Last Night: The Academy Is... and Gym Class Heroes at the Clevelander

Categories: Concert Review
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Logan Fazio
Gym Class Heroes performing at the re-opening of the Clevelander in South Beach. Click here to view the full slide show.
The Academy Is... and Gym Class Heroes
Thursday, April 30, 2009

Clevelander, Miami Beach


Life doesn't get any better than this, really. Thursday night, ground zero for a par-tay was a brand new spankin', re-opened the Clevelander.

The Ocean Drive hot spot has had a facelift and after a two-year overhaul (more than a little Botox, this hotel had full-on plastic surgery even adding an entire new wing), it is showing off its kick ass look with a grand lineup of talent performing in its new 1020 Music Boxx club, and on a stage on its Pool + Patio Deck.

So that's where it all kicked off Thursday with some red carpet arrivals, the Jack Daniels Girls posing for pictures, a VIP party, and, most notably two, very fine, knock out bands who really took the re-opening of the Clevelander to heart, raising the volume level to an ocean roar, and giving the crowd an opening night to remember.
First up, The Academy Is... with frontman William Beckett posing on the front monitor enticing people to "get this party started." They were a perfect fit for this double bill that included Gym Class Heroes. Although their pop-punk personas differ from the Heroes' pop hip-hop, both share Pete Wentz's (Fall Out Boy) record label Decaydance, and both share the same infectious "you gotta love our music, you love our music dontcha?" attitude.

For those that didn't love their music, or didn't know them, or knew them but maybe never had the chance to experience them live, The Academy Is... gave it all they had. Many of the tunes were from their third album Fast Times at Barrington High, the school in the suburbs of Chicago where Beckett and bassist Adam T. Siska cut their teeth for the first chapter of the band's history.

Recalling the John Hughes fueled '80s, Beckett looked like he stepped out of a frame of Sixteen Candles, and when he launched into "Rumoured Nights," a catchy pop tune with a sing-along chorus, "I've gone too far to turn it back," the Clevelander crowd knew The Academy Is... had arrived.

The band showed off its live performance skills in the dark anthem "We've Got A Big Mess On Our Hands" from their sophomore release, Santi. And brought things up to a fever pitch with "About A Girl," the band's first charting single, which poses as a love song, but is anything but: "I'm not in love, this is not my heart, I'm not gonna waste these words about a girl."

As a crowd gathered on the perimeter outside of the Clevelander, some who couldn't get past the ropes to get in to the venue, chanted the lyrics to the emo bands' songs. The Academy Is... has fans aplenty and they weren't going to miss this opportunity to see their favorite band on the shores of the Atlantic.

Ditto for those who wanted a glimpse of Gym Class Heroes. Seeing them at the Clevelander and for free, well, it was quite a treat.

Too-cool-for-school frontman Travis McCoy (ex-boyfriend of Katy Perry who was in town the night before at Revolution) commanded the crowd with the opener "The Queen and I."

McCoy told everyone "We're going to get familiar right now" as the band took everyone way back to 2005 when Gym Class Heroes released The Paper Cut Chronicles. The alternative hip-hop band gave fans a treat with their truly original rendition of British band Arctic Monkeys' "Leave Before the Lights Come On."

The ska-influenced tune "Blinded By The Sun," featuring a sample from Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night," spoke of relationships on the rocks, "Three lies, four lies, you should've been a tour guide/The way you led me on knowin' I was one of four guys."

McCoy loves to chat up his crowd, and he spent a considerable amount of time talking to the audience about loving one another, not just passing someone on the street, but helping them to have a good day, and on and on.

He even dedicated an odd a capella "Cupid" to all the ladies in the house, and wanted a show of hands from the crowd for anyone who ever woke up next to someone they didn't know. A smattering of hands went up.

McCoy poured it out in "Viva la White Girl" from the band's 2006 breakthrough, As Cruel as School Children, a cautionary tale about the ills of doing drugs. "We'll get high and hide," and  "Take your razor, break down my line/ Put your nose to the speaker/ Now breathe in, breathe in/ Clean up your nose and face the crowd." In 2008, McCoy openly blogged about his own drug addiction and subsequent rehab.

As serious as the Heroes can get, it's always about a party, about pleasing the crowd and bringing them into the music. And that's just what the Clevelander needed to captivate old fans and new who wanted to celebrate the historical hotel's rebirth.

Critic's Notebook



Personal Bias: Gloria Estefan, who was on the list of red carpet dignitaries, should've showed up for the opening. She missed a good time.



Random Detail: Free music continues all weekend long at the Clevelander Pool + Patio Deck. DJ Jazzy Jeff is Friday, DJ Irie and Sky Nellor, plus DJ Z-Trip plus Star Eyez are Saturday,  and there's a wild wrap up Sunday which includes Inner Circle.

By the Way: If you've always wanted to be treated like a rock star, now's your chance. The Clevelander will give you a personal RockStar Host when you book your RockStar Suite. Yes, you can ask them to put only red M&Ms in your room.
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