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Passion at the disco

On tour, Panic! channels Counting Crows, covers Radiohead


Fresh outta high school, Panic! at the Disco looks to keep - their feet on the ground.
  • Fresh outta high school, Panic! at the Disco looks to keep their feet on the ground.

Fear runs deep in the Panic! at the Disco camp.

And it should. But before we get into how the outfit is breaking ranks from their peers, here's a quick recap:

Newcomer emo band features recently graduated high-school kids from Las Vegas. They rise from obscure opener on last fall's Fall Out Boy-led Fusion Tour to theater headliners in less than a year. Their debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, goes gold behind infectious radio singles "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and "But it's Better if You Do."

Whereas some bands especially those featuring potentially starstruck teenagers like Panic! would bask in the limelight, drummer Spencer Smith says his group is hoping to reverse the trend that often finds the music industry eating its young. In fact, Panic! is striking first by distancing themselves from the emo mothership that hatched them last year.

"The fear [was], the band would have gotten stuck with that complete pop-punk thing that the kids that were going to the Fusion Tour were really used to," says Smith, calling from New Hampshire. "Obviously, every band on that tour was kind of in that category. Luckily, because we've been selling more records and because we've been getting more [radio and video] airplay, we're not choosing to take out any of the bands that we toured with before."

Specifically, Panic! has pegged indie rock act Dresden Dolls as their opener. But the differentiation doesn't stop there. While many of their peers have been lambasted for putting on vacuous live sets, this band offers fans something special. And their inspiration may surprise you.

"The Counting Crows is one of our favorite bands," Smith says. "We have their live CD, where they do like a 10-minute version of a four-minute song. And the changes are amazing, and it's awesome.

"Now it's just become this whole thing, where getting ready for a tour is just not packing up our suitcases. We're sitting down, practicing and reworking everything. The cool thing about it is, people are always going to hear something different."

Smith says a good example of what Panic! is capable of can be found in the first four songs they're playing each night, with interludes and without pause. This includes "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage," "Time to Dance" and "London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines," which goes directly into a cover of "Karma Police" by Radiohead.

The band hopes to further distance themselves with a sophomore album to be recorded this winter and released next spring. However, in many ways, Panic! is already experiencing their metamorphosis.

"In talking to kids after concerts, they're saying, "We're seeing something different,'" Smith says. "'Finally, it's not just the same rock concert.' Hopefully by the end of this tour, all of the people who like our group but are kind of skeptical of us as just another "whatever' trend, they'll see we're a little bit farther along than most of the other bands."

Panic! at the Disco, with Dresden Dolls and The Hush Sound

Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver

Saturday, July 22, 8 p.m.

Sold out; check for $22 tickets outside the auditorium.

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