If you were walking past The Wiltern Theatre, a tall, faded green art-deco building right in the heart of downtown LA, on Friday May 9th, you might have been frightened by the strange sight of hundreds of people donning ski masks and skeleton hoodies and face paint. If you DID know it was the night of the sold-out Twenty One Pilots show, then it was a welcoming sight of all the band’s most dedicated fans (the “Skeleton Clique”) lined up hours before show time in order to claim the prized spots in the pit.
Starting up the show was Hunter Hunted, a five piece indie-pop band based in Los Angeles. Their set was characterized by clap-your-hands and sing-along songs flowing together with beautifully harmonized vocals. They did a great job of starting the night off on a high note (Pun intended. This is a music blog, after all). I’m expecting to hear a lot more about these guys (and girl) from their ability to write ridiculously catchy songs.
Next up was the Swedish synthpop trio NONONO. Sadly, they fell flat during their set. I blame part of it on bad sound, as you could barely, barely hear the singer. They had their moment when they blasted out their hit track “Pumpin’ Blood”, but that was the main highlight.
After the two opening acts were over, you could feel the collective excitement in the crowd. The air was buzzing with anticipation, and when Twenty One Pilots finally appeared on stage, the crowd went absolutely insane. They immediately blasted off into a thumping rendition of “Guns For Hands” and from there on, their energy never faltered. The Columbus, Ohio duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun know a thing or two about stage presence, and they kept the crowd under their spell for the entirety of the show. They brought in some really unique elements that made the audience feel like part of the band- Tyler sang part of “Holding On To You” being held up, literally, by the audience and Josh drummed part of “Semi-Automatic” on a full drum kit in the crowd supported by the audience members. While Tyler was doing his signature frantic, twitchy dance moves and sprinting around the stage, Josh was playing the drums with a bombastic ferocity, and it was immediately obvious that they thrive in a live music setting. They played the majority of the songs off their newest album, Vessel, but offered up a few from their older albums as well. Not surprisingly, the fanatical crowd still knew every word.
The absolutely electric energy of a Twenty One Pilots concert is something special. With a genre best defined as undefined, I’ve never seen another show that rivals it. They keep the audience dancing, jumping, and singing lyrics at the top of their lungs for the entire show, and it’s guaranteed you will completely lose yourself in the music. But what the “skeleton clique” swears makes this band really special is the content of their songs. Dealing with weighty themes like depression, many fans discussed the personal connection they felt with the music. Before the last song of the encore, Tyler solemnly offered a few words to the crowd, summing up the cathartic feel of the whole show- “Whatever it is you’re struggling with, whatever baggage you brought into this room, you can use these songs and you can use this show to leave it all here tonight“. And we did. Whatever it is you must do to get yourself to a Twenty One Pilots concert, do it, and join the skeleton clique.
Review by Leslie Vilicich