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It's never easy to win over an audience, especially when some of the attendees are actively hostile. Fortunately, the members of Panic! At the Disco have discovered a foolproof method to get on such a throng's good side: Let some goon smack your lead singer in the noggin with a flying bottle.
"We were probably a minute into the first song in our set," Panic! drummer Spencer Smith recalls about the gig in question -- an August 25 performance on the main stage at the Reading Festival, one of the United Kingdom's largest and most venerable rock-music staples. Vocalist/ guitarist Brendon Urie turned away from the multitudes for a moment, and when he looked back, Smith says, "he got hit right almost in the temple. It was a pretty good shot for how big the stage was and how far away the person who threw the bottle was, and Brendon went down." The music stopped, and Smith and his bandmates (guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker, who'd recently replaced jettisoned thumper Brent Wilson) raced to Urie, then in temporary blackout mode. Urie returned to the land of the conscious a few seconds later, though, and once he regained his feet, made a quick joke about the incident and cranked up the band again, "It was awesome to see the respect from the crowd," Smith notes. "No one threw anything after that, and we had a really good show from that point on."
This hard knock was among the few the Disco-goers have taken to date. Based in Las Vegas, they started making music together as teens, and when they sent a web link to Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz, they had only the most tentative ideas about what they wanted to do with their lives. "Ryan was in his first semester at college," Smith says, "and Brendon had plans to go to cosmetology school." Predictably, education went by the wayside when Wentz inked them to his Decaydance imprint, and shortly thereafter, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, their debut CD, became a big seller thanks to the clip for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," which won MTV's Video of the Year award.
"Our success came so quickly," Smith acknowledges. "Now we have to turn down things that nine months ago we would have loved to do. We find ourselves having to pick and choose to keep our sanity."
Things are likely to get crazier from here on out. Few critics have been kind, and the players' success has stoked a predictable backlash among trendies. Moreover, the types of teens who form Panic!'s fan base are notoriously fickle, and if they move on, cosmetology school could wind up back on the table. Yet the Reading Festival episode suggests that they're not as easily defeated as detractors might assume.
"A lot of people there wanted to see our band," Smith says. "And for the ones who might not have particularly loved us, at least we showed we're not just going to walk away when something pisses us off."