Twenty One Pilots @ PPL Center

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Josh Dun takes a moment to survey the crowd before he and singer Tyler Joseph perform a concluding drum solo. (Photo: Erin Blewett)

WRITTEN BY: ERIN BLEWETT

Before you read any further, there’s something you need to know. This is not just any article; this is the article I’ve been writing in my head since I first discovered Twenty One Pilots (TØP) during Summer 2015.

On Tuesday Jan. 24, I headed to Allentown, Pa. to attend my third TØP concert in eight months. Please disregard the fact that I skipped one class on Tuesday and skipped my Wednesday morning classes…(hopefully my Mom doesn’t read this; love ya Laur). What was special about this one was that this was my first show in the pit. I am constantly going to shows and exploring new music, and whether you like TØP or not, there’s no denying that they put on an absolutely electric performance every. Single. Time.

Although my friends and I arrived at PPL Center two hours before the doors opened, the line was already wrapped around the side of the building and down two blocks by the time we got there. As soon as we saw the line, we assumed the worst and accepted the fact that our dream of reaching the barrier at the show had exploded into a pile of rogue chokers and preteens wearing black clothing. After waiting exactly 127 minutes (yes, I counted), the doors opened and 10,000 screaming people ran to the doors. The anxiety induced by the sheer hysteria that saturated the air the minute the entrances were unlocked was incredibly overwhelming.

By the grace of Blurryface, we skipped all the way to the front of the general admission pit. Rather than having to endure the pushing and shoving that was sure to occur later in the night, we just moseyed right on up there.

The first act of the night was Nashville based quartet, Judah & The Lion. If you think you don’t know them, just look up the song “Take it All Back,” and I bet bells will ring in your head as soon as you hear the beginning chords. Their 2016 LP “Folk Hop N’ Roll” is not only clever – it is the perfect group of words to accurately describe their sound. It was obvious that these guys were just as excited to be there as the fans were.

Judah & The Lion’s repertoire of instruments consisted of an electric guitar, a drumset, a banjo, a mandolin and an accordion. If you aren’t already impressed, you ought to be now. The band’s eclectic sound was only a fraction of its performance. Judah & The Lion brought introspective lyrics, silly coordinated dance moves and a tremendous cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” to the table during their thirty minute set.

Following the Tennessee “folk hop n’ rollers” was breakout singer, songwriter and rapper Jon Bellion. He sped things up a bit with hits like “Guillotine” and “All Time Low.” When Bellion slowed it down with some sort of singing/rap hybrid approach, he began to remind me of Mac Miller’s sound, which I like to call “vocal elevator music.” Said sound can be found towards the end of the track “Congratulations” off of Miller’s “The Divine Feminine.”

Bellion was accompanied by Travis Mendes, who is responsible for a lot of the supporting vocals in his music. The dynamic between the two is definitely rooted in a more rap-heavy musical relationship, which was clear through their set. His sound made more sense as an opener for TØP than it would have for Judah & The Lion. Similar to TØP’s style, Bellion incorporates rap, instrumental arrangements and electronic samples into his music.

Finally, at around 8:30, the duo we had all been waiting for hit the stage. Tyler Joseph (vocals and bass) and Josh Dun (drums) came out in their signature slim cut suits with black pants, a red jacket and a black ski mask to top off the outfit. Joseph opened with the hit “Heavydirtysoul,” which exploded onto the mainstream music scene in the spring of 2016. During this song, Joseph is known to do a disappearing act where he continues to sing while crew members pull a black sheet over his head. He somehow ends up on a tall pedestal in the upper tier of whatever venue they’re at seconds after the sheet falls to the floor. When Joseph returned to the stage, he took the time to passionately exclaim the group’s appreciation and love for its fans, who are known as the Skeletøn Clique.

 

Joseph dons his signature kimono and white sunglasses for his performance of "Lane Boy." (Photo: Erin Blewett)
Joseph dons his signature kimono and white sunglasses for his performance of “Lane Boy.” (Photo: Erin Blewett)

The two hour set was charged with passion coming from both the band and the fans. While TØP mostly played songs from their better-known albums “Vessel” and “Blurryface,” they did sneak in the track “Addict with a Pen” from their 2009 self-titled full length. It’s almost impossible to accurately describe the experience. But what an experience it was. It consisted of a completely cohesive two hours that was about so much more than just music. Their set worked as a large-scale catharsis for everyone in the venue, helping us to escape any outside troubles. Sure, I sound like a typical fangirl right now, but there’s no other appropriate way to describe the feeling this concert gave me.

This off the wall night can be best summed up by the following displays of showmanship by TØP.

Tyler Joseph’s cousin ran on top of the crowd in a hamster ball. Joseph sang “Holding On to You” while the crowd held him up by his ankles. Dun played drums on top of a fan supported platform. An interlude saw a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors between Joseph and a fan (the fan won). Both openers returned to the stage to play a fantastic cover of “No Diggity” with TØP. Later, Dun did a choreographed routine on a snare drum with two hazmats, until finally, Dun and Joseph ended the show by drumming on top of the crowd in a shower of confetti.

One thing that a lot of people don’t take the time to understand about Twenty One Pilots and their fans is that they represent a community that perpetuates important conversations about mental health and self-love. A lot of people choose to see a duo simply came out of nowhere, creating commercial hits like “Ride” and “Stressed Out,” simultaneously becoming one of the top bands in the world right now. What they don’t know is that Joseph and Dun have been working together as TØP since 2010, and the two have spent years playing shows for a handful of people in dive bars and house shows in Columbus, Ohio. They earned all of their good fortune. Twenty One Pilots proves that open-mindedness and love in the music community is essential to spreading the word of great, meaningful music.

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