I love new venues almost as much as I love new bands. Last month, Queen City Music Hall opened in Sundance Square — as part of the Lone Star Live entertainment complex — and I’ve been looking for just the right show to check it out and explore the place. Saturday was the CD release party for the power trio Panic Volcanic, and when I saw that two of my favorite headliners ( Animal Spirit and Frisky Disco) were opening, I knew Panic had to be something special. I headed downtown.
This is an unusual venue for Funkytown, and a welcome one. You walk in off the street under a big marquee, then go downstairs (or take the elevator if you are so inclined). Downstairs there’s an honest-to-goodness stage with a first-rate sound system and a real lighting system. The place will hold 1,000 people, which makes it one of the largest music venues of its kind in town.
Panic Volcanic was already on stage when I walked in, and there was a decent-size crowd completely jammed up against the stage. PV’s lead singer, Ansley Dougherty, was standing on the ramparts of the stage, singing down at the crowd defiantly, and it was eating it up. This lady is a world beater.
Along with Ansley (an economics student at the University of North Texas), we have Chris Cole on drums and Zach Tucker on bass. On lead guitar we had nobody — Tucker plays the bass, and with the help of some effects he covers the leads, too. The result is a driving, hard-edged, purposeful rock experience with an experimental quality that puts them above and beyond the ordinary.
Although the band has no driving social or political message (other than to “spread the Panic Volcanic gospel”), its songs do draw from real life and heavy subjects. Take Little Grey Ghost, for instance.
“It’s about a bad decision with drugs,” said Ansley, “… and having a panic attack. I learned a lot from it. That song came from it. If I have to go through a [lousy] experience to get a good song out of it I really don’t mind so much.”
Near the end of the set, Hayden Miller of Frisky Disco was called on stage for backing vocals. That worked out so well that half the crowd climbed up there and finished the last song, including all of Animal Spirit and all of Frisky Disco. There were at least as many people on stage as on the dance floor.
Panic Volcanic is my kind of band, and Queen City Music Hall is the kind of venue that Fort Worth has needed since Caravan of Dreams was shuttered. It’s what we’ve been hoping the Ridglea Theater would become. Let’s hope Queen City can make a go of it.