Warped Tour follows APMAs’ lead with frenzied rock show

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Rock music may not be as prevalent on the radio or billboard charts as it once was. But if the past two days in Cleveland proved anything, it’s that alternative music is still very much present in the minds of teens and young adults.

On Monday night, Alternative Press magazine packed KeyBank State Theatre for its annual Alternative Press Music Awards. The show featured stunning performances from the likes of Pierce The Veil, Waterparks, All Time Low and New Years Day.

Those names may not ring a bell for older audiences. But for the same kids who attended the Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center on Tuesday, they might as well be rock gods.

For three of the past four years, the APMAs and Warped Tour have run back-to-back days in Northeast Ohio. It’s the ultimate showcase for pop-punk, post-hardcore and metalcore bands.

This year’s Warped Tour didn’t feature the big names of years past. But it was arguably the most diverse and well curated lineup in several years.

Founder and operator Kevin Lyman cut back on the number of artists this year, focusing more on quality. The result was a combination of somewhat undiscovered gems and reliable mainstays.

“I know it’s [expletive] early, but I need you to move side to side!” Those were the words of Anthony Notarmaso, whose band After the Burial kicked things off on the festival’s “Mutant South Stage.”

After the Burial’s lively set began a trend of large crowds throughout the day, even for some of the lesser known acts. The energy seemed to inspire melodic emocore band Counterparts, who played immediately after Notarmaso’s band on the “Mutant North” stage.

At one point during Counterparts’ set, a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 90 pounds stood up to the punk kids and bros in the circle pit, roaring along to every Counterparts song. It was an impressive feat, considering the words are mostly indecipherable.

The rest of the day featured a variety of genres and acts. Popular bands like Gwar, Falling In Reverse, Plain White T’s and Andy Black were positioned later at night to assure fans would stick around until sundown.

That freed things up for bands like Sick of It All to get some early shine. The New York hardcore band has been around since the late 1980s, but never achieved mainstream success.

No matter, Sick of It All delivered a thrilling set that transported fans back to the days of Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. That was never more apparent than when an older fan, who may or may not have been someone’s father, leaped through the crowd in order to sing into frontman Lou Koller’s mic.

Other highlights included indie-pop band Jule Vera, which provided a nice change of pace from all the heavy music, and a raucous set from Fire From The Gods, led by lead singer AJ Channer’s heartfelt words of positivity.

Of course, the bigger acts also carried their weight. Fans rushed to the stage to hear the metalcore styling of Memphis May Fire, who inspired circle pit after circle pit.

Not surprisingly, pop-punk powerhouse and alternative press favorite Neck Deep had one of the biggest audiences of the day. The UK band kept security staff busy with an endless line of crowd surfers.

Warped Tour has been around since 1995 and doesn’t show signs of going anywhere. Whether it has huge names like Fall Out Boy and Paramore, or is limited to up-and-comers, the festival runs like a well-oiled machine.

In many ways, the Alternative Press Music Awards looks to emulate Lyman’s baby for a TV format. If the APMAs can get there, it may just turn out to be a heck of an awards show.

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