On Twenty One Pilots (and the glorious night in which I got to meet them)

I, by no means, claim to be a hipster, but in the past year or so, I’ve developed this great infatuation with a somewhat unheard of band called Twenty One Pilots.  I first heard of them from my, now, boyfriend in one of our first conversations concerning our tastes in music.  They weren’t his style by a long shot but he was from Ohio, which is where the band originated, and had known of them for quite a while.  Based on the information he had acquired concerning my tastes in music, he suggested looking into them.  And I didn’t for about five more months.  But once I finally dove in, I dove in deep, head over heels.  It became an obsession.

I don’t know if I can really describe the style of Twenty One Pilots.  The band is made up of just two members: Tyler, the pianist and vocalist, and Josh, the drummer.  Their music also involves a lot of computer generated melodies and rhythms.  From the outside, their music is downright strange.  The lyrics make little to no sense on a first skim-over, but the beats are  undeniably catchy and, if you listen long enough for them to draw you in, you’re sure to take a deeper look in no time at all.

Word came up early this fall about seeing them in concert here in Grand Rapids in October.  My initial reaction was simply to count myself out–I was never much of a concert person and besides, I couldn’t really spare the money.  But as the day drew nearer, many of my friend group began to pry at my seemingly solid decision.  My reasoning was questioned and torn apart and the last straw fell when one of my, very generous, friends offered to pay for my ticket, insisting that he “supports the cause”.  I was sold.

Thursday, October 24th dawned with a mixture of excitement and dread.  I realized, as I began to dress in my most “hipster” attire, that this would be the first concert I had ever been to that didn’t take place in a church.  I simply didn’t know what to expect.  None of my friends seemed concerned or gave words of warning, so I remained relatively calm, the excitement of a night out and the dreading of loud speakers battling in my mind.

We arrived at the venue nearly five hours before the doors would open, finding ourselves among the first ten people in line.  The frigid October air challenged our patience, but all became well about two hours in when, out of the blue, the first twenty or so people in line were invited inside to listen to the band’s sound check and get some pictures and autographs.  I’ve never had much of a fangirl mentality, but it was simply surreal to see these people in person that, up until this point, had merely been voices emerging from my laptop speakers.  Josh and Tyler made the time to make conversation with each individual they posed for a picture with or gave their autograph to.  They were just genuinely kind, down-to-earth people and I was impressed.

From there it was back out into the cold for a few more hours of waiting.  The line grew long and rowdy.  More and more security guards appeared as time went on.

And finally, we all spilled inside, shoved as far to the front as we could, and prepared ourselves for the night to begin.

At first I was scared–claustrophobia began to set in as I looked back at the enormous sea of people behind me and thought of how I would possibly get out if there was an emergency.  I was surrounded on every side by people I didn’t know and we were all packed in like sardines.  What if I was hurt or trampled?  No one would hear me over the sound of the crowd and the band.  Not to mention, the inescapable smell of marijuana and beer was heavy in the air and many people were visibly intoxicated.  The whole situation caused me great discomfort.

But all my fear subsided very quickly as Twenty One Pilots took the stage.  They were just as genuine and down-to-earth in front of a large crowd.  They were there to play music, and they did so wonderfully.  As for the people around me, I found the crowd atmosphere to be far more enjoyable when I allowed myself to go with the flow instead of fighting the shoving and elbowing to try to keep my spot by my friends.  I found myself, completely sober, letting go of inhibitions. I wasn’t afraid to yell out the lyrics or wave my arms in the air or jump around.  These unfamiliar people pressed up against me on every side didn’t really even bother me anymore.

Twenty One Pilots is not labeled a Christian band by any means.  Tyler and Josh, however, are both Christians and Tyler has recorded an album of beautifully written worship songs with New Albany Church in Ohio previously.  And, as I stated earlier, once examined, their lyrics contain deep themes of humanity’s relationship with God.  This was obviously not grasped by the pot-smoking, half-naked, intoxicated portion of the audience.

They focused on one song throughout the duration of the concert, beginning with a snippet of it, then a reprise in the middle, and very dramatically closed with it at the end.  The song is called “Trees”, which my friends and I have theorized is a sort of story about Adam and Eve and God in the garden of Eden.

I know where you stand
Silent in the trees
And that’s where I am
Silent in the trees
Why won’t you speak
Where I happen to be
Silent in the trees
Standing cowardly

I can feel your breath
I can feel my death
I want to know you
I want to see
I want to say hello

Since those lines are the only words to the, very simple, song, no one but Twenty One Pilots themselves can be certain as to what Trees really signifies.  However, Tyler and Josh continued to emphasize throughout the course of the night, “You all might go home and forget about all of this–” (and, despite the loud, cheering, protests from much of the audience, it was likely most of them were far too intoxicated to remember any of this even if they tried) “–but what does all of this really mean?  What is this all really about?”.  Even if they never truly went out and said it, these little hints persisted with each song and, from an uninhibited, sober, Christian viewpoint, I couldn’t have been happier with the performance of Twenty One Pilots that night.

Deeper Christian meanings or not, one thing I know for sure is that Tyler and Josh are not merely creators of driving beats and “party music”.  The words that they write are poetry–deep and greatly pondered upon.  And even standing alone in a crowd of people who, for the majority, just didn’t get it, I was content with that–just seeing two people in a position of fame who truly get it, who understand a certain depth and meaning to life.  In some silly way, it was as if I and my friends and Tyler and Josh and anyone else in that venue that really “got it” were all sharing together in some secret handshake or speaking together some secret language that only we had deciphered.  Even among a crowd hazed with pot and cigarette smoke and the odor of alcohol, there were those of us who understood and that was enough.

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