Originally published on April 27, 2015 at georgetownradio.com

I think we all know somewhere and on some level that Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance, and will always be eternal for us.  They’re the bands we grew up with, the bands that saw us from childhood through the searching of adolescence, and now onto whatever you want to call this awkward phase between being a teenager and a full-fledged adult.  And although the head-banging and lyric shouting have been plentiful, it’s been a long and bumpy road for punk rock fans.  If you can believe it, it’s already been a little over two years since MCR’s breakup, but the silver lining was Fall Out Boy’s unexpected return from a four year hiatus the same year.  And meanwhile, Panic! fans were still reveling in the genius of Pretty. Odd. in 2009 when half of the band – songwriter/guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker – departed to continue that vein of sound (that’s totally a pun, guys – they named their new band The Young Veins), leaving only vocalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith.

The band has continued through the release of two more studious albums – Vices & Virtues and Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! – and even promoted touring bassist Dallon Weekes to full-time band member status.  In late 2013, after the first few set dates of The Gospel Tour, it was announced that Spencer Smith would be taking time off to go to rehab, but that the tour would continue.  A year later, his activity in the group seemed to be indefinitely stagnant, and early this month it was announced that Smith would be leaving the band after a ten year stint.  Fans questioned what would become of Panic! now that Brendon Urie is the only remaining original member of the band (which is once again a twosome), and if Urie would opt to go solo, but that wait and wondering are over.

Last night, Panic! released single “Hallelujah” with the following message:

“Hello my fellow sinners,

First off, thank you. Thank you for always being there. For speaking your mind. For following what you believe. For allowing me to grow. For granting me the opportunity to live my dream. Words simply can’t express my full appreciation and gratitude for you.

As I begin what feels like a new chapter of my life, I’m filled with immense excitement and a fresh sense of hope. I’ve seen this band through every phase, every change, every hardship. And yet my appreciation and love grows with every breath.

So I lift my arms in praise of your greatness. YOU are great. YOU are beautiful. YOU are talented, and smart, and kind, and loving, and generous, and simply amazing.

And you make me want to scream “HALLELUJAH!” from the top of my lungs with every bit of fervor and strength I possess. And I invite you to join me as you have over and over again.

So Hallelujah, my fellow sinners. Hallelujah.

Love,
Brendon Urie”

The song is brassy, upbeat, and hopeful.  Urie’s voice is raw, and the message seems to be one of self-forgiveness, even an ode to the fans (“all you sinners,” anybody?).  Although no official word has been given about a fifth album, I think we can all rest assured that making music is what Panic! does best, and that they’ll be sticking around for a little while longer.

Originally published on April 14, 2015 at georgetownradio.com

The U Street Music Hall is an intimate venue to begin with, but I couldn’t help but be surprised that the crowd gathered on Saturday night was so small as to only fill half of the floor.  It’s totally fine though, because with drinks in hand and a passion for folk rock, we became a family (as Ben Hardesty, lead singer of The Last Bison, informed us).

The sun was still shining brightly outside when the opening act took the stage at 7:15.  Neulore just debuted Animal Evolve, their first album on a major label.  The earnest duo of Adam Agin and William T. Cook brought a light-hearted energy to the stage, sharing some particularly funny banter with a woman drinking close to the stage.

“Everybody raise a glass to Julie for me!”

She, in turn, offered him a sip of her drink, and Agin made a face at the taste.

“Ugh, Julie that’s strong.”

The best part of the set was invariably when the two descended from the stage to play their last song acoustically from the side of the crowd.  Ben Hardesty’s face comically appeared through the door through which Neulore had exited, watching the shenanigans with the look of a six-year-old at Disney World.

“This is a song called Apples. It’s about second chances.”

Half way through, Agin  asked us to sing a part for him, and normally I find that gimmicky, but for some reason the small crowd/family responded enthusiastically, even harmonizing.  The pair has certainly earned the favor of their fans.

The Last Bison came on stage shortly after, and if you aren’t familiar with them, their sound is basically the equivalent of one giant foot-stomping square dancing party.  The band is a six-piece ensemble of family and friends: Ben Hardesty on lead vocals and guitar, father Dan Hardesty on banjo and guitar, sister Annah Housworth on bells and backup vocals, husband Amos Housworth on cello and bass, Andrew Benfante on organ and keyboard, and Teresa Totheroh on violin.

They banged out all of their most popular songs, including Sleep, This Changes Everything, Quill, Bad Country, Every Time, Dorado, and a remixed version of their most popular song, Switzerland.  At one point, the crowd was failing to meet Ben’s expectations for liveliness, and so he jumped off the stage and ran around clapping until everyone was responding with the correct level of enthusiasm.  Fan favorite of the night was cute little Teresa, who held an authentic smile on her face for the entirety of the set, and whose clear and beautiful violin melodies elicited the most cheers upon recognition.  DC was The Last Bison’s last stop on their tour before heading back to their hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia.  The closed out the set with a cover of “Not in Nottingham” from Disney’s Robin Hood, which was a perfectly nostalgic end to the night, the show, and their tour.