Twenty One Pilots || Trip For Concerts Spring 2014 Tour || Wallingford, CT
Last May, I had the opportunity to see Twenty One Pilots at a small venue not too far from my hometown in Connecticut. Hot off the release of their Fueled by Ramen debut just a few months prior (my number one pick for album of the year in 2013), the show was one of the sweatiest and most uncomfortable I’ve ever been to. But it was worth it. The duo was high-energy, the crowd was loud and impassioned, and the music was on point. It was everything I could’ve asked for in a concert. So when I found out the band would be returning this year to a bigger and better venue, I gladly paid the $20 extra from what I paid last time. Only this show turned out to be memorable in a totally different way.
Let me preface this by saying I’ve been to a number of shows where the crowd was less than amicable. Thanks to my heavy metal stage during middle school and early high school, I’ve witnessed massive circle pits with people coming out bloodied and beaten. Granted, I’ve never willingly jumped in one out of a pretty understandable sense of self-preservation, but I know what those crowds are like. And I can honestly say this crowd was right up there with them.
I went to this concert with my sisters and a few of their friends. Before the show, two girls in line attempted to ease their fears about the audience. “There will definitely be some crowd surfers,” the girls said. “Just make sure you put your hands up so you don’t get kicked in the head. There definitely won’t be any mosh pits though. Don’t worry about any mosh pits.” They were right about the crowd surfers. They were wrong about the mosh pit.
The mosh pit was the least of my worries, however. We managed to get right up to the front, so my sisters and most of their friends were able to cling to the barrier at the foot of the stage. I, on the other hand, was at the mercy of the crowd. It probably didn’t help that we were closer to the side of the room with the bar, but people on every side of me were elbowing and kicking to get in front of me. And even though I fought back, in the end I landed wherever the crowd wanted me. Even then, the constant elbows in my side and people pushing me to move would not stop. It made the concert a bit difficult to enjoy, but it was still an experience nonetheless.
The first band, an LA-based group known as Hunter Hunted, opened with several songs from their self-titled EP. The band even played a new song called “Ghost” from their upcoming debut, which they were in the middle of recording when they were unexpectedly offered a spot on the tour. Their mainstream, radio friendly alt-pop made for a great way to warm up the crowd and was very easy to sing along to. Apparently the members had been researching fun facts about each state they visited and then sharing these with the audience every night. In Connecticut, the lead singer informed us between songs, it is against the law to cross the street on your hands. Who would have thought, right? Overall I was pretty impressed with their set, especially when you consider they haven’t been around for very long.
Up next was a band from Sweden called NONONO, out on their first US tour ever. While they started fairly strong, the lead singer experienced some technical difficulty with her earpiece immediately following their first song. This delayed the show a good ten minutes or so and completely killed the mood set by Hunter Hunted for the rest of their performance. To make matters worse, I had a great deal of difficulty making out the vocals. It would have been interested to see how they sounded under ideal conditions, but it just wasn’t working out that night.
The crowd’s energy could not be killed by a few measly technical difficulties, however. When Twenty One Pilots finally came out to “Guns for Hands,” everyone in attendance went totally berserk. I remember thinking that if my ribcage could be squeezed any tighter from those around me, it would probably be crushed. It was intense.
The band had a much more elaborate setup from the last time I saw them—in fact, the production value of everything had gone up significantly. There was still the usual drum set and upright piano, but they also had a whole bunch of new lighting and a rig that enabled the band’s vocalist, Tyler Joseph, to climb twenty feet above the crowd during “Car Radio.” Everything was bigger and better, and the larger venue allowed the two to move around a whole lot more as well. In addition, the performance was a whole lot darker and more theatrical than last year’s show. The music was heavier with added samples for maximum creepiness, and there were several costume changes that occurred between songs. To preface one such costume change, the duo enacted something akin to a skit where Joseph fired an imaginary handgun at drummer Josh Dunn before turning it on himself. The lights went dark after the final gunshot, allowing the two to sneak off stage and slip on a new outfit in seemingly no time at all. When I say I got my money’s worth for this show, I mean it.
To top it off, the band experimented with their setlist a bit, switching up the order of the songs and even playing a few from their independent self-titled debut. One of the night’s biggest highlights was their cover of “Mad World” by Tears for Fears. Glowing from the black lights mounted on the piano, the two gave the song their very own Twenty One Pilots treatment in a sublimely eerie performance. Towards the end, the two switched instruments, so that Joseph continued the beat and Dunn wrapped the song with an epic synth breakdown. I could hardly believe my ears, it was so good. The show included a number of other fun ways to switch things up, many of which centered around various stunts with drums.
In their usual fashion, the band didn’t let us leave without making us think. Before one of the last songs, Joseph talked briefly about how Wallingford made the decision tonight that this concert was worth staying alive for. Joseph ended his speech by asking the audience, “Why are you still here? Why aren’t you leaving?” And he’s right. There is something about such an experience that’s worth living for. Something transcendent that goes beyond just a bunch of crazy people jumping around to music.
And as all concerts are, this one felt like a conversation between the band and the audience. For all the shortcomings of those around me, the crowd was immensely responsive. In one instance, the crowd began singing along to “The Run and Go” as soon as the tune became discernable. Joseph tried to rear everyone in, laughing as he launched into the doo doo doo’s to lead into the song. And in the end, when the duo took a bow, two girls in the front row held up a sign with the words “thank you” written on it. Joseph reached out and took the sign, turning it on the audience before walking off stage.
Dunn and Joseph always have such a refreshing attitude of gratefulness whenever I see them, and if there was one thing on my mind when the concert finally ended and I walked out the doors, it was this just a simple thank you. It’s hard not to be grateful for people as passionate and entertaining as these two guys. If they ever make their way back to our little state, I’ll find a way to be there.
On a side note …
- It was pretty terrifying to see a masked Tyler Joseph pointing directly down at me from atop a speaker, with the lights behind him making him look like an extraterrestrial being or something. Won’t be forgetting that one for a while.
- I’ve never seen glowing drumsticks before, but now I’m wondering why everyone doesn’t use them.
- I hereby nominate Tyler Joseph to play the next Spiderman, whenever they decide to reboot that again. Between the climbing and the jumping and the back flips, he wouldn’t even need a stunt double!