Honda Civic Tour
Panic at the Disco, Motion City Soundtrack, The Hush Sound, Phantom Planet
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Better than: waiting outside the venue in your min-van to pick up your 12-year-old daughter and her four best friends.
I seem to have lost track of when shows stopped being just shows, you know, with the bands simply being promoted as playing a gig. Instead, shows have turned into neatly packaged promotional events surrounded by clever sponsorships, making them more like mini-festivals. It’s not that the mini-festival concept is terrible, but it may be a lot of overkill for something that doesn’t need so much added hoopla.
Funny enough, I’m pretty sure that at least half of the Honda Civic Tour audience demographic aren’t going to be of legal driving age for at least a few more years. Regardless of not being eligible to win the Honda Civic Hybrid, customized by Panic at the Disco (PATD), the über- stylish kids at tonight’s event seemed to be all about the music, and came decked out in their neon American Apparel headbands and Urban Outfitters finest.
Around 7 p.m., The Fillmore lobby was packed with screeching fans waiting in line to get autographs and snapshots with cutie-pie alt-rockers Phantom Planet. Meeting the bands was one of the major perks for fans of this tour. Unlike a lot of meet-and-greet style setups, this one didn’t even require that you purchase anything for the band to sign. Across the way, kiosks (with no lines, because, again, not many of the attendees were old enough to enter) were stationed with computers so that you could enter to win a Honda Civic Hybrid. A few steps away from those were booths promoting the environment and explaining how this was a “Tour on a Mission.” There, you could register to win an PATD autographed guitar for just $3, which went toward saving the earth. Of course, everyone who bought a ticket had already made a contribution, since part of the proceeds are being dedicated to the Reverb/Global Inheritance fund. Yes, there was quite a lot of warm and fuzzy goodwill going around here.
Motion City Soundtrack
For me, the biggest question of the night didn’t have anything to do with sponsorship technicalities or the environment. I was mostly concerned about the fact that the best female vocalist I’ve heard since Regina Spektor, The Hush Sounds’ Greta Salpeter, was sitting stage right and her less interesting male counterpart, Bob Morris, was front and center. With such an angelic voice and powerful piano melodies, Salpeter could have run this show herself, and she practically did. The Chicago quartet delivered massive orchestral-sounding songs, most of which were from their third album, Goodbye Blues. Although rooted in the style of quirky and melodic indie rock, the music has a distinct beauty and heaviness that can be attributed to essentially everything coming from Salpeter. When they played “Hurricane,” another selection from Goodbye Blues, the audience went wild, singing along in unison: “You're the finest thing that I've done/the hurricane I'll never outrun/I could wait around for the dust to still/but I don't believe that it ever will.” It was the kind of song that justifies paying $25 for the band t-shirt.
It was apparent that a lot of the audience were most excited about seeing Motion City Soundtrack, a Minneapolis five-piece who make catchy emo-punk pop. Lead man Justin Pierre delivered his gushy poetic rock with giddy enthusiasm and the audience served as a huge backup choir for every song. The band performed fan favorites, including “Fell In Love Without You,” “This Is For Real” and “The Future Freaks Me Out.” If there had to be some emo rock tonight, it might as well have been from these guys, who do it brighter and better than most. The lyrics may be rather heart-breaking if you really listen, but the music is full, happy and hooky. It was the perfect warm-up for the headlining act to come.
In a true MTV-minded never-let-them-be-bored fashion, a video monitor played music videos in between sets. The audience could send text messages across the big screen to their friends while videos from artists like Gnarls Barkley and Silverchair entertained the scene. There was also an environmental PSA from PATD’s Brendon Urie, which was drowned out by high-pitched screams from the teen sector that were presumably more about the band than about the message.
The maturity of Panic at the Disco is probably the most-talked about aspect of the band’s latest sound—and they seem to be doing everything possible to live up to this new identity. By ditching their circus act (literally they had a circus-style tour in 2006 with side-show characters and all) and even the exclamation point previously in their name, PATD are showing promise as enduring artists. Tonight’s show gave further proof. They may have been playing up the Beatles comparisons a little too much—incorporating psychedelic sets mimicking their latest album’s art, ’60s swirly projected images, wearing button down shirts, vests and ruffle neck ties—but they managed to bring enough of their own style into this recognizable scene to make it feel like an authentic effort.
The group performed all the hits from their 2005 debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, including: “Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off,” “Camisado,” “I Constantly Thank God For Esteban” and “But It’s Better If You Do.” The new songs from their 2008 release Pretty. Odd were welcomed almost as warmly as the older stuff. Even if you hadn’t heard any of their latest music, it was intriguing in a way that most unfamiliar songs live aren’t. Some of the new ones performed were “Folkin’ Around,” “Northern Downpour” and the evening’s closer “Mad As Rabbits.” It was a nice balance of the previous dance electronic sounds and their current acoustic rock mentality. The band seemed psyched to be here and chatted with the audience, thanking South Florida for having such beautiful weather and inviting us to go swimming in the ocean after the show. “We should all find the person with the biggest house and have a party there,” said Urie. “Write down your address on a piece of paper and throw it onstage,” chimed in guitarist and lead songwriter Ryan Ross. No one did, but everyone seemed excited by the idea. In fact, I’m almost certain that at least one parent in a mini-van was asked: “Daddy, can we invite PATD to our house tonight?”
Personal Bias: Not having to watch clowns and fake ballerinas was a huge relief.
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Random Detail: PATD recorded parts of Pretty. Odd at London’s famous Abbey Road studio.
By the Way: By visiting www.spin.com/ecocontest, you can tell PATD where money from the eco-fund should go and also enter to win a 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid.