Their show features a circus tent backdrop, an 8-foot drum riser dressed as a carousel and six nonband performers who play a variety of characters — including a dominatrix and contortionist.
Is it any surprise, then, that Panic! at the Disco comes from Las Vegas?
“We tried to dismiss the fact that Vegas had any effect on us at all,” guitarist and chief songwriter Ryan Ross says with a laugh, “but we realize that maybe, in fact, it did and subconsciously that may be one of the reasons we do what we do.
“We just really are fascinated with the idea of becoming more of a theatrical band and doing things that are a little bit out of the ordinary for a rock band to do.”
Singer Brendon Urie claims that the quartet were not big connoisseurs of Vegas shows while growing up, although he notes that “a couple Cirque de Soleil shows” might have made some mark on the band members. Mostly, though, he credits the band’s showmanship to the fact that “we don’t like to be lazy.”
“I know a lot of bands out there want to rake in the money from tickets and get up in just jeans and a T-shirt and play their songs and go party after the show,” says Urie, 19. “We actually have a lot of fun just sitting with each other and discussing ideas for videos and live shows and our music.
“That’s just, like, an extra hobby for us. We really, really enjoy discussing original, unique ideas.”
All the talk has paid off. The vaudevillian modern rock of Panic!’s debut, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” has clicked to the tune of more than 1.3 million copies sold, launching the singles “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” and “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage.” The group also took home the Video of the Year trophy at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards for the “I Write Sins ...” clip.
“Honestly, I don’t think we realize exactly the extent of how big everything’s getting,” says Ross, 20. “It’s defi nitely not something we even cared about or thought of when we were starting the bands and writing our songs.
“When it started to happen, we were honestly scared of it, and we didn’t want it to happen in a way. We had to learn how to deal with this attention that we weren’t looking for and then try to turn it into something positive.”
Ross was 12 when he asked for and received his fi rst guitar as a Christmas present; the same year, his friend Spencer Smith got a drum kit, and the two began honing their adolescent chops playing blink-182 songs together. They recruited a pair of classmates, Urie and Brent Wilson, to sing and play bass, respectively, and a band was born, with regular rehearsals in the living room of Smith’s grandmother’s house. (Wilson was replaced by Jon Walker after a rancorous split earlier this year.)
Panic!, which took its name from a lyric in the Name Taken song “Panic,” quickly fl eshed out its early punk roots with other infl uences.
“Brendon’s a big fan of musicals,” Ross explains. “Just being together and sharing what each of us liked, we realized we had some things in common that we weren’t aware of when we started the band and decided, ‘Why not?,’ and tried to bring that aspect of art into our music.
“There’s a lot of things we thought were really cool to do that a lot of people never would have wanted to try ’cause it would have been too embarrassing to have an allusion to
‘The Sound of Music’ on their record or something like that. That was stuff we thought was really exciting to do.”
Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz shared their opinion after Panic! sent him some demos and signed the group to his Decaydance Records label. All concerned were aware that “A Fever ...” did not exactly sound like a standard-issue modern rock record, but they viewed that as a plus.
“It’s a very selfish record,” Urie notes. “It’s music that we enjoyed listening to, that we enjoyed writing. We wrote it for our own appeal, and a lot of people caught on, so that’s just a bonus.”
The success has allowed Panic! to make a quick leap from clubs to theaters to arenas, but the band has mitigated the loss of intimacy with “an incredible live show with stuff kids have never seen before.”
“It’s not just a rock concert,” the singer explains. “It’s a production. My favorite part of the show is when the curtains open and the crowd’s faces all light up, and they’re just amazed by the spectacle. That really makes our night. That’s the payoff.”
Panic! will be delivering that payoff until mid-December. The band doesn’t intend to waste time following “A Fever ..,” either, with plans to hit the studio in January to start work on its second album.
“We’ve been throwing around some ideas,” Ross says. “It’s still up in the air, but I feel like it’s going to be a lot smarter and a little bit more musical because we’ve been playing for an extra year and learning more about music.”
Urie concurs, predicting that fans can “expect the unexpected” and “a lot of stuff that we’ve never tried before.”
“We hope to please,” he says, “and we’re gonna spend a lot of time on it.”
Panic! at the Disco, Bloc Party and Jack's Mannequin perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (November 2st) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $30 general admission floor and $25 reserved. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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