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Who by Fire  ||  Turn S1 E2  ||  B
If the most recent episode of AMC’s Turn is any indication, being a spy is not all it’s cracked up to be.  That is, at least in the case of Abraham Woodhull.  Last week’s series premiere saw him narrowly avoid imprisonment by agreeing to act as a spy for the Continental Militia, although the decision was more out of fear than a sense of patriotism.  So, as they say, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.  While Abe has moved beyond the passive state we first saw him in, he’s put himself at the mercy of two people who now have a great deal of control over what he does and does not do.

What’s important though is that he’s becoming more polarized.  He’s not taking sides just yet, but the lines are beginning to be drawn.  As a result, this episode is a definite step up from the premiere.  Abe now has some motivation, something to move towards.  He needs to find out who burned down his storehouse, prove the innocence of his friend (and possibly illicit lover) Anna, and uncover Captain Joyce’s murderer.  In its own way, this is liberating for Abe.  At the same time, we see how confining it can be.  At every turn, he’s essentially owned by someone.  There’s Captain Talmadge on the side of the Continental Militia (although that may not be for long) and Major Roberts for the British.  And as Roberts tells Will towards the end of the show, a spy is “the lowest form of life there is.  Lower than a sodomite or a serpent’s belly.”
In spite of this, much of the episode seemed overly contrived.  For example, why would Major Roberts ever want to have a drink with Abe and his father in the first place?  And why would Will Robeson kill his lover for almost no reason at all?  The show has hardly started and it is already going the way of The Walking Dead, where characters’ motivations are unclear or, worse, don’t make a drop of sense.  This is dangerous ground to be walking on, because it makes the characters very difficult to relate to. 
There’s a lot more than that going on in this episode, but unfortunately not a lot I care about.  The show seems to be setting things up for later, but doesn’t give us very much indication of where it’s going.  I would wager that because of this, many people probably aren’t going to be sticking around.
On a side note …
Let’s be honest—the whole “gay lover played for shock value” thing is starting to become a cliché of its own.  I was more surprised when Anna declared the lover was a woman.  I understand these things were probably not as common during the whole Revolutionary period, but for a show aired in the 21st century, we as viewers know better.  You can come up with better twists than that.

Who by Fire  ||  Turn S1 E2  ||  B

If the most recent episode of AMC’s Turn is any indication, being a spy is not all it’s cracked up to be.  That is, at least in the case of Abraham Woodhull.  Last week’s series premiere saw him narrowly avoid imprisonment by agreeing to act as a spy for the Continental Militia, although the decision was more out of fear than a sense of patriotism.  So, as they say, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.  While Abe has moved beyond the passive state we first saw him in, he’s put himself at the mercy of two people who now have a great deal of control over what he does and does not do.

What’s important though is that he’s becoming more polarized.  He’s not taking sides just yet, but the lines are beginning to be drawn.  As a result, this episode is a definite step up from the premiere.  Abe now has some motivation, something to move towards.  He needs to find out who burned down his storehouse, prove the innocence of his friend (and possibly illicit lover) Anna, and uncover Captain Joyce’s murderer.  In its own way, this is liberating for Abe.  At the same time, we see how confining it can be.  At every turn, he’s essentially owned by someone.  There’s Captain Talmadge on the side of the Continental Militia (although that may not be for long) and Major Roberts for the British.  And as Roberts tells Will towards the end of the show, a spy is “the lowest form of life there is.  Lower than a sodomite or a serpent’s belly.”

In spite of this, much of the episode seemed overly contrived.  For example, why would Major Roberts ever want to have a drink with Abe and his father in the first place?  And why would Will Robeson kill his lover for almost no reason at all?  The show has hardly started and it is already going the way of The Walking Dead, where characters’ motivations are unclear or, worse, don’t make a drop of sense.  This is dangerous ground to be walking on, because it makes the characters very difficult to relate to. 

There’s a lot more than that going on in this episode, but unfortunately not a lot I care about.  The show seems to be setting things up for later, but doesn’t give us very much indication of where it’s going.  I would wager that because of this, many people probably aren’t going to be sticking around.

On a side note …

  • Let’s be honest—the whole “gay lover played for shock value” thing is starting to become a cliché of its own.  I was more surprised when Anna declared the lover was a woman.  I understand these things were probably not as common during the whole Revolutionary period, but for a show aired in the 21st century, we as viewers know better.  You can come up with better twists than that.

The Crocodile’s Dilemma  ||  Fargo S1 E1  ||  B+
I have a confession to make.  Up until a few weeks ago, I had never seen the movie Fargo.  Granted, I was only two years old when it came out … but then again, I was also totally oblivious to its existence until seeing promos for the new series on FX.  So either way, I’m in the wrong.  I’m sorry.  And if you see fit to label me as that person, then so be it.
While I may not venerate the film like some, I still had a great time watching it and got a kick out of its quirky sense of humor.  The new series, though it shares the same name and location as the 1996 film, retains the style and humor of the movie while building on an entirely new crime and set of characters.  Ultimately, however, the two are very different beasts.
For example, the humor of the show is considerably less subtle than the movie.  The laughs are still very dark and tongue-in-cheek, but they are much more at the forefront than they were previously.  Just think—could you picture comedy duo Key and Peele making an appearance in the original film?  No?  I didn’t think so.  And yet the two are scheduled to appear in a grand total of three episodes later this season.  In that way, not only is the show’s humor less understated, but it is also updated and more current than its 90’s counterpart.
Of course, the show still borrows heavily from the film.  There is still plenty of Midwestern dialogue filled with the usual ya’s and you betcha’s, funny sound effects put to gruesome acts of violence, and irony to the gills. To top it off, Martin Freeman begins the episode with his best William H. Macy impersonation, though he eventually evolves into a distinct character of his own.  Like Macy’s character Jerry Lundegaard, Martin plays a pushover salesman, although with a slightly different twist—instead of selling cars, he sells life insurance, describing to potential customers how they might die today or tomorrow or the next day.  As you can expect, this leads to some hilariously awkward moments.
One thing that surprised me about this pilot was how quickly things get serious.  Freeman goes from the hapless, bumbling Mr. White to a somewhat less competent Heisenberg in the short space of 90 minutes.  He couldn’t do this without a little help, of course, and Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo has every indication of being a great bad guy.  He almost has this creepy innocence to him, with his childlike haircut and the way he just likes to cause trouble for the sake of causing trouble.  He’s no Steve Buscemi, but he is still a lot of fun to watch.  Together, Freeman and Thornton wreak havoc on Fargo, Minnesota, as they ignore the rules and do as they please.
And yet the show is also capable of serious amounts of pathos.  Who would’ve though the sight of two cans of paint could be so sad?  But for all of its strengths, the episode also comes with several weaknesses.  I personally found the repetitive humor to be a little excessive and annoying at times.  For example, Sam Hess’s sons were funny at first, but their trademark banter quickly got under my skin.  Also, I had to suspend believability a bit towards the end at how sloppily the characters left a particular crime scene.  It served its purpose as far as the story goes, but it was a bit of a stretch.
Regardless, I had a great time watching this episode and didn’t really want it to end.  The show only has ten episodes planned before wrapping, but I would LOVE for Fargo to become an anthology along the lines of American Horror Story or True Detective.  With a fairly strong start to the series, I’m excited to see where this takes us.
On a side note …
Bob Odenkirk is more or less in the background right now, but I’m hoping that changes.  His character has a lot of potential as far as the humor goes.
As expected, the landscape of the show is beautiful, with its seemingly endless fields of white and snowy atmosphere.  Love it!

The Crocodile’s Dilemma  ||  Fargo S1 E1  ||  B+

I have a confession to make.  Up until a few weeks ago, I had never seen the movie Fargo.  Granted, I was only two years old when it came out … but then again, I was also totally oblivious to its existence until seeing promos for the new series on FX.  So either way, I’m in the wrong.  I’m sorry.  And if you see fit to label me as that person, then so be it.

While I may not venerate the film like some, I still had a great time watching it and got a kick out of its quirky sense of humor.  The new series, though it shares the same name and location as the 1996 film, retains the style and humor of the movie while building on an entirely new crime and set of characters.  Ultimately, however, the two are very different beasts.

For example, the humor of the show is considerably less subtle than the movie.  The laughs are still very dark and tongue-in-cheek, but they are much more at the forefront than they were previously.  Just think—could you picture comedy duo Key and Peele making an appearance in the original film?  No?  I didn’t think so.  And yet the two are scheduled to appear in a grand total of three episodes later this season.  In that way, not only is the show’s humor less understated, but it is also updated and more current than its 90’s counterpart.

Of course, the show still borrows heavily from the film.  There is still plenty of Midwestern dialogue filled with the usual ya’s and you betcha’s, funny sound effects put to gruesome acts of violence, and irony to the gills. To top it off, Martin Freeman begins the episode with his best William H. Macy impersonation, though he eventually evolves into a distinct character of his own.  Like Macy’s character Jerry Lundegaard, Martin plays a pushover salesman, although with a slightly different twist—instead of selling cars, he sells life insurance, describing to potential customers how they might die today or tomorrow or the next day.  As you can expect, this leads to some hilariously awkward moments.

One thing that surprised me about this pilot was how quickly things get serious.  Freeman goes from the hapless, bumbling Mr. White to a somewhat less competent Heisenberg in the short space of 90 minutes.  He couldn’t do this without a little help, of course, and Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo has every indication of being a great bad guy.  He almost has this creepy innocence to him, with his childlike haircut and the way he just likes to cause trouble for the sake of causing trouble.  He’s no Steve Buscemi, but he is still a lot of fun to watch.  Together, Freeman and Thornton wreak havoc on Fargo, Minnesota, as they ignore the rules and do as they please.

And yet the show is also capable of serious amounts of pathos.  Who would’ve though the sight of two cans of paint could be so sad?  But for all of its strengths, the episode also comes with several weaknesses.  I personally found the repetitive humor to be a little excessive and annoying at times.  For example, Sam Hess’s sons were funny at first, but their trademark banter quickly got under my skin.  Also, I had to suspend believability a bit towards the end at how sloppily the characters left a particular crime scene.  It served its purpose as far as the story goes, but it was a bit of a stretch.

Regardless, I had a great time watching this episode and didn’t really want it to end.  The show only has ten episodes planned before wrapping, but I would LOVE for Fargo to become an anthology along the lines of American Horror Story or True Detective.  With a fairly strong start to the series, I’m excited to see where this takes us.

On a side note …

  • Bob Odenkirk is more or less in the background right now, but I’m hoping that changes.  His character has a lot of potential as far as the humor goes.
  • As expected, the landscape of the show is beautiful, with its seemingly endless fields of white and snowy atmosphere.  Love it!

The Grand Budapest Hotel  ||  Directed by Wes Anderson  ||  A
Ever since the beginning of March, I’ve been begging friends to go see The Grand Budapest Hotel with me. None of them are Wes Anderson aficionados like myself, so I didn’t have the easiest time convincing them. Though I came close once or twice, the opportunity only presented itself when I was home for the summer and could go see it myself.  And let me tell you—they have no idea what they missed.
Not only do I consider The Grand Budapest to be a step up for Anderson and the greatest in his body of work, but I would even go so far as to call it an all-time favorite.  The film is absolutely brilliant in every way.  As a result, it’s kind of hard to critique.  The dialogue is a total joy to listen to, the characters are about as lovable as can be, the cinematography is unbelievable, and the story had me captivated.  I found the movie a little hard to follow at first, with its fast-paced and layered exposition, but I quickly caught on and was able to understand where things were going.  This isn’t so much of a complaint, however, as it creates a more intricate narrative and gives the movie replay value.  In fact, I was tempted to stay for the next showing, but alas—a starving college student has to stick to a budget.
As the movie takes place in three different time periods, Anderson uses three different aspect ratios (1.33, 1.85, 2.35:1) to tell the viewer where they are in the story.  I was a little concerned at first that the varying aspect ratios would interfere with the viewing experience, but the only time I really noticed them was when switching between the two.  And the small, square shots are no less beautiful than the full screen cinematic shots.
Amidst all of this, the main thing that stood out about the movie was how hilarious it was.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I laughed at a movie as much as I laughed at this one.  Anderson’s usual lovable quirkiness was expected, but never would I have anticipated that I would burst out laughing during the film.  Yet there I was, the only person in the theatre on a Tuesday afternoon, taking full advantage of my right to laugh unrestraint at whatever I pleased.  I couldn’t have asked for a better viewing experience.
In conclusion, I can’t recommend this movie enough.  Even if you’re not a fan of Anderson’s unusual style, I have no doubt that there will be at least something for you to enjoy.  As for me, I’m already looking forward to when I can see this movie again.
On a side note …
Perhaps my favorite line: “Let’s change the subject.  I’m leaving.”
Don’t get me started on that soundtrack, either… Alexandre Desplat’s score is the icing on a Mendl’s cupcake.
Seeing Voldemort with his nose back is always kind of unnerving, but this movie wouldn’t be half of what it is without Ralph Finnes.  The man is an incredible actor.

The Grand Budapest Hotel  ||  Directed by Wes Anderson  ||  A

Ever since the beginning of March, I’ve been begging friends to go see The Grand Budapest Hotel with me. None of them are Wes Anderson aficionados like myself, so I didn’t have the easiest time convincing them. Though I came close once or twice, the opportunity only presented itself when I was home for the summer and could go see it myself.  And let me tell you—they have no idea what they missed.

Not only do I consider The Grand Budapest to be a step up for Anderson and the greatest in his body of work, but I would even go so far as to call it an all-time favorite.  The film is absolutely brilliant in every way.  As a result, it’s kind of hard to critique.  The dialogue is a total joy to listen to, the characters are about as lovable as can be, the cinematography is unbelievable, and the story had me captivated.  I found the movie a little hard to follow at first, with its fast-paced and layered exposition, but I quickly caught on and was able to understand where things were going.  This isn’t so much of a complaint, however, as it creates a more intricate narrative and gives the movie replay value.  In fact, I was tempted to stay for the next showing, but alas—a starving college student has to stick to a budget.

As the movie takes place in three different time periods, Anderson uses three different aspect ratios (1.33, 1.85, 2.35:1) to tell the viewer where they are in the story.  I was a little concerned at first that the varying aspect ratios would interfere with the viewing experience, but the only time I really noticed them was when switching between the two.  And the small, square shots are no less beautiful than the full screen cinematic shots.

Amidst all of this, the main thing that stood out about the movie was how hilarious it was.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I laughed at a movie as much as I laughed at this one.  Anderson’s usual lovable quirkiness was expected, but never would I have anticipated that I would burst out laughing during the film.  Yet there I was, the only person in the theatre on a Tuesday afternoon, taking full advantage of my right to laugh unrestraint at whatever I pleased.  I couldn’t have asked for a better viewing experience.

In conclusion, I can’t recommend this movie enough.  Even if you’re not a fan of Anderson’s unusual style, I have no doubt that there will be at least something for you to enjoy.  As for me, I’m already looking forward to when I can see this movie again.

On a side note …

  • Perhaps my favorite line: “Let’s change the subject.  I’m leaving.”
  • Don’t get me started on that soundtrack, either… Alexandre Desplat’s score is the icing on a Mendl’s cupcake.
  • Seeing Voldemort with his nose back is always kind of unnerving, but this movie wouldn’t be half of what it is without Ralph Finnes.  The man is an incredible actor.

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!

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!