[AVANT-GARDE] Bend the line! Wheel around! Scoot back! Such commands—perhaps most often overheard near county fair pavilions—could just as easily dictate the next step in a square dance as Panther's tour pattern of late. Since last spring, Charlie Salas-Humara, a.k.a. Panther, has taken his self-described "serious modern dance" to half of the world's inhabitable continents in support of Secret Lawns (released last March).
But after a harrowing U.S. solo tour last spring, Salas-Humara grabbed a partner in drummer Joe Kelly (ex-31Knots). After helming Panther as a one-man band for six years (outside of his numerous other musical engagements), it's a transition Salas-Humara—who happens to be a square-dance enthusiast—is grateful for. "It's much easier," he says via iPhone from the "beautiful industrial wasteland" of Erie, Pa., where he's en route to a gig with Australian sextet Architecture in Helsinki. "It was really tough to tour by myself. I ended up having meltdowns." The shift—along with a more instrumental sound reflecting Salas-Humara's Cuban roots—has resulted in an upswing onstage, too: "[It's] so much more fun being able to feed off of someone," he explains.
Since June, the duo has hit the world with a host of fellow Portland acts; Panther played Australia and New Zealand alongside electro-popper YACHT—"total Lord of the Rings -style!" as Salas-Humara puts it. And the disco-funk outfit—which banks on Salas-Humara's Prince-like falsetto and notoriously unique dance moves—also joined local soul-punk trio the Gossip in phase who-knows-what of its U.K. domination for a tour there in September, amassing a storm of highlights along the way. Salas-Humara mentions "playing bass live on the radio with the Gossip in the U.K." (during which he was so nervous his hand fell asleep) and an episode of alcohol poisoning at a London aftershow as his more surreal moments—never mind a rather memorable icebreaker from some random guy at a party: "Didn't I sell you heroin last week?"
Now, nearing the end of the year and on the verge of a 2008 release on Kill Rock Stars (his previous home with now-defunct noise-pop band the Planet The), the hyperactive 33-year-old admits he "had it in mind to get really good booking agents in the U.S. and Europe." "But," he adds, "I really had no idea that it would turn out to be so fruitful."
Panther plays Tuesday, Oct. 30, with Glass Candy and Architecture in Helsinki at the Crystal Ballroom. 9 pm. $15. All ages.