Panic! At The Disco
In most cases when a kid gets a musical instrument as a gift it is only a matter of time before it's stowed in the far reaches of the closet. Still, there are times when the youngster finds a new passion. Such was the case for Ryan Ross. The 12-year old Vegas resident asked his parents for a guitar as a Christmas present. Down the street, Ross' friend Spencer Smith worked on his mom and dad for a drum kit.
The pair got their Christmas wishes fulfilled and were soon jamming and learning Blink-182 songs. It wasn't long before they recruited classmates, bassist Brent Wilson and vocalist/guitarist Brendan Urie. Raised a Mormon, Urie fell in love with his parent's Classic Rock albums, including a fair dose of Queen.
Lifting their name from a line in Name Taken's song "Panic" ("Panic! At The Disco, sat back and took it so slow") the group began practicing in Smith's grandmother's living room.
Having written three songs, Panic! At The Disco recorded two of them and sent the demos to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz who decided to sign them to his relatively new Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen label. This forced some serious decisions.
To spend the time required for a band, Wilson and Smith used distance learning to complete high school. Urie took classes during the day, practicing at night. He barely made it through his senior year. The older Ross told his parents he was going to drop out of college after his freshman year. To say that didn't go over very well would be an understatement. With education issues either resolved or decided, the group headed to College Park, Maryland, to record their debut album, "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," with producer Matt Squire. When Panic! At The Disco returned to Vegas they played their first live concert. From there, they toured with Fall Out Boy.
"A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," was hugely popular resulting in another national trek, this time as the headlining act. But amid this success, all was not well. Wilson became unhappy, often missing practices. Eventually, he left and was replaced by Jon Walker.
Success can bring out envy or just plain resentment. When a member of a group criticizes another group it's usually for one of two reasons. Either the group is really bad (as in "awful") or too popular (in the musician's opinion). The Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers was quoted has saying he thought Panic! At The Disco was "dangerous" (to Rock music, the music community and probably fans). Flowers later apologized saying he'd never even listened to Panic! At The Disco.
Some groups go through major changes between albums but Panic! At The Disco just dropped the exclamation point (!) after "Panic." "It was never part of the name to us," the band stated in an MTV interview. "When we started doing new promo stuff for this album, we just told everyone not to use it anymore." OK, fine. The name went from Panic! At The Disco to Panic At The Disco. But it was later changed back.
Actually, their sophomore effort had its share of challenges. Work began in early '07 but was eventually scrapped. Another try, with producer Rob Mathes, had better results.
A portion of "Nine In The Afternoon" was heard on NBC's Heroes with the song (and video) released as a single a couple months later (January, '08).
Advance promotion for "Pretty Odd" had fans solve puzzles on the Panic! At The Disco site (and others) to access songs and cover art prior to release. There was also a Panic! At The Disco private event at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza for fan club members. The band answered questions and fans got to hear songs from the album. After all this build-up, "Pretty Odd" was finally released in March, '08.
Next, the first Rock Band Live Tour kicked off in San Diego with Panic! At The Disco as the headliners. "We're all finally 21," said Ross prior to the trek. "Now that we can actually get into our own after-parties, things might get crazy."
Maybe those after-parties weren't all that great. Panic! At The Disco had a bit of a panic in '09 when Ross and Walker announced they were leaving to start their own group. "We creatively evolved in different directions," read a statement. "Parting ways is truly what is best for each of us." Essentially, Urie wanted the band to develop a more polished pop sound, while Ross - and, by extension, Walker - was interested in making retro-inspired Rock.
Urie and Smith continued as a duo issuing "Vices & Virtues" the following year.
For live performances, like their opening slot on the Blink-182 reunion tour, the duo was augmented by guitarist Ian Crawford and bassist Dallon Weekes.
Crawford left in '12. So it was Urie, Smith, and Weekes (now a full member) who recorded Panic! At The Disco's fourth album, "Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die."
Prior to the set's arrival, Smith posted a letter on the band's website discussing his battle with drugs, particularly prescription medications Xanax and Vicodin, and alcohol.
"My goal in releasing this is to try and relate to anyone who has experienced addiction personally or with a loved one, and to be honest with everyone else," wrote Smith.
But just weeks later, Smith announced that he would not be joining the band on tour, leaving Urie as the only remaining founding member. Smith expressed concerns about how the road would impact his sobriety.
"Spencer and I have been through a lot of hurdles together, but witnessing one of my closest friends immersed in such a battle has been the most difficult," wrote Urie on the band's website.
That wasn't the last of the internal shuffles. Weekes went from being an official member to that of a touring member once again stating that he was "not contributing creatively anymore."
With Weekes and Smith out of the creative loop, "Death Of A Bachelor," a '16 effort, was the first album written and composed by Urie and a team of writers.
2005 A Fever You Can't Sweat Out
2008 Pretty. Odd.
2011 Vices & Virtues
2013 Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die
2016 Death Of A Bachelor
Imagine Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" played by bohemians. That's the best way to listen to the frantic, over-emoting that is Panic! At The Disco. They throw in Fall Out Boy lite, '80s Synth-Rock, ala Modern English, dance beats and quirky breaks to round things out. The elongated and often humorous song titles, are straight out of the FOB handbook. "Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off" is a perfect example.