Written by Adam Waldman
Rock music, particularly hard rock and metal, is virtually ignored by music awards shows. At best, it is disrespected by most with a lack of coverage and nominees that boggle the mind. We’re used to it in the rock world. Quite frankly, we don’t even care anymore. There is only one awards show that means anything to us anyway – the Revolver Music Awards.
Sponsored by Epiphone, the 2016 RMAs ignored all other genres and gave well-deserved respect to hard rock and metal artists. For the first time in the seven-year history of the awards, the show was held in New York City.
The night began as artists, both established and new, shuffled in from the cold NYC night into the black carpet area in the narrow bar attached to Webster Hall. None of us were there to ask the artists walking the black carpet about their outfits, as is often the case on the more glamorous (but far less interesting) red carpet of other awards shows. In true metal fashion, we care much more about substance than style. In tight quarters, you might expect there to be some level of frustration, but we all worked together, and the artists couldn’t have been more gracious.
It didn’t take long to realize that this event was about much more than accolades. At its core, the 2016 Epiphone Revolver Music Awards were about members of one big rock and roll family coming together for a kickass event that celebrates a lifestyle more than individual accomplishments. That’s what makes it different from other awards shows. That’s what makes it better than other awards shows.
Other awards shows are about a polished product that strives for perfection, or at least the appearance of perfection. Like the metal culture, this awards show was real. There were mishaps ranging from glitches on the screens in Webster Hall cutting out, to the Teleprompters not working at times, to the category nominees being read out of order and the five-minute delay of Ace Frehley taking the stage to close the show because of a broken guitar string. And you know what? No one cared! When you’re at the coolest rock event of the year hanging out with your rock and roll brethren, these imperfections just blend into the background.
Rock and roll is not about putting on airs. It’s about embracing the chaos. Other awards shows have seat fillers so that the audience always looks full for the cameras. The RMAs didn’t even have seats, but if they did, you can bet your ass that they wouldn’t have been used. Most of the attendees used their hard-earned money to be a part of the event, and they were there to rock just like any other concert crowd.
The beauty of the RMAs is that everyone in attendance (including the artists themselves) are passionate fans. While walking the black carpet, when asked for his thoughts about the band being nominated for having the most dedicated fans, Anthrax bassist Frankie Bello replied…“We’re all about the fans. We’re fans ourselves, so really, we’re just fans playing for other fans.”
Out of all of the performances, Anthrax is the one that left many of us wanting more. Their blistering four-song set bookended two new songs (“Breathing Lightning” & “Monster At The End”) with two classics (“Caught In The Mosh” & “Indians”). Each song was received with tremendous enthusiasm from the crowd. Can you imagine a mosh pit or crowd surfing taking place at any other awards show?
It’s not surprising that Anthrax electrified the crowd, nor is it surprising that Megadeth did the same. Both bands are legendary, and still at the top of their game. There were also memorable, hard-rocking performances by Stitched Up Heart and Lacuna Coil.
The RMAs celebrated hard rock and metal in style, but the event was not without its more heartfelt moments. Zakk Wylde, who opened the show with a rendition of the National Anthem that would have made Jimi Hendrix proud, gave the most emotional performance of the night. As he performed “In This River” – a song that he regularly dedicates to his friend Dimebag Darrell – with just an acoustic guitar, the names of the people that we lost during the most tragic year in rock scrolled on the screen behind him.
It’s fitting that the Fallen Heroes All-Star Jam (featuring Bumblefoot) closed the show. The band paid homage to Lemmy (performing “Killed By Death” with Butcher Babies) and Scott Weiland (peforming “Plush” with Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty and Red Sun Rising’s Mike Protich on vocals).
Ace Frehley is the epitome of an NYC musician, which made him the perfect choice to deliver the final performance of the night with the Fallen Heroes All-Star Jam. Ace’s former bandmate, Gene Simmons, has been fairly vocal about the supposed death of rock music. It should be noted that while Simmons and the rest of KISS were performing on The Voice with the winner of the competition in front of a non-rock audience, Ace was playing to a passionate crowd of rock and metal fans in a NYC club during the most important awards show of the year.
Rock lives because its artists are as dedicated as the fans to something that is bigger than any individual award. Rock lives because the artists are also fans, as are the industry people who are indecipherable from anyone else in the audience. Rock lives because it brings people together at a time when the country is more divided than ever. For three glorious hours during the 2016 Epiphone Revolver Music Awards, we were all united as one. Anyone who thinks otherwise should make it a point to attend the 2017 RMAs and see for themselves. I’m already counting down the days until the next rock and roll family reunion!