POP MUSIC

Panic! at the Disco brought frenzy to the crowd at the 9:30 club.
Panic! at the Disco brought frenzy to the crowd at the 9:30 club. (Fueled By Ramen)

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Panic! at the Disco

Have you ever seen an arena show at 9:30 club? One blew into -- and blew up -- the venue Tuesday, as the teenybopper faves Panic! at the Disco commanded the stage and worked the sold-out crowd into a frenzy during its hour-long set.

For a band that was signed last year without ever having played live, the performance was remarkable.

With singer-guitarist Brendon Urie sounding like the arguably grating vocal twin of Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, it's easy to automatically dismiss Panic!'s bouncy radio singles as copycat products of the latest flavor of the month.

A closer listen, though, belies the complexity in the group's pop/punk/techno and even -- these are teenagers, right? -- vaudevillian amalgam; its honed and thrillingly momentum-building stage show is one for veteran acts to envy.

There was as much to watch as to listen to. As guitarist-lyricist Ryan Ross, drummer Spencer Smith and new bassist Jon Walker -- helped by a cellist and keyboard player -- powered their way through selections from the debut album "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out," face-painted members of the Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque filled out the stage with cabaret. Slapstick, erotic skits and a marionette dance were performed, lending a far superior take on the warped circus theme Motley Crue was going for in its latest tour.

A white piano was brought out for the show's propulsive last half, with Urie making like Jerry Lee Lewis as flashy lighting punctuated the theatrics, pyrotechnics unneeded.

-- Tricia Olszewski

We Are Scientists

We Are Scientists is a fun, likable band. The members of the buzzed-about Brooklyn trio played to an adoring crowd at a sold-out Black Cat on Tuesday night, giving a high-energy performance while savoring every minute of being onstage. There was entertaining between-song banter, mostly delivered by bassist Chris Cain, who even sported one of those hip, ironic mustaches. (It is ironic, right?) And when an enthusiastic female fan hopped onstage toward the end of the group's set and didn't leave, singer-guitarist Keith Murray didn't have her escorted off. Instead, he indulged her in a bit of "Dancing in the Dark"-esque shimmying.

But fun and likable don't always translate into good, and that's the case right now with We Are Scientists. The group has been lumped in with the likes of Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand as post-punk revivalists, and its strongest moments do come on skittery, infectious songs such as "This Scene Is Dead" and "The Great Escape," which inspired many in the crowd to get down. There's just as much pre-"TRL" emo and pop-punk in the band's catalogue, though, except those songs lack the punch or hooks to make them especially memorable. It's as if the band is hedging so many bets that most songs fall into an unexciting middle ground -- not quite tacky enough to be pop, not quite hard enough to be rock and not quite cool enough to be indie rock. It ends up sounding all too much like some forgotten '90s alt-rock band (Eve 6, perhaps?), and when Murray ended the set by crowd-surfing through the audience, the comparison seemed all the more apt.

-- David Malitz


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