A Tumblr post reviewing a recent Panic! at the Disco concert, which has amassed over 15,000 notes, alleges that “It was just awful… It was like watching an elderly dog. We were like, he needs to be put down for his own good.” Panic! at the Disco— once an emo-rock four-piece that Rolling Stone referred to as “the biggest new rock band in America,” has become the pop-oriented solo endeavor of its single remaining member, Brendon Urie. While it’s true that the project’s most recent release, Viva Las Vengeance, has received widespread critical acclaim, fan favor of Urie—the singular mind behind the current iteration of the group— appears to be low. An informal and rather unscientific poll of Tumblrinas, obtained via looking at the most popular posts about Brendon Urie, paints a dismal picture. One user, in a post that has amassed over 40,000 notes, describes modern Panic! at the Disco as sounding like a “rejected Imagine Dragons guitar track with a thousand horns added on top.” Another post, which has over 15,000 notes, reads, “We should’ve killed Brendon Urie in 2013 when he called Fiona Apple a bitch.” A screenshot of a Tweet with nearly 145,000 likes reads, “Elon Musk did to Twitter what Brendon Urie did to Panic! at the Disco.” A final Tumblr post, with a paltry (by comparison) 3,000 notes, simply reads, “Brendon Urie is a domestic terrorist.”
So, how did we get here?
In the words of MTV writer James Montgomery, “The history of Panic! at the Disco is a complicated one, filled with firings and departures…”. To be more precise, vocalist Brendon Urie slowly became the sole creative contributor to Panic! at the Disco, following the vanishing of all three non-Urie original members of the band, plus the removal of two additional official members, and the disappearance of a smattering of touring musicians to boot. Obviously, these significant alterations to the lineup have led to drastic changes in the band’s sound. But beyond mere sonic shake-ups, the dicey circumstances under which each member vanished from Panic! form a clear and rather unflattering pattern.
To understand what happened to Panic! at the Disco, we must return to the very beginning of these alterations— that of Brent Wilson’s removal from the band.
These days, Wilson is a rather obscure figure in Panic! lore. He was kicked out of the band in 2006, less than two years after their conception, and the group later claimed Wilson did not write or adequately perform any material on the album. Thus, one might wonder why a story so incredibly niche is even remotely relevant, especially sixteen years later. But what happened to Wilson—or, at the very least, many similar aspects of what occurred—would repeat itself again and again, the band cannibalizing itself until only one member was left standing. The curious case of Brent Wilson, in all its obscurity, serves as the first instance of this cannibalization. Thus, by understanding Brent Wilson, we can better understand how and why things went so wrong with the band. So, let’s begin.
CASE ONE: BRENT WILSON
To be incredibly brief, Panic! at the Disco is an emo-rock-turned-pop group formed in the summer of 2004 by a group of teenagers from Las Vegas, Nevada. The three original founding members of the band consisted of guitarist and lyricist Ryan Ross, drummer Spencer Smith, and, as we mentioned, bassist Brent Wilson. Officially, Ross, Smith, and Wilson had another band prior to Panic! at the Disco, a band known as Pet Salamander, which later changed its name to The Summer League. Vocalist Brendon Urie joined later, leading to the band changing its name to Panic!. The group was very quickly signed by Pete Wentz, bassist of the rapidly ascending Fall Out Boy and Ross’ man-crush; subsequently, Panic’s single “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” would top the Heatseekers chart and reach No. 2 on the Mainstream Top 40; their debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out would ultimately go triple-platinum. (See: The True* Origins of…). The critical details we need to focus on for this story, however, are firstly that Wilson, Ross, and Smith were close friends and played music together for quite some time prior to Panic’s conception. Secondly, the breakneck pace at which Panic! went from a teenage garage band to the cover of Rolling Stone cannot be overstated. As we said in “The True* Origins…”: “To sum up Panic’s staggering overnight success in the words of this Rolling Stone story: ‘They went from a group of teenagers who’d written only three songs and never played a live show to the biggest new rock band in America.’”
The band played over ninety shows between their first-ever concert in May of 2005 and Brent Wilson’s abrupt ejection from the group. In May of 2006, amidst a smattering of US festivals, Panic! suddenly announced the departure of Wilson and the addition of new touring bassist Jon Walker, who previously served as the guitar technician and videographer for Decaydance signees The Academy Is…. According to PunkNews, Panic! posted a statement on their website explaining, “There really isn’t a good way to say this, and it was a decision that was very tough to make, but feels like it will be the right decision for everyone. We regret to inform you that Brent is no longer a part of Panic at the Disco, and although this choice does feel very healthy, he is a great friend of ours and he will definitely be missed.” Years later, an issue of Alternative Press would explain that this seemingly abrupt decision was due to their inability to contact Wilson and his failure to show up to a gig; as AP explains, Walker stepped up at the last minute. Walker initially joined the band only on a touring basis; he would become an official member later on in his stint with the group.
Fans, already frustrated by the band’s exponential success being perceived as “selling out,” reacted with vitriol and frustration. Ultimately, this sparked a petition and a community on LiveJournal entitled teambrentwilson; according to MTV, it was filled with remarks mourning the loss of Wilson, such as, “I need to burn my concert tickets.” Another comment on another page plead, “Brent if you dont come back Ill kill myself ! Ill cut my writs!”.
However, the buzz around Wilson’s questionable departure from the band extended beyond tween fangirls in a tizzy on messageboards. The MTV article covering the issue highlighted the “puzzling timing” of the decision, given the recent gold certification of the band’s debut and a major upcoming tour, as well as the fact that the statement issued by Panic! was “largely inscrutable.” This article went on to explain that Ross said, “It was a decision we all came to as a band, and reached an understanding on. It was really tough because we are all so close, but we feel like we left it in a good place…It was a group decision, on all levels, and one we all came to together.” The phrasing in the initial article implied Ross claimed Wilson was involved in the decision, but this was left open to interpretation. However, this was soon cleared up—Spin then reported the band’s spokesperson explicitly said that Wilson was included, and that things were mutual.
Later, the band elaborated on their reasoning regarding ejecting Wilson from the band, with Urie explaining to Kerrang that “He just wasn’t prepared to progress with us musically…” and “He just wasn’t interested in being a part of anything that was happening with the band. It’s a shitty situation but it’s a business matter.” This seemed to confirm that the situation was not a mutual decision between Wilson and the band, though they had previously claimed it was so.
Soon after, MTV spoke to Wilson again. He said, “The [story] they told you made me really angry, because they said the matter was discussed as a band, and it wasn’t discussed at all.” Wilson added, “It was done as a phone call and the only person who spoke was Spencer. Apparently, Brendon and Ryan were on the speakerphone too, but they didn’t say a word. They never even said they were sorry.” Wilson went on to insinuate he had been kicked out of the band so they could avoid paying him an equal share of the money Panic! was set to receive following their upcoming tour. He finished with, “I never thought my best friends would do this to me.”
Smith, however, reiterated to MTV what Urie had told Kerrang: “We made the decision based on Brent’s lack of responsibility and the fact that he wasn’t progressing musically with the band. Brent did not write any of his bass parts on the record. Brent did not record one note of bass on the record. Brendon and Ryan wrote all of the bass parts and Brendon recorded all of the bass parts. We had to simplify some of the bass parts that were recorded because Brent could not play them live. Our record would’ve sounded absolutely the same even if Brent wasn’t in the band during the writing or recording process… Stating these things would only make Brent look bad and we had no intention of doing that.” And, as for the money, Smith said that wasn’t true. He claimed the band was not making any money at all, and was simply “breaking even.”
(Smith would later reveal in an interview that he and Ross—who were approximately twenty at the time— purchased homes a year later, in the summer of 2007. Their Rolling Stone cover piece, written that same summer, repeatedly made note of their exorbitant purchases, including “a $1,500 bag from a Parisian couture designer” purchased by Urie and a C55 Mercedes that Ross didn’t even drive. The story also made note of the fact that, despite their expensive taste, the members clamored to buy more fast-food once they found out the magazine was paying.)
In a separate interview with MTV, Wilson countered Panic!’s statements, as well as announcing he was suing the band. “I don’t understand why they would say I didn’t play on the record. I was there every day at the studio, and I wrote things and I showed [Panic! frontman] Brendon [Urie] how to play certain sections. We had a contract that said that each member got paid individually, so legally I am due my 25 percent from the record.” Though MTV did not explicitly report that Panic! was cutting Wilson off from his royalties, nor was Wilson quoted as directly saying this, this does appear to be the implication. Wilson’s brother also alleged in an interview that, “They gave Brent a contract to sign stating that he would get NONE of the record royalties or any royalties for that matter. Brent basically laughed and has still yet to sign it. He has to figure a few things out. The funniest part is, he is still considered a part of the band until he signs it.”
Wilson’s brother, Blake, supposedly fed the fire on MySpace; among other accusations, he alleged that the band had used Wilson’s house to save money on a practice space and that Wilson had contributed creatively to the record, contrary to Panic’s claims. Perhaps most critically, Wilson’s brother allegedly claimed Urie had borrowed a considerable sum of money from Wilson to aid the purchase of the band’s first touring van, a statement a longtime fan claimed was apparently backed up by posts on Urie’s own LiveJournal page. (According to this fan, Urie said he did eventually pay Wilson back. I was unable to locate any of these posts; however, Urie’s journal was deleted long ago.) Additionally. Blake alleged that the band were replacing Wilson with Jon Walker out of greed, as he would be paid much less as a touring musician rather than an official member of the band.
In an interview from fall of 2006, months after Wilson’s departure from the band, a fan asked who was most likely to get drunk and pass out before a show; Ross answered Wilson, despite Wilson not being a member of the band for quite some time. When asked if this had actually occurred, Ross confirmed it had, though he ambiguously clarified it was “not drunk, but…”. This would seem to insinuate that Ross was hinting Wilson’s alleged unconsciousness was not alcohol-related, but some other substance. A longtime fan also posted on Tumblr that it was rumored among fans around 2006 that Brent was “into drugs.” Wilson never discussed this publicly during his time in the band, though he did tell Alternative Press in 2008 that he was a “very private person” and often retreated away from the band to “[keep his] sanity.”
Anyway, to end all of this, Wilson’s brother then allegedly claimed on MySpace that Brent Wilson had won the lawsuit against his former bandmates. As far as I could find, the results of the lawsuit are not currently available online, though myself and a longtime fan seem to recall that the lawsuit was settled privately. My copy of Fever does not state who wrote the lyrics and music, merely the instruments of each member; present-day, Musicxmatch seems to indicate that only Ross, Urie, and Smith were responsible for the content of Panic!’s debut. Speaking with MTV back when Wilson claimed to have filed, a spokesperson for the band denied they knew anything about a lawsuit at all.
Not much is known about Wilson’s life in the years following his ejection from Panic!, save that he told Alternative Press in 2008 that he and Smith were still friends in spite of everything that occurred.
However, in early 2021, Wilson was pulled over by the Las Vegas police after cutting across three lanes of traffic. According to a police report obtained by Loudwire, he was arrested following the discovery of about a gram of cocaine, 12 grams of meth, a loaded illegal firearm, scales, baggies, and over 62 grams of heroin. (For context, this is easily several thousand dollars’ worth of heroin; this, in combination with other items in the vehicle, appears to point to something beyond personal use.) Wilson was reportedly a four-time felon prior to this arrest, and was in violation of his probation. A search of Las Vegas public records reveals that a Brent M Wilson was previously charged with both possession of and intent to sell a Schedule I controlled substance, as well as possession of a Schedule II, III, or IV substance. There were multiple other lesser charges.
So, what does this all mean? For starters, it’s almost certain that Panic! likely had perfectly good reasons to justify Wilson’s departure—bands sometimes have to make difficult sacrifices in their personal lives for their artistic endeavors to succeed. Besides, just because someone was your friend in high school doesn’t mean they’ll be your friend forever—or that they’re a good musician, or that they wrote your album, or that they should stay in your band forever. What this does demonstrate, though, is that what happened with Brent Wilson established the beginning of a pattern.
So, let’s recap. Wilson, a very young adult, was unable to keep up with the breakneck pace of the band and the accelerated speed at which it had entered the limelight. Wilson then, possibly, turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressure of entering adulthood as a member of one of the most famous rock bands in America. Seeing as he was unable to achieve the performance desired by the rest of the band—and they no longer needed a practice space, or someone for Urie to allegedly borrow money from— Panic! decided Wilson needed to go for the sake of their commercial success, and that Smith would be the one to break the news and serve as the diplomat. Wilson was then ejected from the band under murky circumstances, with a sour taste in his mouth, and Panic! brought on Jon Walker, a lower-paid touring musician to replace the missing member. Additionally, Wilson did not seem to be on the same page as his bandmates regarding the decision to eject him from the group. Urie then subsequently claimed he had written and recorded Wilson’s portion of the album, a claim Wilson denied. Wilson sued; the precise results of the lawsuit are unknown, but signs seem to point away from Panic!’s favor. Finally, Wilson’s involvement with drugs significantly worsened to the point of ultimately sending his life off the rails.
CASES TWO AND THREE: RYAN ROSS AND JON WALKER
Like we said, Wilson was not the last person to leave Panic! at the Disco under ill-fated circumstances—nor was he the second to last, or even the third to last. This pattern—or, at the very least, parts of it— would go on to repeat itself, again and again. Though we spent the most time covering Wilson’s somewhat obscure firing, we will touch upon each of the following disappearances in order to illustrate the complete pattern.
So, what happened following Wilson’s departure?
We discussed this in much heavier detail in Chapter Fourteen of “The True* Origins of Panic! at the Disco,” but to be incredibly brief, the band followed Fever with their 2008 record Pretty. Odd. (which Ross’ girlfriend described as a “semi-flop”). According to Urie, the band began using mushrooms during this time, while Smith said he began mixing alcohol and pills to cope with the pressure of following up Fever. After Pretty. Odd., Ross developed significant drug and alcohol issues, leading to what he described as “a bit of a mental breakdown.” He and Wilson’s replacement, Jon Walker, departed the band shortly after MTV reported on a photo circulating of Ross next to what appeared to be cocaine. A potential factor contributing to Ross’ overall mental health was the death of his father in the summer of 2006; Ross has described his father as a “kind of” abusive alcoholic; he stated he had little contact with his mother.
At the time of the split, however, Ross denied any drug use; he would open up about his struggle with addiction later in life. Panic! officially cited creative differences between Urie and Ross leading up to their decision. Like with Wilson, Smith was the one to broach the subject with Ross; According to Ross, “Spencer and I had lunch and caught up for a while, and then the big question came up, like, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’…”.
Very soon after the semi-breakup, Smith and Urie released the poppy Panic! track “New Perspective,” which Walker and Ross reportedly had no involvement in.
When Ross and Walker left the band, MTV—perhaps deliberately— made comments regarding their departure even more ambiguous, confusing, and speculation-inducing in nature than their comments regarding Wilson’s ejection. As we explained in “The True* Origins…,” A MTV article … [written] immediately post-split would proclaim, ‘Ross…considers [Urie and Smith] to be his friends …The same cannot be said, however, about his former boss — Decaydance Records honcho / Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz — who seems to have clearly aligned himself with the Urie/Smith camp following the split.’ Despite the fact that Wentz supposedly did not respond to requests for comment, and Ross was quoted as saying he wasn’t sure if his new band would be on Decaydance, [the writer] would go on to assert that ‘[Ross’] relationship with Wentz might be finished.’”
Ross’ status as a signee on Wentz’s label did not seem to be the only thing he appeared to be in the dark about. In an interview with NME, Ross said, “When we split I didn’t think anyone was going to take the name… I was a bit shocked at the time…”. Urie and Smith then replaced Ross and Walker with a touring bassist named Dallon Weekes, who would only later become an official member of the band.
Time for another recap. Ross, a very young adult, was unable to keep up with the breakneck pace of the band and the accelerated speed at which it had entered the limelight. Ross then, allegedly, turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressure of entering adulthood as a member of one of the most famous rock bands in America. Ross and Walker then left the band under murky circumstances. Like with Wilson’s ejection, Smith served as the diplomat, coming to a decision with Ross over lunch. However, Ross did not seem to be on the same page as his bandmates—and Wentz— regarding the details of the split. Next, Panic! brought on a lesser-paid touring member to replace the missing members. Finally, Ross’ drug addiction then worsened, and he ultimately faded from the limelight altogether, suffering a mental breakdown.
Following his involvement with Panic! and The Young Veins, Walker went on to release free music via Bandcamp. One of his tracks, “The Sun and the Moon,” (which was released in 2011 immediately following the dissolution of TYV) contains the line, “I don’t need the sun and moon to tell me what to do.” This is ostensibly a reference to the Pretty. Odd. track “When The Day Met the Night,” oft interpreted by fans as a metaphor for the creative relationship between the spotlight-adoring and charismatic frontman Urie contrasted against the introverted and bookish lyricist Ross. Further lending to the interpretation of the track being a metaphor for Walker’s involvement Panic! are the lines, “I could have been a lot things / I could have seen the world with broken wings,” which could mean that the narrator felt trapped and unhappy in his situation despite the grandiosity it afforded him. Overall, the track seems to tell the story of a narrator who left a huge opportunity behind because he was unhappy, but feels he made the right choice because he fell in love.
CASE FOUR: SPENCER SMITH
Urie and Smith went on to, according to MTV, “[do] their best” at a steampunk record, 2011’s Vices and Virtues. The band followed this record up two years later with the dance-pop Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die.
MTV—using strategically placed italics—noted the band’s assertions that they were still a group with multiple creative contributors, despite Urie seeming to be the only one in the limelight. Another article asserted, “It’s [Urie]’s image on the cover, he’s starring solo in their music videos, and he wrote the majority of the music…But make no mistake about it; despite all that, he definitely doesn’t consider Panic! to be a solo project.” Before following up with, “Panic! is very much Urie’s project these days … and he’s not exactly shying away from the spotlight, either.”
However, in the summer of 2013, Spencer Smith revealed publicly via Instagram that he had been “an addict and an alcoholic” for four and a half years, though his addiction had worsened over the last two following his father’s diagnosis with ALS. Smith initially said that he was seeking treatment and planned to continue as a member of Panic!. Speaking to MTV following his Instagram post, Smith expressed a sense of gratitude towards Urie that he was still in the band, and a sense of hope regarding the group’s upcoming tour.
However, shortly afterwards, things took a turn. In an equal parts sentimental and brusque post on the Panic! website mere days into the tour Smith had expressed such excitement for, Urie announced that Smith was leaving the band effective immediately. Urie explained, “There was never anything I could say to comfort him or empathize with his situation… I wrote as sincerely and honestly as I could for this album. I didn’t want to hold anything back. No one was telling me what I could and couldn’t say… It’s become evident Spencer still needs more time to take care of himself. I can’t expect him to be fighting addiction one minute and be fully immersed in a national tour the next.” An MTV article covering the post emphasized Panic!’s “tumultuous past” and the fact that “Urie is now the only original member remaining in the band.”
Finally, this article also made note of the somewhat eyebrow-raising timing of Smith’s removal, as they were set to perform in Jacksonville, Florida and then embark on the Save Rock and Roll tour with Fall Out Boy shortly afterwards. Panic! brought on touring musician Dan Pawlovich to replace Smith on drums. Urie would (years later) tell Coup de Main that, “I wrote [“This is Gospel,” off Too Weird] about Spencer [Smith] because he had been struggling with an addiction problem for years and years and I was already so fed up. That song came out of a really angry place. I wrote it just trying to be like, ‘Dude, you’re holding me down, you’re holding everybody down if you’re not helping yourself,’ so really it was just a cry to try to get him to get help.”
A long while following Smith’s departure, Fall Out Boy—aka Pete Wentz’s band—posted a video entitled “The Drunk History of Fall Out Boy” on their YouTube channel. This video went on to explain that on the aforementioned Save Rock and Roll Tour, Urie had drank a “blackout-inducing cocktail” of “Shots of Coldcock whiskey, shots of Jameson, shots of Glenlivet Scotch, numerous beers chugged throughout the day, numerous beers chugged before the shots, and a Vodka Redbull.” Subsequently, he recited the history of Fall Out Boy. Urie said in a Reddit AMA that he vomited for about thirty minutes following the filming, and he told Alternative Press that, “From a legal standpoint, we literally couldn’t put the amount I drank.”
In the video, Urie can be described as beyond wasted, even vomiting on himself during the interview. At risk of sounding like a teetotaling buzzkill, the CDC defines binge-drinking in men as five or more drinks on one occasion; assuming the previous introduction is truthful, a conservative estimate of Urie’s alcohol consumption during the filming of drunk history would be more than double that. This is in stark contrast to Smith’s comments to MTV about alcohol only being present in “limited quantities,” and that, “I’m lucky to be in a band that isn’t Guns N’ Roses or something; it’s a great thing to not have to feel like I’m having to alter everybody else’s life so that I can fit in. That’s something I didn’t want to do.” The events leading up to the “Drunk History” video seemed more along the lines of Smith’s initial assertion in his open letter of what life on the road was like: “Being on tour left me with a very distorted view of what drinking habits are considered ‘normal’.”
However, it would be egregious for us not to note that Smith and Urie remain friends. Smith went on to relaunch Decaydance as DCD2 with Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, who has also struggled with the abuse of pills such as Xanax and Klonopin. Panic! remain signed to DCD2. Smith’s status as an outlier in that he is the only former original member to maintain such a positive relationship with Urie is largely unsurprising; he served as the diplomat in the departures of Wilson, Ross, and Walker. Additionally, in 2008, Wilson described Smith as “awesome” and said they remained friends years after his departure, despite Wilson’s apparently embittered suit against the band. Given this context, it’s entirely foreseeable that Urie and Smith would also remain on good terms following Wilson’s exit from the group.
In any case, it’s time for yet another recap. Smith, a very young adult, was unable to keep up with the breakneck pace of the band and the accelerated speed at which it had entered the limelight. Smith then turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressure of entering adulthood as a member of one of the most famous rock bands in America. Seeing as he was presumably unable to achieve the standards desired by sole remaining original member Brendon Urie, Smith left the band, possibly for the sake of Panic!’s commercial success. The timing and messages surrounding Smith’s departure were murky, with Smith expressing excitement and gratitude towards the upcoming tour, and Urie announcing he was removed mere days later. Panic! then brought on a lesser-paid touring musician to replace the departed. Unlike Wilson and Ross, however, Smith did stay friends with Urie following his moving on from the band.
CASE FOUR AND A HALF: SHANE VALDEZ
Now, we’re through all of the original members of the band, save Urie. The pattern of addiction and ejection is no longer as clear-cut, but we still have some interesting and somewhat similar cases following Smith’s disappearance from Panic! at the Disco.
Shane Valdez was not a member of Panic! at the Disco, but he was a close friend of Urie’s and a colleague of the band, serving as their videographer during the Pretty. Odd. era. In addition to their professional entanglements, Urie and Valdez lived together, owned a dog together, and spent holidays with each others’ families. In 2014, Urie filed a lawsuit against Valdez, alleging he embezzled over $127,000 from Urie’s personal bank account. Valdez countered that the money was for a documentary, a claim that Urie subsequently denied.
Little is known of what became of Valdez following his involvement with Panic! at the Disco, and the results of the lawsuit were never revealed publicly. However, a search of Los Angeles court records revealed that the suit—which requested the money returned, with punitive damages and interest— was dismissed by a judge following approximately a year of litigation. The suit Urie filed also alleged that Valdez was “never involved in any aspect of Urie’s business activities,” however, Valdez directed numerous videos for Panic!, such as the “Mad As Rabbits” MV, their documentary short titled “Calendar Business,” a documentary titled “In The Days,” and several other videos.
While this case does not necessarily fit as clearly into the pattern as the others—nor was Valdez a member of Panic!— it still bears some curious similarities to the case of Brent Wilson, chiefly regarding the incredibly sour relationships and bitter financial disputes that ensued following the dissolution of these professional relationships. Urie’s more personal involvement is notable; though Wilson was the aggressor in the supposed lawsuit between him and Panic!, it was Urie who allegedly borrowed money from Wilson to afford Panic!’s first touring van; it was Urie who claimed sole credit for Wilson’s supposed contributions to the record; it was Urie’s creative disagreements with Ross (and, by extension, Walker) that resulted in their split from the band; finally, it was Urie who was the most outspoken about Smith’s departure from the group. And, also like the case of Brent Wilson, the supposed results of the suits, though murky, seem to point away from Panic!’s favor. Finally, like many former members of the band, Valdez claimed to have a different understanding of the state of the professional relationship between himself and Panic!, stating in a lawsuit that “We were best friends for a long time and there is nothing about his claims that are true.”
CASE FIVE: DALLON WEEKES
As we mentioned previously, Dallon Weekes was brought on to replace Jon Walker as Panic’s bassist in 2009. Like Walker, he was initially hired as a lesser-paid touring musician, and then promoted to an official member of the band. Weekes says that at the start of his stint in Panic! as a touring musician, he held a nighttime carpet cleaning job to make ends meet. Though he is no longer at the position, Weekes said the memory of the job “still [gives him] nightmares.” Rumors that Weekes was far lesser paid than other members of Panic! and needed to hold a less-than-desirable second job circulated through the Panic! fanbase, but were largely ridiculed; a Tumblr post from 2015 citing the “Best Panic! Memes” of the year includes the (apparently preposterous) idea that, “Dallon is starving and works at Mcdonald’s to survive.”
In 2017, Weekes left Panic! to pursue his own project, a two-piece known as I Don’t Know How But They Found Me. He announced his departure via his Instagram, saying, “For the last eight years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to perform in Panic! At The Disco. While I’m sad to announce that my time with Panic! has come to an end, I’m excited to continue making music with my new project…I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to be part of Panic! At The Disco for nearly a decade.” Weekes told Alternative Press in 2018 that, ““[Brendon and I] are still totally friendly.”
However, some fans have speculated that the story does not end there.
In 2018, fans noted that the video for IDKHOW’s song, “Do It All The Time,” appears to feature Weekes appearing to set fire to the suits he allegedly wore while performing in Panic!. The song itself is sung from the perspective of a wealthy, young, dishonest, and popular character who acts on his whims without caring how they hurt others.
Perhaps more damningly, Weekes vaguely referenced being bullied during his time in Panic! frequently; his comments were vague in nature, but oft thought to refer to Urie’s bodyguard. Weekes’ wife also shared that Urie’s bodyguard sexually harassed her while Weekes was in Panic!. She alleged that Hall had set a cropped photo of her breasts as his cell phone lockscreen, in addition to asking her for a handjob.
Weekes’ wife later posted a detailed Twitter thread about rumors of animosity between the Weekes camp and the Urie camp. In this thread, she somewhat paradoxically urged fans to stop generating rumors of infighting while simultaneously accusing Urie’s wife and bodyguard of intentional and systematic bullying. In the thread, she said “What you need to understand is that there’s something called an NDA and my husband had to sign one…. [Dallon and I] don’t have serious issues with Brendon and [his wife]. There’s details we don’t like of the way it all went down but legally we can’t discuss so we need to move on. Just leave us all alone [and] stop making up rumors [and] putting us all against each other.”
(Urie announced via a Twitch stream in 2020 that his bodyguard would be removed from a fan-facing role.)
Like I said, Weekes’ exodus does not fit into the aforementioned pattern as clearly as his predecessors. Weekes is six years Urie’s senior and joined the band in 2009, long after they had achieved mainstream success. Perhaps these factors, in combination with his Mormon faith, prevented him from succumbing to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressures of fame. However, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, drama and mystique surrounds Weekes’ exit from Panic!.
In addition to what we’ve explored in depth, five touring members have officially left Panic!; their Wikipedia page cites twelve “current” touring members. However, we’ll only mention the two most notable of the departed.
The first is Kenneth Harris (formerly of The Films alongside current Panic! touring member and Fall Out Boy producer Jake Sinclair), who joined the band in 2013 and was ejected in 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors.
The second is Ian Crawford, who performed with the band from 2009 to 2012. He posted on Twitter that Urie’s bodyguard behaved in ways that were “disgusting and belittling,” and “He was horrible to me in ways that are very hard to talk about.” Urie’s bodyguard, Zack Hall, has purportedly been with the band since shortly after their conception.
To more concisely sum up what I just spent nearly eleven pages explaining, the three original members of Panic! who were not Brendon Urie left or were ejected from the band. Their two official replacements members also departed, as did five touring members. To top it off, there was also a fair bit of other drama involving their wives and crew.
These exits followed a similar pattern, oft including drug addiction, financial disputes, bitter feuds, murky circumstances, and unclear messaging from the band. This pattern was clearest and most apparent with the exodus of each original member of the lineup, save Urie. Brent Wilson, the first-ever member to disappear from Panic! at the Disco, served as the blueprint for many of these departures. By understanding Brent Wilson, we can gain a better understanding of how and why the band has cannibalized itself to such an extent.
One may also argue that it was apparent from the moment of Wilson’s disappearance how the band was going to end. As you might have noticed, we referenced MTV a lot in our coverage of the departure of each member of the original lineup (save Urie). It is music television after all. Anyway, these articles—the source of much of the hullabaloo— were all written by the same person. A longtime fan insinuated on Tumblr that this individual was not popular with the Panic! fanbase, explaining that he was a “writer for MTV who had a bad habit of projecting his own assumptions onto what the Panic guys were saying and then writing that idea as though it was actual info they had shared.”
This certainly seemed to be the case; his odd phrasing and strategically placed italics are curious to say the least. Perhaps most glaring was his claim that, “’Ross…considers [Urie and Smith] to be his friends …The same cannot be said, however, about his former boss — Decaydance Records honcho / Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz — who seems to have clearly aligned himself with the Urie/Smith camp following the split.’ Despite the fact that Wentz supposedly did not respond to requests for comment, and Ross was quoted as saying he wasn’t sure if his new band would be on Decaydance, [the writer] would go on to assert that ‘[Ross’] relationship with Wentz might be finished.’”
However, hindsight is 20/20; This wasn’t just any journalist, but one who would go on to co-write a novel with Pete Wentz, the doctor to Panic! at the Disco’s monster, the “head honcho” of their label, and their A&R guy. This book—Gray, released in 2013— utilizes an unreliable narrator, and contains heavy themes involving abuse, death, suicide, and addiction, and is arguably a roman-a-clef a la Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, closely mirroring Wentz’s life while maintaining an oh-so-thin veil of plausible deniability. The acknowledgements of the book read, “This book and much of my (in)sanity would not be possible without… James Montgomery, for making sense of me even when I couldn’t and getting it right…”. Given this context, it might be a fair assessment to suggest he did know more than he was letting on about the state of the scene, and was painting the writing on the wall from the beginning, back when Brent Wilson was fired. After all, he wrote in 2008 that, ““I have no problem saying that [Wentz is] my friend except that… by saying that, I’m basically breaking every guideline in the “Ethical Journalist” handbook.” (However, he appears to have left MTV before he could weigh on the Weekes-Urie split.)
In any case, Panic! at the Disco as a functioning team certainly met its doom. Given his status as the sole survivor, and the intense vitriol directed his way we laid out in our introduction, one may hypothesize that it’s Urie who is the source of whatever the fuck is wrong with this band. This is certainly a plausible explanation. However, this narrative is incomplete at best. Ross, Walker, and Smith were just as involved as Urie in Wilson’s ejection from the band. Likewise, though Smith and Ross were lifelong friends prior to Panic!, their relationship appeared to dissolve following Ross’ departure from the group. Walker and Ross’ next creative project, The Young Veins, crumbled just as their involvement with Panic! did. With the exception of Weekes, none of the former members managed to leverage their status as a member of a supersonic, multi-platinum rock group into another successful band or solo career. Alternatively, I would propose that the practically unfathomable speed at which the band ascended, in combination with their jarringly young ages, is the true source of all of this strife.
Urie, on the contrary, says there was never a story at all. On the subject of the disappearance of his bandmates, he told Alternative Press in 2018, “There’s no animosity or any of that shit. It’s kind of fucked-up, dude, how lucky I’ve been finding people and able to keep it all on good terms…. Maybe that’s the biggest misconception of me and Panic!: that people assume the story is way bigger than it is. Maybe the story’s just not there.”