Panic! At the Disco - McKittrick Hotel - 10/8/13
Better Than: Reading Macbeth for school and soundtracking the assignment with a Panic! album. Some of us can make that comparison more literally than others.
Panic! At the Disco has never been afraid to try new things, and over the years we've seen them take many different forms. There was Pretty. Odd., the Rubber Soul-esque '60s rock tribute which they toured as a mellow, flannel-wearing, semi-acoustic band. Just a couple years prior, they'd toured their Vaudevillian, power-emo debut A Fever You Can't Sweat Out complete with dark, circus imagery. With Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! and a record release party at the McKittrick Hotel after a performance of the hotel's immersive Macbeth play and art installation Sleep No More, Panic! has returned to their theatrics almost completely, but, like the band they've made apparent they are, have traversed upon fresh territory because nothing lasts forever.
There's something poetic about each of Panic!'s album titles at the moment they release them. Their Fever debut was a breath of fresh air amongst the homogenous sounds of labelmates from Fueled by Ramen and Decaydence. They were different, a feat within itself, and suddenly became massive. Pretty. Odd. established that Fever was not the singular sound the band would be producing forever and that they were, as artists, fairly odd. Vices & Virtues, more traditional in its alt-rock nature, followed a time of tumult for the line-up when co-founder and principal songwriter Ryan Ross left to form a new band and took bassist Jon Walker with him.
Today, Too Weird to Live is a title referencing Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a continuation of their literary theme stemming from the Chuck Palahniuk quote-filled Fever, and a tribute to the band's origin and hometown of Las Vegas. Like the title, Panic! is too weird an act to sustain one singular life, but the rareness of their sound and image, especially in the wide-spanning genre of "alternative rock," cannot merely dissipate.
So, as strange the combination of immersive Shakespearian theatre and the alt dance sound of Panic!'s new era, the experience just made sense. Sleep No More is, by itself, a pretty insane experience. Participants witness the play Macbeth unfold throughout a multi-floor set and in a nonlinear fashion. There are no words spoken and no direction other than to wear the aviary masks the entire time and try to go through the hotel alone. It's a Goosebumps-type "Choose Your Own Adventure" and just as spooky. The set, baroque and Victorian in many senses--but also kind of an homage to noir with its 20th century inventions peppered throughout in an effort--modernize in a limited way, could easily be a video backdrop for the band that performed immediately after the nearly three-hour experience. Honestly, lead singer and remaining touring member from the original line-up for the time being, Brendon Urie, could have easily popped out to perform "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" during any of the more intimate moments characters shared in the labyrinth of rooms.