At the strange hour of 6:30 pm, I headed over to The Wiltern in Los Angeles to see Funeral Party and Fun. open up for Panic! At the Disco. It was still light outside, and this confused me. Then I got to the venue and saw hoards of black-clad teens with unnaturally died hair and mothers and fathers being dragged by their kids. I was no longer confused. So, let’s dive right in.
Funeral Party kicked off the night with a decent set. Basically, they felt like The Bravery or Franz Ferdinand musically with the singer from The Used—really alt-y structures and sounds, but with the nasal-y pop-punk vocals people either seem to love or despise. In this case, my feelings on the vocals sided with the latter. I dig whiny vocals every now and then—Taking Back Sunday and Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree both have my vote— but this combination of alt and emo (which could be a sort of cool fusion, I guess) just left me wishing that I were watching The Bravery or a Funeral Party instrumental set. The guys were energetic, though, and lead singer Chad Elliot pranced around and jumped on the bass drum and shouted out to LA and threw his tambourine into the audience per the crowd’s request. As for the music, the band was held together by their kick-ass drummer Robert Shaffer (who is only a touring drummer, unfortuantely). He was a beast up there, and I gawked at him throughout the set with a stupid grin. The guitars were mostly just backup noise. The two guys looked like people pretending to play the guitar/bass as they strummed up and down repeatedly. Basically, without the super-talented drummer, Funeral Party would have, well, sucked.
Fun. came out next to blow the roof off and reaffirm my continuing love affair with one Nate Ruess. They kicked off their set with a new song, presumably off their upcoming new album, and played favorites from Aim and Ignite such as “Walking the Dog”, “All the Pretty Girls” (On a Tuesday night, in this case), “Barlights”, “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)” and “Take Your Time (Coming Home)”.
Now, let me explain why this set was incredible. Fun. is a great example of liveliness, of individuality, and of originality on stage. Ruess is a rocket up there, exploding with giant notes and satisfying screams. He engages the crowd and is persistent about their actual engagement, almost to a point of confusion. Like a Family Guy joke that goes on for an uncomfortably long time and prompts your asking “Wait…is this supposed to be happening still?” Ruess employs countless call n’ returns throughout his songs, and tells the crowd to get louder over and over and over again, until we’re wondering if it will ever stop. This tenacity is hilarious, somewhat puzzling, and completely different.
Next, the variation in the songs is right on mark. The songs are still recognizable, but punctuated by new synth-y flairs, an unexpected electric guitar lick every now and then, by a previously undetected trumpet part from pianist Andrew Dost, by an addition of an acoustic guitar, or an out of the blue bone-chilling scream from Ruess. Fun. keeps you guessing throughout their entire set.
Finally, the music is great. It’s sort of a polka-rock sound, if that makes sense. It’s Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in an entire album, rife with seesawing dynamics—vocals, pacing, instrumental—that whisper and scream, that run and then screech to a halt, that linger and boom. But, all of this craziness is grounded by solid songwriting and a killer chorus; Ruess has been around long enough to know how to construct a great song. Let’s just say I can’t wait for their new album.
Panic! At the Disco
As for Panic!, they took the stage to before a sea of shrilly screaming adolescents and effortlessly resurrected the operatic charisma that made them a household name to begin. Brendon Urie jaunted around onstage, casually stealing 14-year-olds’-hearts while looking dapper in his vest. He constantly (and hilariously) reminded me of Blaine from Glee, and occasionally (mostly when he took to the keyboard) of fellow Las Vegan Brandon Flowers of The Killers. Admittedly, I was digging the set. It was loud and in your face and theatrical, with great lighting and an awesome backdrop. In addition to songs from their new album Vices and Virtues, they played songs from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, and I was reminded of what a great album that was. Ruess and Dost of Fun. also came out to do a duet with Panic! Called “Come On” that was a really fun number. Overall, my inner critic was battling with my inner high school freshman (who went to the same high school as Urie, as a matter of fact), and my inner freshman was winning by a long shot.
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