seen Adam Lazarra at concerts and even though I was unintentionally invading his personal space, he always graciously took pictures with me with a smile on his face. Come to think of it, any time I had approached band members as a teenager, they were more than happy to engage in simple conversations and take pictures. Here’s proof:

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I get it. I understand that nowadays, a lot of fans only care about taking pictures to post on their social media. It must be annoying. This is evident at many concerts I’ve been to, where I’ve witnessed lead singers plead with the crowd to put down their phones and enjoy the music, to enjoy the moment. It’s painful to watch.

I was still pissed. I continued to smoke my cigarette and look around when I noticed Mark O’Connell, one of the members of Taking Back Sunday, standing outside, shockingly unbothered. He noticed me, and dying to have my faith in music restored, I walked over to him. A year ago, I had reviewed Taking Back Sunday’s album “Happiness Is” in Metropolis Nights Magazine and I had sent it to all of the band members. Mark had responded back to me, thanking me for my review, and remarked that my review had made him happy. (This is actually my favorite moment thus far in my writing career because Taking Back Sunday is my favorite band.) He even reposted and re-tweeted it, a big deal in today’s social media-driven world.

Knowing this, I said hello and brought up the article. He remembered it and we talked for a few moments. I asked for a picture (I didn’t care if I seem like a fangirl for Taking Back Sunday, because I am – with no apologies) and he graciously posed, smiling big and throwing his arm across my shoulder. Grateful, I went on my way back inside, looking to get lunch before I had to get ready for the APMA’s red carpet.

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I sat down at a table and watched as Eddie from Taking Back Sunday was seated mere feet away from me. I had met Eddie a few times, and he had liked a few of my TBS-related posts on Instagram so I approached him and asked him if I could buy him a drink. He declined, as he had to perform at the awards later, but he looked at me as if he slightly remembered me, so we engaged in a breezy conversation. Eddie, as usual, was down to earth and we talked like we were old friends. Satisfied, I went back to my lunch and before I left, I patted him on the back and told him good luck on Taking Back Sunday’s performance and nomination.

After lunch, I rushed to the APMA’s red carpet which was interesting – and exciting. As thousands of fans were barricaded, I was directed to a spot on the carpet that had a piece of paper with my magazine’s name, giving me a front row view of the going-ons of the carpet. Hot chicks holding bands names to inform the press of who was who, musicians normally clad in shorts and snarky t-shirts were now in dapper duds, and PR teams were rushing around the carpet as I snapped pictures of those who walked. I was relieved to see some bands that I enjoyed myself, like Motion City Soundtrack, Pierce The Veil, Taking Back Sunday, Senses Fail, and Silverstein. As I watched these bands that I was fully familiar with, that were in the same age bracket as I was, I felt like we were all in this together, with hopes of protecting our sacred fountain of youth.

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Despite a few technical difficulties, the Alternative Press Music Awards featured performances by New Found Glory featuring Hayley Williams, Weezer, Taking Back Sunday, Simple Plan, Halestorm, Sum 41, Pierce The Veil, and Rob Zombie, among others, and was hosted by Jack and Alex from All Time Low. The awards segment was captivating – but I found myself more concerned with the fact that I was now, after meeting his tour manager outside, sitting next to Thomas Becker, one of the original members of the Get Up Kids.

Get Up Kids basically fueled the soundtrack to my high school years. We clicked almost immediately and as Thomas and I engaged in an honest conversation about the obvious difference between today’s scene and the scene he had flourished in, (when $5 firehouse shows and humble beginnings were all the rage) I found myself in awe of this musician. Thomas, now a human rights lawyer as well as a member of the band Beautiful Bodies, resides part time in Bolivia. Get Up Kids paved the way for the bands that play today and have undeniable roots in this music scene and because of this, I know that he had the respect of every other musician in the room.  (Check out Thomas’s new band, Beautiful Bodies, play live on Warped Tour this summer!)

I enjoyed the APMA’s, especially the live performances, complete with Weezer closing down the awards, bringing the entire show full circle for me. I went to the VIP after party with some friends at Cleveland’s House of Blues. I ran into Deryk Whibley from Sum 41 and took a shot of Fireball with Lynn from Pvris (I am officially a fan after watching them perform “My House” at the APMAs – I’m actually listening to them as I type this) who was celebrating winning an APMA for Best Breakthrough Band. Cool chick.

At one point, I looked down from the top floor to the bottom floor, and watched people dance, dazing out to the music and the good vibes myself. Everyone around me, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual preference, job description, was HAPPY. Everyone was celebrating; it felt like we were all high off of each other’s positive energy. Each face was smiling, tons of people were hugging, and even more people were laughing, clinking glasses.

I beamed.

THIS was what music was about.

THIS was everything.

THIS is why I had come.

The scene was alive and kicking – whether I was a part of it or not.

I fought several emotions while in Cleveland, doubting myself as I sat back, viewing this new scene with bands I was now unfamiliar with, a scene that I had been fully consumed with when I was younger. It hurts to admit this, but I wondered what did I have to offer to a scene that I didn’t really belong to anymore? Was I outdated? Was I truly, gulp, old?

The answer to that, in short, is no, times have just changed. Music has changed. The bands I grew up with have changed. The members are married, they have children, they are experiencing their thirties and adulthood. And that’s okay. The bands from my years are still the humble people they were back then, and even though they’ve found various degrees of success, they’re still focused on MUSIC. The upcoming bands, the bands to ‘look out for’, are ruling the airwaves now, and they have every right to. They are earning their fame, just like Taking Back Sunday, Weezer, and New Found Glory had to. If they are lucky, ten years later they will still be doing the same thing….the American Dream….playing music.

I have no choice but to sit back, and take in the ‘now’ while appreciating the ‘back then’.

Here’s to them, the younger bands and their fans who work hard at what they do and bleed the same way we did. Here’s to us, the older fans like me, who used to be band fanatics ten years ago, that grew up and look crooked at today’s music – only for the new musical acts to impress me and end up playing in the background as I write this.

Most importantly, here’s to music: regardless of genre, it is an ongoing entity that changes, develops, adjusts, thrives, grows, but always remains one thing…permanent. The music from ten years ago will always be there, just like the music that is made today will be around ten years from now. That will never change, even if everything else does. 

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