The Academy Is..., with Panic! At the Disco, Acceptance, Hellogoodbye

Calling The Academy Is…'s brand of indie pop-punk infectious is much too tame: To do so would give the Ebola virus a bad name. When I first picked up their debut album on a whim last summer, I was 6,000 miles deep in a cross-country road trip somewhere out in California. Of the next 5,000 miles, The Academy Is… was rocking our Isuzu Rodeo for at least 3,000. The only time the disc left the stereo was when I was under imminent threat of violence by my much less pop, much more punk, fellow travelers. That didn't stop the incredibly catchy riffs from racing through my head or stop me from mouthing singer William Bennett's nimble vocals under my breath all the way back to Texas.

Now that the band's "Checkmarks" video has appeared on MTV tweenfest TRL, the rest of the country is fixing to catch the addiction. "It didn't even go through my head that it was going to be played with those bands, Mariah Carey or something ridiculous," says guitarist Mike Carden. MTV's been showing much love to the band, even inviting them on for a guest spot last month. "It was obviously one of those different experiences, because obviously as a band you never kind of reach for that stuff," Carden claims, calling before soundcheck over in the U.K. Sure…sure you had no plans to be surrounded by screaming hordes of girls.

Filling out the bill for the band's headlining show at Warehouse Live will be Panic! At the Disco, a quartet of Las Vegas teenagers who may not be old enough to double down, but have been bringing down the house with their tripped out, artsy take on the pop-punk meme. Lead singer Brendon Urie gets all up into the higher keys and can even come off sounding like Mary Poppins while singing about stained sheets, strippers and sleeping with roaches. Their debut is literally split into two halves, with the first being dominated by Fall Out Boy-esque punk -- little surprise considering FOB's guitarist Pete Wentz helped sign them to his Decaydance label. Most of that stuff is good but standard. The second half gets positively weird, and it's the most interesting thing that's happened in the world of pop-punk since My Chemical Romance. You practically expect the band to don tuxedos and top hats while Urie requests "testosterone boys and harlequin girls: will you dance to this beat and hold a lover close." It's like a Disney musical written and performed by emo kids. Even if that's not a good thing, it's damned entertaining. P!ATD has been sharing a bus with The Academy Is…, and Carden says "they've grown into little monsters," but adds that they're "very cool kids, very smart and know what they're doing." The smarts are obvious, and chances are good they'll blow up even more by the end of the tour.

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Ray Hafner