The lovely staff of AP comes from a huge variety of backgrounds, ages and tastes, but the one thing we all have in common is that we LOVE music. And God knows, we could never agree on making a universal playlist that didn’t include something that would make one of us cringe at any time.
You’ve already seen our lists of what’s curled our toes this year as far as albums and songs and what we’re stoked for the rest of the year. Here we wax poetic (and otherwise) about the best shows we saw this year. As to be expected, some of us found it too difficult to pick only one. We’re willing to bet you couldn’t pick just one, either…
THE ACADEMY IS…
“I still remember the first time I saw the Academy Is… It was actually at a show in Cleveland that was sponsored by AP in probably 2005 or so. It was actually the first time I had ever even heard of the Academy Is…, and I just remember being so intrigued by what was happening on the stage in front of me. I felt exactly the same way a decade later when I saw them on their anniversary tour for Almost Here (only this time I knew all the words).”—RABAB AL-SHARIF, DIGITAL CONTENT EDITOR
THE USED '15 TOUR (SELF TITLED SET)
Lake Buena Vista, FL
“I cried. Lyrics that used to mean one thing to me were given an entirely new meaning because of this show. It was like one giant celebration of how everyone onstage and everyone in the crowd had made it out of some really dark times in their life. Really emotional performance by Bert McCraken, celebrating life and overcoming obstacles, having fun and spreading a positive message. Extremely nostalgic, as well.
BEING AS AN OCEAN w/ CAPSIZE, LISTENER, MOVEMENTS
It was in a dirty little hole in the wall venue in downtown Orlando with a super-packed crowd. Being As An Ocean are always killer live with their high-energy, engaging, positive message. Joel Quartuccio always gets in the pit with fans or trust-falls into the crowd from the upper levels of the room. He also gave a badass speech about our scene.”—CHRISTIN APPLEGATE, MARKETING INTERN
NECK DEEP/STATE CHAMPS
New York, NY
“Having a newborn baby, it’s been hard sneaking out to shows these past few months, but the one show I am very glad I got to see was the Neck Deep and State Champs show at Webster Hall in New York City a few months back. The energy and excitement in the room was on another level and it had everyone rocking out and signing along. Plus, I got to have an in-depth discussion about WWE wrestling with the Neck Deep guys. Excited to see them again at the APMAs!” —JOSH BERNSTEIN, VP OF SALES & PARTNERSHIPS
“I caught Pinegrove at a house-turned-venue show in the sticks of Worcester, MA. There were probably 100 people there, but we had no idea it would be so small, so we got there crazy early and accidentally ended up right up front. I remember every opening act that night (Mal Devisa, Judy Chong, Emperor X) completely blew my mind, even though I'd never heard of any of them before. I was standing there with my mouth open for half the show. Not an exaggeration. And of course, Pinegrove put on a stunning show in every iteration, whether it's a full band or Evan Stephens Hall solo. I'm not surprised they've basically doubled in popularity since I saw them only a few months ago. Can't wait to brag that I saw them with less than 100 people when they're selling out even larger venues.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
Twenty One Pilots' production is such that you could not know a single song by them and still love every second of that show. However, I knew every song and had a borderline religious experience. The last time I caught TOP, they were playing to a crowd of 200 at the Underground, a small Christian venue in my hometown of Cincinnati. I only went because my friends' band was opening, but I fell in love with their passion immediately. So surreal seeing them go from playing to such a tiny crowd, to selling out Cincinnati's US Bank Arena. And take it from me—they brought every ounce of energy just as much in 2011 as they do now. No wonder they blew up so fast. They truly deserve it. This quickly became an emotional tirade, but it was a great show, okay?”—KIKA CHATTERJEE, DIGITAL ASSISTANT
Des Moines, IA
“I’ve been to so many incredible shows this year, but back in May, I finally got to see the Front Bottoms live, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. The sold out venue was completely entranced by Brian Sella’s vocals, and singing along to “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” (my favorite Front Bottoms song) at the top of my lungs was by far one of the highlights of my year. If you have the chance to see them live—do it. They’ll blow you away.”—MAGGIE DICKMAN, EDITORIAL INTERN
NEVER SHOUT NEVER
With Jule Vera and Waterparks
“I have to give this honor to the Black Cat tour. Never Shout Never headlined (and always puts on a great show), but I was happily surprised by openers Jule Vera and Waterparks. I've seen JV in the past, but they truly stepped it up with impeccable musicianship and a fun bit of water-drums as a finishing act. Waterparks had been in our office that morning (with the massacred onions to prove it), but brought a super-high-energy show and banter reminiscent of early All Time Low.”—MACKENZIE HALL, MANAGING EDITOR
TWENTY ONE PILOTS, PIERCE THE VEIL, WELCOME TO ROCKVILLE, SO WHAT?!
“Honestly, it's impossible to name just one so I'd have to say the best ones have been Twenty One Pilots Emøtional Røadshow, Pierce the Veil and Movements on the Misadventures Tour, Welcome to Rockville Festival in Jacksonville, FL and the whole day 1 lineup of So What?! Fest in Dallas, TX. Twenty One & Pierce always have really great production, and I love those festivals because your whole day is filled with music and you get to see some bigger artists you'd normally not get to see. In Rockville's case, it was Rob Zombie.”—ALEXIS HOWICK, GRAPHIC DESIGNER
HEAD WOUND CITY
“Savages’ post-punk menace conveyed a great sense of urgency and full-on power, but what is remarkably refreshing is their dispensing with creating any kind of highly contrived mystique onstage. Yeah, the all-woman quartet wear black and could very well be fashion models. But where their records tend to be exercises in mining veins of opaque darkness and fervor, their live show embraces punk-ethos community building, eradicating the artist/audience barrier. (If anyone has videos of Robert Smith, Nick Cave or Siouxsie Sioux crowd-surfing, please share.) So while Savages create a delta formation onslaught against mediocrity onstage, you could have a post-gig chat with them and talk about everything from geopolitical situations, makeup, the implications of Brexit, underground art movements or their worst hangovers. The members of opening act Head Wound City have been toiling in the underground for decades and their sense of power (the rhythm section of Justin Pearson and Gabe Serbian), sonic devastation (Cody Votolato's frustrated guitar-chord algebra and Nick Zinner's air-stabbing sharp shocks) and Jordan Blilie's throat olympics (from 0 to psychopath in 2.3 seconds) remain untouchable by parsecs. A band like this reminds you time and time again that nothing can be deemed “cutting edge” if nobody actually gets cut. The only real art is worth bleeding for. Come on, didn't you see Birdman?
When Andy Biersack hit the road to present his pop-rock passion on The Shadow Side, he went out with two musicians and a persona that was more stand-up comic than rock god on the top of Vesuvius. He delivered the album's high points with great panache, but he also took a lot of time to engage the audience with one-liners, embarrassing (sometimes bawdy) stories about his bandmates and humorous self-deprecation (“I'm not going to sing anymore. I'm just going to filibuster all of you with my bullshit”). The term “intimate show” is usually just marketing copy to sell tickets, but Black/Biersack delivered a genuine experience that lived up to—and certainly exceeded—the kind of showmanship fans have embraced since the early days of Black Veil Brides. I'm wondering what could he possibly do to top it at this years' APMAS…”—JASON PETTIGREW, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
THE ACADEMY IS…
“Okay, I know I'm taking the “best concert this year” idea liberally right now, but just calm down and listen. The best concert I've been to in the past year—July 2015 to July 2016—was the Academy Is…'s reunion tour from December. Come on, it was just too close to 2016 to not include.
After calling it quits in 2011 and breaking our little Decaydance-era hearts forever, TAI miraculously sprung back to life with what was supposed to be a one-off show at Riot Fest, celebrating 10 years of their breakout album Almost Here. Subsequently, us TAI fans outside of Chicago that couldn't get to Riot Fest (that's me) were excited and disappointed at the same time. But alas! William Beckett and Co. satisfied our thirst for hearing the perfect power pop tracks of Almost Here live and announced a ten-year anniversary reunion tour soon after their Riot Fest set.
All right, you've got the history, but why was this concert so special for me to bend the rules? Well, as a scene baby (I'll admit it for purposes of the story), I wasn't even in high school when TAI released Almost Here. In fact, I was just barely finishing middle school when they broke up. So, unfortunately, I never got to see what would become one of my favorite bands of all time live. Ever. I was destined to watch shitty crowd footage of TAI headlining the 2009 Fall Ball AP Tour from someone's ancient Razor phone on my 11 inch Macbook Air screen forever. (The Academy Is…, You Me At Six and Mayday Parade on that tour? If time machines existed, that's the first place I'd go.)
As you can probably imagine, when I grabbed that barrier spot at the Almost Here Anniversary Tour's first date in my home locale of Orlando (the city where TAI recorded the album), my heart stopped. Well, I actually started crying, but you get the picture.
Most of the fans waiting with me in the VIP line flew from out of state to get to the show, representative of the investment many people had in this band that we all thought were lost forever. In general, though, it's pretty self-explanatory what made that concert so special to me and TAI fans alike, but, in particular, it was the band's choice to include tracks from Almost Here's two proceeding albums (Santi, my favorite, and Fast Times At Barrington High) that was the real game changer. And when William, sporting his fabulous Almost Here-era mane of hair in celestial celebration of that beautiful album (the hair is gone now, by the way), tripped on the barrier and almost broke my arm. That was pretty game changing, too.
Now, seven months later, my hopeful little heart still says that TAI has a new chapter ahead of them. But, for now, I'll relish in the memories from that show, write this mini-novel that was supposed to be a small blurb (sorry, Kika), and keep the Polaroid I took with the band pinned to my wall.”—CAITLYN RALPH, NEWS WRITER
ROCK ON THE RANGE
“There have been so many great shows already this year, but the one set that sticks out to me the most is Highly Suspect at Rock on the Range. That band is flat out amazing live. Watching them in front of that many people on the main stage of an event like that really showcased what makes them so good. The mixture of noise and precision while still bringing their mature, authentic, gritty sound is something that is unmatched in rock music currently.” NICK WAGNER, MERCHANDISE ASSISTANT
“When even the backstage VIP clears out towards the front of stage, you know it's going to be a memorable set. With his infections tech-pop thumper, “Bugatti”, Montreal's Tiga coaxed these elusive figured from their cush confines to sweat with the plebeians during Memorial Day Weekend at Detroit's iconic Movement Electronic Music Festival. Even though Tiga had just released the celebrated No Fantasy Required a few weeks prior, the festival performance was less about promoting the new cuts and simply keeping bodies gyrating with his keen selection of electro-pop and lush techno jaunts. When the stresses of the day reach their plateau, there is nothing like reliving that cut and this epic set.”—DEREK STAPLES, SALES MANAGER
THIRD EYE BLIND
“I thought about it and have decided that since Alternative Press gave me the chance to move to a place where every band I've ever loved has flocked to the city, I think it's only fair to pick a favorite from each state I've spent time in.
Earlier this year, I got the chance to see Third Eye Blind for the second time in a venue that was once an old-school movie theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska. Besides scoring barricade spots, this concert was huge to me because I received an email from Mackenzie Hall requesting additional information about the internship application I sent months prior. In-between hyperventilating because AP was interested, the stage began to fill with smoke right as “Everything Is Easy” started the night off right. As a 1994 baby, I've experienced small doses of the nineties, but I can easily say that I became engrossed in Third Eye Blind's albums, even though “Semi-Charmed Life” plays constantly on my radio station back home. After hearing songs from their newest album Dopamine, I sang along to every album, dancing around this vintage venue. I would go back to that show in a heartbeat.
MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK
One of the best concerts I've been to this summer was Motion City Soundtrack at the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio. (In fact, Motion City was a band that I put on my band bucket list when I was younger.) When I was in fifth grade, I used to play Commit This To Memory constantly and even had their “Hold Me Down” music video on my iPod video. Through sweat and tears, I lost my voice singing along to their powerful set, getting the chance to finally see “Hold Me Down” live. Did I cry? Of course. Other than “Hold Me Down,” Motion City played so many great hits, bringing back memories of Myspace years and spending hours writing their lyrics on my bedroom walls in sharpie. (I'm sorry, Mom and Dad.) I was so impressed, but I wasn't surprised by how amazing they were live – they are after all, Motion City Soundtrack. (Other favorites of the night: “Attractive Today,” “The Future Freaks Me Out” and “Better Open The Door.”)”—KILEY WELLENDORF, EDITORIAL INTERN