By the time I arrived, Foxy Shazam’s set was nearly over. By 7:45 p.m., fans had surged the floor of the Ventura Theater, making the elevated entryway and balcony the most comfortable places to be. The early start time had caught me off guard, but then again, it was a school night.
After Foxy Shazam’s vocalist Eric Sean Nally consumed a lit cigarette, hopped on guitarist Loren Turner’s shoulders and rode him as one would a horse, and pianist Sky White scaled his keyboard and played it like a violent ape, their set ended, leaving Patrick Stump and Panic! At the Disco with a heavy burden: either outperform your opener’s opener, or be happy with the fact that most of the paying fans came to see you instead. They both chose the latter.
Patrick Stump, multi-instrumentalist and former lead singer of Fall Out Boy, introduced himself with an impersonation of David Bowie. As soon as his band began “Let’s Dance,” Stump appeared decked out in red, his bleached blonde hair giving him a striking resemblance to his obvious influence.
Most of Stump’s fans were apparent carryovers from the early 2000s, 20-somethings old enough to remember Stump before he found his style. When he took up the drums to cover Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” a sea of cell phones lit up the venue, swaying in unison. Stump’s own “This City” couldn’t match the reaction given to his covers.
Soon, Panic! At the Disco arrived, as did their screaming fans — middle-school girls pushing themselves through the crowd toward the front of the stage. In the balcony, a father sat with two young girls, a look of bewilderment in his eyes. When vocalist Brendon Urie took the stage, every girl in the venue screamed, and the poor man shuddered.
Of course, the show wasn’t for him. Urie’s unique, almost-spoken-word approach appeals to a teenage sense of intelligence in that it tells a story (for instance, the Chuck Palahniuk-inspired “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage”), but he appeared lethargic. Bassist Jon Walker explained that Urie had been sick earlier in the week and his voice was affected, which sparked Urie to rant about the Christian God. An older man (late 50s, easily) stood up to leave, exclaiming, “I have had enough of this shit,” his angry exit followed by mocking giggles.
The show wasn’t for him, either. If a graph could be drawn to show the average age of the fan versus the band on stage, it would have declined steadily over the course of the night. There’s nothing really wrong with that. All three bands gave at least some amount of energy to their performances, and given the recent issue of touring bands coming through town and disparaging our somewhat secluded community, all three appeared to be sincere, with Brendon Urie telling the crowd, “I truly love you all. Ventura is an awesome place. Thank you for having us.”