Last November I accidentally stumbled upon my favorite new band of the last five years: a young, curiously diverse group called Twenty One Pilots. A few different events from March through November led me to a random show one Friday night at The Bluebird; it appeared the universe had made it my mission to see this group, and I chose not to ignore it. I chose wisely, as I left the venue that night with a t-shirt, a CD, and a newfound addiction. I have eagerly awaited this groups return to the Mile High City, and this past Friday night my patience was rewarded another outstanding performance, solidifying Twenty One Pilots’ current standing in my mind as this generations live act to beat.
Opening the night were two groups, Hunter Hunted and Swedish group NONONO, my favorite of the two being Hunter Hunted. Playing melodically sweet pop tunes, this duo based out of Los Angeles certainly got the crowd excited for the show. Bandmates Dan Chang and Michael Garner (the bands only two true members) were not alone on stage this evening, rather, they were nicely complimented by a full backing band. The crowd was sadly too young for the most part to recognize the band's beautiful rendition of the Pixies "Where Is My Mind”, but danced along to it as well as tracks off the band's self-titled EP. Fun, synth-pop driven beats with catchy lyrics and lovely harmonies, this band seems poised for some radio success similar to what we’ve seen another new group, American Authors. The band had to step away from recording their first full-length album to join this tour, but will be returning to the studio when the run finishes this week. Fans should expect new a new release by the end of the year, when they’ll be able to hear my favorite track from the set, a new song which I believe was called “Ghost”.
As the house lights dimmed and the opening lines of "Guns for Hands" began to play, I couldn't tell which was louder: the bass or the crowd. Lights were flashing as lead singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun took to the stage wearing their signature ski masks and blue suit coats - immediately bringing new energy to the packed room. With ferocity and fervor, Joseph attacked the stage, moving effortlessly back and forth between working the crowd and the confines of his upright piano.
When I saw the band in November, one of the things I was blown away by was their fans tenacity. The audience was surprisingly young to me, but they knew every word to every song, knew the band's "gang sign", and each wore as much merch as they could fit onto their bodies. These kids were diehard fans...it was astounding. I hadn't seen kids this passionate about artists since the Fueled By Ramen/pop-punk takeover of 2005. Seeing people that excited about music made me believe this little band was worth my attention, and they have done nothing but prove me right. This passion is understandable when you listen to the lyrics of the band's debut album, Vessel. Songs like “Migrane”, “Semi Automatic”, and their current radio single “Car Radio” feature impressively honest lyrics that seem to speak to your soul. Joseph manages to take the most common of interpersonal struggles and re-write these realities using beautifully simplistic terms. Both terrifyingly honest and curiously uplifting, this band’s music is above all else a testimony to the idea that the human condition is a shared struggle. No one goes through these battles alone, and we can survive only by sticking together.
The audience was slightly more mixed age-wise this time around, with an older demographic filling the back bar and upstairs balcony, but same herd of diehard young fans packed the lower tiers of the theater. The most apparent change of the evening was in the band themselves. Growing from energetic musicians into exceptional performers, the band I had already designated as the "best show of 2013" has only gotten better. Playing the first three songs of the set in varying costumes, Joseph seems to take on a new identity behind his masks. Beginning the set standing on his piano overlooking the crowd, Joseph rubbed his hands together, plotting his takeover like a cartoon villain planning his next scheme. As the evening progressed and the walls between crowd and performer slowly deteriorated, the costumes disappeared. By song six, a beautiful cover of the classic “Mad World”, Joseph was bearing it all to the audience in a simple tank top and beanie, finally “himself” among his adoring fans.
This band's crowd interaction is half the reason I love them the way I do. Throughout the night both Joseph and Dun would climb into the crowd, Dun even playing a mini drum kit harnessed down on plywood, being held in the air by the audience. Ending the set with both men playing glowing Tom drums while being suspended in air by fans during the song “Trees”, it would be hard-pressed to find a more energetic crowd elsewhere. With a light show so good I literally gave band’s lighting director the little cash I had on hand as a tip, and band members both physically and emotionally leaving it all on stage, you are doing yourself a major disservice not seeing this band live. They truly embody the idea of loving what you do, making it so obvious it’s contagious. This dynamic duo will be back in Denver July 19th playing at 93.3FM KTCL’s “Big Gig” at Fiddler’s Green, and if you miss this show, you WILL be sorry. I have a feeling their time in the spotlight is only beginning, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Check out the gallery below for more photos: