The first time I ever heard Twenty One Pilots was when I saw them as the opening act for the Dirty Heads on January 18, 2013—that’s three years ago, my friends, and long before they were played repeatedly on the radio. I went with a huge group of people and I will not lie, I was stoned. I was there to see the Dirty Heads, but looking back, I can barely remember their performance. All I know is that night, Twenty One Pilots changed my life.
Tyler came out wearing his skeleton hoodie and immediately captured the audience’s attention. He was so mysterious and his energy never dwindled throughout the entire performance. While Josh banged his heart out on the drums, Tyler slid his fingers up and down his perfectly worn-down piano; I was haunted in the most beautiful of ways.
And I’ll tell you, Twenty One Pilots are, in a way, theatrical. There is suspense and sadness (if you really listen) and confusion and anger and most of all, there is hope. Tyler and Josh portray this unique spectrum of emotions by how much soul they put into their music. They are hands down the best band I have ever seen live; their albums are the most heart-wrenching bundles of faith I have ever listened to and they never, ever disappoint.
There is no other way to explain it: Twenty One Pilots saved me. The most vivid part of that first concert I went to was not about the atmosphere as much as it was about how Tyler and Josh’s music made me feel.
In the middle of “Car Radio,” Tyler screamed to the crowd to split down the middle and make a space. Silly stoned me thought that my friends and I were getting in trouble for smoking weed. I had already been to tons of concerts and I had never seen a musician enter the crowd. Well, the crowd split down the middle about one foot from where I was standing and within seconds, Tyler ran past me. If you look closely enough at the picture, you'll see Tyler running by in his white shirt and blue ski mask.
As Tyler ran back towards the stage, he told the crowd to jump and this audience of hundreds of people that barely knew the lyrics to Tyler’s songs let alone knew who Twenty One Pilots were, jumped together and screamed along with Tyler. They may not have known who they were, but we quickly figured out what they were all about: making an impact through their music.
I remember distinctly feeling like I was being set free of all of the dark and negative feelings I had been unconsciously holding onto. Mind you, I was going through a serious period of feeling extremely sad and I honestly thought about dying a lot. That night, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun renewed a sense of hope in me and for that, I forever thank them.
I could go on and on about Twenty One Pilots, but I’ll try to stick to the point (I have been known to ramble about them for hours). I have watched Twenty One Pilots grow since 2013 in ways unfathomable.
I counted down the days and eventually the hours, and saw them again on May 5, 2013, just a couple months after the first concert. I experienced an acoustic session by Tyler and Josh and I was able to meet both of them before the actual show as well as after the show. They signed my Vessel album, my Twenty One Pilots shirt and hoodie and my concert ticket. What was so important about this specific show was that I went straight: no alcohol and no weed. I was sober and that was and still is the happiest night of my entire life. I got to the front of the venue and I cried harder than I probably should have. I could not comprehend that I was able to see this band that I had fallen in love with performing live for the second time.
When I met Tyler and Josh, I was speechless and beyond euphoric. I told Tyler that he saved me from a lot of terrible thoughts; his music gave me something to hold onto. He was quiet but humble. He stood very close to me and was personable in a way I still cannot explain. He was a human being and actually acted like one. The tour bus, the fans, the slight fame they were receiving back in 2013 didn’t make him any less of a human than myself and knowing that has long since stuck with me. Tyler “got it.” He understood what was going on in my mind and I don’t think an abundance of musicians do that for me.
Tyler signed my shirt and I got to talk to Josh about his tattoo sleeve he was in the process of getting done (it’s finished now and absolutely beautiful). I took a picture with the both of them and then we also took a weird picture. My friends and I then all took pictures with them and we were on our way. As we drove off, Tyler waved to me in the car.
Fast forward three years: I have now seen Tyler and Josh a total of five times. As many of you probably know, Twenty One Pilots have exploded in terms of their fame. They are played on the radio as much as Adele and Justin Timberlake. No one really knows what style of music they are, but every concert on their current leg of the tour is sold out. Some may say they are “mainstream,” which I do not fully agree with, but they are definitely a lot more famous than they were in 2013 or even 2014.
The most recent concert was definitely not like the first. The concert was sold out and there were over 9,000 people. The line was at least two miles long and every other fan (if not every fan) was dressed like Tyler or Josh. Seriously, there were fans that wore exactly what Tyler and Josh wore in their music videos, photos, etc. As soon as I got into the venue with my sister, we purchased numerous water bottles and ran to the front. Unfortunately, we were unable to get anywhere near the front.
For this concert, I barely saw Tyler or Josh’s faces, let alone their feet, unless I stared at the huge screen to the side of the stage. What was most mind-boggling was that barely any fans (and I wish I was joking) knew the words to certain songs, such as “Migraine.” I could hear myself screaming the lyrics and I realized that I was alone in singing along. It truly was the eeriest feeling: I saw Tyler and Josh when there wasn’t a line outside their tour bus and now, their fans didn’t know the words to some of their best music.
Now I’m not saying they don’t have true fans anymore or that the concert sucked, but it was different. I wasn’t disappointed; I was surprised as to how they have changed. I have never loved a band so much that I was able to grow up and simultaneously watch them become a part of the music scene. No, I did not get to meet Tyler or Josh after the concert. I even waited for three hours. But, what I feel most strongly is that I, unlike many other individuals, was given the opportunity to know and love Twenty One Pilots when a rare amount of people knew who they were or how moving they were.
Am I happy they are so famous now? Yes and no. It’s hard because I want to feel close to them as I once did. Their concerts aren’t as personal or intimate. But, I am forever appreciative that I got to love them before they were played on the radio thousands of times a day. I got to listen to their lyrics, word by word and actually try to understand where Tyler is coming from before fans legitimately looked like them. I got to meet them, talk to them, hug them and get to know them before they stopped coming out as often to meet fans. What an experience it is to watch them evolve into this band that is impacting people so deeply.
I have never felt so connected to music as I do with Twenty One Pilots. Tyler has saved me countless nights when my thoughts got the best of me. He has kept my mind busy when I’m walking through school halls and driving to work. I know this band is changing and their fan base isn’t the same, but I think it’s necessary for the world to see them and hear what they have to say, even if that means every show is sold out and it’s not as intimate.
Twenty One Pilots have grown on me and have stuck with me during times I didn’t want to keep on keeping on. And to Tyler and Josh, I say thank you, for not only saving me but saving others. Your existence is justified.