Since the dawn of man, watching celebrities exchange warm and fuzzies has been of fascination to the general public. Evidence of humans engaging in this strange worship dates back to the upper Paleolithic period, when hunter gatherers hosted ceremonies to present fancy rocks to members of their tribes for things like “Killed Big Animal With Stick” fancy rock or the coveted “Ate Most Mammoth Testicles in Under a Minute” fancy rock. Although the categories have advanced and the fancy rocks have been replaced by things like an androgynous gold nudist holding a bo staff, the principle remains the same. Why do we care the slightest about these celebrity circle jerks? Hell if I know. But with the emergence of award shows like the APMAs, a space has been created for independent artists to take part in the sticky huddle. However, I’m not here to downplay the importance of these ceremonies or make you feel bad for enjoying them. I am here to try and make sense out of whatever it is I watched last night for the sake of Stuff You Will Hate (in good jest, as always).
My only experience with the APMAs was ditching the event last summer to ride roller coasters, one of which was so gravity defying that my left nut receded up into my body where I can still feel it floating around near my lower abdomen. TMI, but anyways. Missing the event didn’t bode well with some, specifically AP’s former managing editor Scott Heisel, who sent an e-mail imploring The Story So Far to attend and enticing us with thrilling prospects like performing on an unknown national television network and standing in the same roped off corner of a parking lot as ex-Guns and Roses guitarist, Slash, or as he emphasized, “Slash-Slash.” The band respectfully declined, and in a hilariously ironic twist of fate, Scott ditched this years APMAs ceremony to ride roller coasters at the same park in the exact same fashion I did to his chagrin last year. So whether or not he thinks I’m an unappreciative asshole for skipping the event a year ago, we can both agree, roller coasters are pretty exciting.
On to this year.
Seeing a tweet regarding a red carpet interview with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo that had taken an awkward turn when the now 4-weeks-into-Tom-Hank’s-role-in-Castaway looking frontman had failed to pick up on sarcasm, I tuned in to the APMAs to watch what was inevitably going to be a mismanaged award show. It didn’t fail to impress, as moments after tuning into AXStv (which, surprisingly, isn’t a pay-to-view soft porn network) the APMAs broadcast went down due to audio technical difficulties. This gave me a moment to think about why bands, apart from the few who actually think winning an award is validating, attend the APMAs. I’m going to go ahead and assume most people attend the APMAs for publicity purposes or because the ceremony is scheduled on a day off en route to the next stop of the Vans Warped Tour, but as the show rolled on, the answer became abundantly clear; there’s an open bar, DUH! The convenience of a day at the APMAs mixed with a golden opportunity to get wasted brilliantly turns the affair into one giant televised night at the karaoke bar where, instead of John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John duets, artists that young people look up to as role models attempt to read a teleprompter while totally inebriated. Hil-arious.
Unfortunately, the novelty of watching an artist accept an award while a Youth Orchestra plays a butchered Love-Boat-sounding rendition of their most popular song on Spotify dies, and the award show becomes entirely too much to stomach when a dude that looks like the illegitimate son of Jesse James, but is actually Miley Cyrus’s older brother, takes the stage shirtless to call out the hosts for acting disrespectfully towards him, furth..
*I apologize, you wouldn’t know it reading this if I didn’t tell you, but I inadvertently puked all over my laptop while replaying the events in my mind. Sorry for the delay… where was I?
…Further proving that the “never grow up” attitude some affiliate with being in a band has been taken entirely too far.
1) Award shows are akin to those Senior Appreciation Nights high schools host where a class gets together for cups of lemonade and students accept certificates for things like, “Best at Catching a Football” or “Great Smile!;” things these people would be regardless of whether or not they are presented a sheet of paper or a fancy rock. I believe there was a video projector malfunction at my own senior class event, making it entirely reminiscent of the APMAs, although I actually won “Best Musician” at my high school, so suck my…
2) Unless you’re PVRIS and have a real opportunity to win a Grammy one day, the assumed joy of playing in a non-commercial music scene is that no one cares about awards, celebrity appeal, or competition. Although Gronk arguably should have been awarded “Best Improvised Use of a Crude Weapon” over Grunk 21,000 years ago, tools would still have advanced, and the argument in itself is distracting to the purpose of human achievement. With the exception of the rare and meaningful “Caitlyn Jenner” or “Stuart Scott” moment, these award shows are generally just a headache platform for “this art should have won that shiny thing” debacles and a set mousetrap for internet culture, e.g. the Kanye West mic snatch, or, on the APMA level, the Trace Cyrus tirade (if you can even call it that) that really paled in comparison. Oh yea, and there’s an open bar.
3) Fans get a kick out of seeing their favorite bands publicly being buds, and they get some live performances featuring the paralyzing excitement of a “surprise cameo,” that circumstantially was never likely to have happened otherwise. In addition, artists get an opportunity to mingle with role models and respected peers, or in Mariel Loveland of Candy Heart’s case, snub giving Rivers Cuomo a hug after singing a complementary duet with him (that’s two awkward strikes on the evening for you, Mr. Cuomo). Somehow we can’t have these sorts of events without awards being the primary focus of it all, and so despite the intangible successes of an event like the APMAs, we place fan bases in competition with each other in the polls to give people an opportunity to gloat about winning a made-up award.
The show is understandably fun and involving for fans, and it makes people in bands feel important, but at the end of the day, none of it really matters. If the Warped Tour ever folds, I imagine the APMAs will too (I. Do. Not. wish failure upon them, there’s just this funny principle called reality that makes success a fleeting concept in competitive spaces, especially music). A few new fans will pick up an independent artist’s record because it was the Best This or That in a given year, but the music ought to sound the same to you as you lay and listen to it in your headphones at night. *Youth Orchestra cues up inspirational music theme behind me* So don’t aspire to be a fanciful character at an awards show that may not exist by the time you’re prepared, but aspire to be great at whatever it is you want to do and develop an identity and a confidence in your craft. You open up opportunities this way and will be prepared for whatever platform is available to you when you’re at your peak. It’s an honor to have fans and to be nominated for awards, but they don’t legitimize you. Maybe I’ll forego a bonding experience at the coaster park to accept an award one day, but Crown the Empire accepted a “Best Breakthrough Band” award in my place last year, and apart from the minor discomfort of my left nut floating around in my stomach, I sleep just fine.