How Red Rose Panic became ‘the Avengers’ of the Akron music scene

by Derek Kreider

A lot can happen in six years.

There are stories that happen in the periphery of the larger headlines of the day, lost in the ebb and flow of the larger 24-hour news cycle. They develop steadily over time, the story being told in underground circles as it grows from the seed of an idea into a tree rich with the fruits of innovation. When the fruits begin to blossom, that’s when the story starts receiving a larger swath of interest.

Six years ago, in 2013, an idea based only around a name took hold and started putting down roots.

Red Rose Panic began their musical career as a duo of frontman and songwriter Alan Manley Jr. (aka Luminari) and multi-instrumentalist and producer Devin Gilbert (aka ST1XX). The two have known each other for nearly two decades, so when Alan had the idea to start a band, it didn’t take much to get Devin on board.

“He randomly hit me up and was like, ‘Yo I’m thinking of naming my next project Red Rose Panic. What do you think of that name?’” Devin recalls. His answer was decisive. “Bro, whatever that is, I want to be a part of it, just off the strength of the name,” he said.

At first, the idea was to do live performances showcasing Devin’s musical prowess and adaptability. All of the music would be pre-recorded, but on each song, a different instrument would be missing from the mix. Devin would play that instrument live while Alan provided vocals. This would have had Devin bouncing around the stage like a ping-pong ball.

While this was an ambitious approach to playing live music, it became clear that they needed to round out the lineup with a full cast of musicians. Bands can struggle for years before finding members who are a right fit musically, not to mention meshing with the personalities of the other players. But Red Rose Panic has had a relatively stable roster.

“We’ve all known each other. Like, someone is someone else’s best friend or someone else’s little brother,” Alan says.

Devin already had an established friendship with Red Rose Panic’s future drummer Dinareo Hill (Rio Dinero). Hill had a relationship with an enigmatic bass player, SMOKEFACE. Keyboardist Louis Harmon learned the set and jumped on board after someone else stepped down.

The quintet’s unique blend of hip-hop, funk, and jazz makes it hard to categorize Red Rose Panic. Thankfully, they did that for us: A “dynamic hip-hop band.”

They set themselves apart with Alan’s rapping backed by a live band. Red Rose Panic can be both spacey and aggressive, smooth and raw around the edges. The diversity of the songwriting keeps you wondering what’s next.

In 2014 the band debuted their first album, One Night Standard. Then the band issued a number of singles. “Defend the Land” became the de facto anthem for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their run in the playoffs during the 2017 season, even receiving airplay on ESPN.

2017 was a banner year for Red Rose Panic. They graced the stage at MGK’s EST Fest, Akron’s Signal Tree festival, and Number Fest in Athens. Cleveland Scene Magazine crowned them Band of the Week in April of that year.

In 2018, they released their full-length follow-up to One Night Standard. Time Attack is their most fully realized album to date. With ten tracks and a respectable 30-minute runtime, it feels like a vision coming into focus.

In 2019, on April 6, Red Rose Panic released their first single of the year, “Get Busy,” in conjunction with a music video. On April 12, the band uploaded a video of themselves playing their song “Change Your Mind” as their entry to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. The Tiny Desk Contest is a chance for artists to submit their music to a panel of judges at NPR Music. The winner of the contest will play a Tiny Desk concert at NPR in Washington, D.C. and tour the country with NPR and Blue Microphones.

Red Rose Panic has also performed with Sofar Sounds, a company that holds secret and intimate concerts with limited admission in everyday spaces like living rooms or retail floors. Red Rose Panic has played at Sofar concerts in Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, New York, and Los Angeles twice.

And the future looks even brighter.

Along with playing more shows in across the U.S., Red Rose Panic is in the process of figuring out how to tour abroad. “We actually had some ideas for Iceland,” Alan says. And, he adds, “I definitely want to get to Japan.”

In the time that I’ve been hanging around the music scene in Akron, Red Rose Panic is one of the most driven and focused acts I’ve come across, and they’ve got the talent to carry themselves further.

Adam Bonomo, host of the Alternative Attic Showcase, booked them for the third installment of the concert series.

“It was the single ‘Run’ that initially did it for me,” Adam says. “Red Rose Panic has blown me away every time I have seen them. They always draw a unique crowd, too.”

Seeing the band live leaves no doubt that any of the five could break off and start a project of their own. But together they put on a much stronger showing than they would separately.

“As far as us really performing, we really know that our musicianship is at a level that sets people apart in the scene,” Alan says of his bandmates. “Everyone’s kind of the Avengers in their own right.”

It’s not much of an exaggeration to liken Red Rose Panic to superheroes. While none of them is able to fly, each brings his own set of skills to the table. When those skills combine in the studio or on the stage, it’s an auditory reminder of the kind of innovation that makes the Akron music scene so refreshing when it’s at its best.

Derek Kreider is a writer, musician, and construction worker hailing from Springfield Township.

Images used with permission from Red Rose Panic. Photo at top by Jacci Horvath.