On any other occasion, the thought of sitting under the hot sun for hours with hundreds of strangers doesn’t sound like an appealing idea. But this occasion was different. After four months of waiting, I was finally in line to see Twenty One Pilots. I could not have been more excited, seeing them live on stage had been a dream ever since I first heard their music in middle school. But standing there that Tuesday, under the hot sun with only one water bottle, the popular catchphrase many Twenty One Pilots fans say, “Stay Alive,” took on a whole new meaning. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in the situation. I was surrounded by fellow Twenty One Pilots fans, commonly referred to as the “clique” or “skeleton crew.” After passing the time by chatting, we were finally able to enter the venue, Echostage. Before going, my friends had warned me that Echostage was by far the worst music venue in D.C. And they weren’t wrong. My first thought was to look for a bag check to store my school bag I had brought with me, only to be told there wasn’t one. I decided to forget about it, as I noticed the General Admissions pit already filling up. It was in the 8th row, that I took my spot with two other friends that came with me.
After about a half hour wait, the house lights dimmed and the opening act came on stage. To my surprise, the lead singer was not the 19 year old girl from Echosmith. Instead, a smaller band, Finish Ticket, took to the stage. I was skeptical of them at first, not sure how I felt about their music. After the third track from them, Bring the Rain came on however, I was sold. Finish Ticket was the perfect act to open the concert with. Energetic when they needed to be and laid-back when the crowd wanted to be. Unfortunately, Finish Ticket left the stage pretty quickly, after performing only five tracks total. Nevertheless, I knew I would be searching for their music the minute I got home.
Again, we stood in the dim red lighting, waiting for the next act to come on. It was clear that Finish Ticket had done their job well. The crowd was awake and spirited. Anything from chants such as “Josh Dun,” the drummer’s name, to a hearty rendition of the National Anthem could be heard
Finally, after about another half hour, the four members of Echosmith came on stage. For those who don’t know, the members of Echosmith are all related, the youngest being 16 year old drummer Graham Sierota. Led by lead singer Sydney Sierota, Echosmith transitioned smoothly from one song to the next. I first became a fan of Echosmith when I, like many other people heard their song Cool Kids on the radio. Seeing them perform live was just as amazing as I could imagine. Although the band started with a slower song, Tell Her You Love Her, by the end of the 30 minutes on stage, the entire venue was singing along to Come Together’s catchy chorus. My only disappointment was that they could not stay longer.
With two opening acts out of the way, there was no reason for delay. By now, I had managed to squeeze myself to the second row, and was anxiously waiting to watch Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun run on stage. At exactly 9:15, the house lights dimmed for the final time that night, as the stage lit up red. The familiar intro to Heavydirtysoul, the first track on the new album could be heard faintly at first, but growing louder by the second. The crowd became excited again, and suddenly a mad push forward squished me right into the railing. I was about to complain, only to see Tyler Joseph run on stage and Josh Dun take his place behind the drum set. Immediately, all my problems faded away. The 6,000 people venue became captivated as Tyler ran back and forth on stage, rapping as fast as his lips would move. Donning black and white masks respectively, Josh and Tyler could not have made a better entrance.From Heavydirtysoul, the duo immediately launched into a slower paced song, Stressed Out. “I wish we could turn back time, to the good old days,” the crowd chanted matching Tyler word for word.
The rest of the night was just as fun-filled as the beginning was. I had heard that Twenty One Pilots was amazing live and this was confirmed by their on stage antics. It was there that I realized they weren’t just playing music. They were expressing it with their own bodies.
Following Stressed Out was a classic from the band’s debut album Vessel. The track, Holding on to You started off with Tyler rapping while supported by the hands of fans in the first few rows. Transitioning easily from fast rapping to light singing, all while Josh pounded away on the drums, the entire crowd was captivated by the performance.
Next came a plethora of tracks off the new album. The energy level remained high as band performed Migraine, Polarize, and We Don’t Believe What’s On TV. Then came an acoustic cover of the famous Elvis Presley song Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. It was clear that the clique had done their research. Everyone knew the words to it as videos of Twenty One Pilots performing this song live have popped up over and over again on the internet. I’m not a big fan of laidback acoustic songs but the sound of 6,002 voices slowly singing in unison was absolutely beautiful.
The Judge, came after that followed by Lane Boy. The catchy choruses immediately got the crowd cheering again. What came next however, was a surprise to everyone. Like many other people, I had seen the official setlist for the tour and noticed the absence of many old songs from previous albums such as Self Titled and Regional at Best. This problem was solved with a mashup, shown below, that transitioned flawlessly through five different songs.
Although we had been standing for over two hours, no on seemed tired at all. The crowd kept the energy level high as they sang along to Doubt, Message Man, Guns for Hands, Ride, and the Run and Go. With Ride, came another memorable moment. After the bridge, instead of ending the song like the studio version, we were treated to a drum solo by Josh. On a drum set mounted on top of a platform supported by the audience. Once again, I was reminded that there is no one that knows how to put on a show better than Twenty One Pilots.It was hard to believe the night could get any better. But it did. The last 20 minutes, I can safely say, were the best 20 minutes of my life. First came Tear In My Heart. For many, this was the song that got them into Twenty One Pilots in the first place. This became obvious as the entire room felt as if it was going to explode with excitement. Then the stage lights dimmed, and my favorite song by the band, Car Radio came on. I had listened to a song so many times before but seeing it live was still something else. After that, according to the setlist, there was one more song left. The Trees encore, made famous during the Quiet is Violent tour. But what happened next, nobody saw coming. Instead, the soft piano notes of the final song on Blurryface, Goner echoed throughout the room. First came the shocking silence, and then the deafening roar of screams as the realization kicked in that they were actually playing the song, despite the fact that it wasn’t on the setlist.
To understand the emotion in the room, one must first understand the significance of the song itself. The entire album Blurryface, is about Tyler Joseph battling this fictional character. In short, Blurryface is everything Tyler does now want to be. Blurryface wants Tyler to change his music style to make more money. He wants Tyler to forget about the fans and focus on stardom. He wants to pull Tyler away from his roots. But Goner, the track the album closes with, represents the defeat of Blurryface, In the lyrics, Tyler is heard pleading to fans to help him win this battle. And he does. By the end of the song, Tyler is able to overcome his own struggles to conform and finds his own identity. Perhaps, that is why the song Goner is a song so many fans can relate to. In the track Fairly Local, the skeleton crew is referred to as “the few, the proud, and the emotional.” By simply looking at the fanbase on Reddit, and Tumblr, it is noticeable that many fans have used Twenty One Pilots’ music to overcome their own battle with depression. It’s impossible to count how many people have credited Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun for saving their lives with the power of music.
So when those first few notes kicked in, words cannot describe how many felt, including myself, to see the track live. Unlike all the other songs, the visuals were different as well. As seen above, instead of patterns and flashing lights, the background screen filled with a lone image of the shadow of a caged bird. After the first verse, the venue erupted with cheers as the bird was shown flying away into its own freedom. “I’ve got two faces, Blurry’s the one I’m not,” Tyler sings. The songs energy continued to rise until the climax, when Tyler could be heard screaming his lungs out. The track ended with the room singing along “I want to be known, by you” as all the stage lights dimmed except for a few casting a spotlight straight on Tyler. I knew right there, that I would never forget that moment.
But the show still wasn’t over, not that I was complaining. Now came the Trees encore. The reason the Trees encore is so famous is because of how the performance is set up. The chorus catchy chorus easily got the crowd jumping up and down. And then, in the last minute, two drum stands on platforms were propped up on the first few rows. Facing each other, Tyler and Josh began to pound away on them stopping only to point at the crowd which would yell “Hey!” back at them. Although it didn’t top the Goner performance, it was still special, watching as the two artists and the venue built off of each other’s increasing energy, all while smoke and confetti was flying everywhere. The perfect ending to a perfect show.
But the night was yet to be over. I was able to get a press pass to interview the band after the show. After a short talk, it became clear why the performance was so amazing. “We saw how energetic the crowd was and we basically fed off of that and put it into the show, Josh recalled. “Everytime I beat the drum, I could hear the crowd get louder.” Tyler agreed adding that “The audience tonight was amazing, they knew all the words and had the timing down perfectly.”
Many RM students felt the same way. According to junior Halle Phillips, “the whole stage setup fit the music perfectly.” Halle also commented on the band’s performance stating “You could tell that they wanted to be there, the way they played.”
Junior Gaby Phillips added that “the show was just amazing, it was definitely my favorite concert I’ve been to so far. I would love to see them again.” Junior Samara Langsam, who has been another longtime fan, said that “I have seen them before but this was by far the best time.”
In the end, it was Tyler Joseph who summed up the night the best. “It just felt magical tonight, there couldn’t have been a better way to start this tour.”
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