While Twenty One Pilots might not be a household name quite yet, I don't think it'll take much longer. This past Sunday, hundreds of loyal members of the “Skeleton Clique” gathered along the stairs of Red Rocks Amphitheater as early as 2am on Sunday night, forming the longest entry lines the venue has seen all season long. Some waited over 14 hours just to get up close and personal with Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun – two men who have changed the face of music as we know it in 2015.
Watching Twenty One Pilots' growth has been an exponential thing. I first discovered the band at the Bluebird Theatre two years ago: leaving their hearts onstage before a sold-out crowd of die-hard fans, and using a bigger light show than the room could physically handle. The show was unlike anything I’d seen before, you could feel this unique energy present. There was something to be said about this dynamic duo who could make a crowd explode using only a piano and a drum kit. Another thing to quickly catch my attention was the fans. They were serious about their obsession with the group - something I hadn't seen since my own teenage years - but their passion was justified: this intimate performance was one of the most high octane shows I'd ever seen, and offered something hard to find in music right now: honesty.
It's now two years later, and the only thing that’s changed is the amount of people coming to the shows. The band has grown from playing 600 capacity venues to 10,000 seat amphitheaters in less than 24 months, a feat only somewhat similarly matched by Imagine Dragons (who went from opening for AWOLNATION at Summit Music Hall [1,000 people] to selling out the Pepsi Center [18,000 people] in just 2 years time). The diehard fans who peaked my interest in this band have only grown in numbers, with nearly every kid in attendance wearing the bands name proudly on their chest. Dozens of attendees had even donned a variety of costumes matching those worn by the band members on stage, a majority choosing to wear red beanies and black makeup all over their necks and hands, embodying “Blurryface” - the namesake character of the bands most recent release.
Blurryface is the name that lead singer Tyler Joseph has assigned to the personal insecurities he chooses to outwardly acknowledge and battle through the record. The album is written with brutal honesty and lyrical brilliance, narrating the inner-personal struggle of discovering who you are, and which demons you choose to let define you in a world where nothing is simple, and everything is public. The catchy rhythms and upbeat melodies of each song sound misleading when compared to their deep and often dark lyrics, but this only adds dimension to the music; making it feel like each song is wearing a mask - just as Joseph himself is both literally and metaphorically.
The beauty of it all is that although Joseph has acknowledged that many of these worries stem from performing his music, you can watch his fears melt away during the group’s live shows. Dynamic lighting partnered with heart-pounding bass, backflips off pianos, and a variety of masks on both Joseph and Dun, the groups live show draws you into the world of Twenty One Pilots, only offering relief when Joseph chooses to put his costumes to rest and finally become "himself" amongst his loyal clique. “Did we do okay for you?” Tyler asked the crowd nervously from the stage towards the end of their set. “Josh and I…we didn’t think we could pull this off. We didn’t think we could do a show like this, at a venue like this. But you all came, which we didn’t think would happen either. We just want to make sure you’re having fun."
With Joseph climbing the rocks as much as he was legally allowed, fans singing along to every word, and not one person standing still during their set-closing performance of “Trees,” it was made clear that this little duo from Columbus, OH gave the audience all they had, and all they could have asked for. Joseph and Dun proved on Sunday that the title of "best live band of our generation” is theirs to keep, and there’s no stopping them - be it insecurities, or Red Rocks.
- Maddie Casey