Believe the hype for Twenty One Pilots tour

Welcome to Trench



My view of the concert was high up yet straight on. I could see the entire filled stadium.

By Anna Henning, Fossil Ridge High School

Scrolling through Instagram on weekends, I often see photos of someone dressed up for a concert, typically with the caption being something along the lines of, “Best night of my life!” As someone with social anxiety and not liking crowds over thirty people, I never understood the appeal of going to a concert. I never saw why it could be a meaningful experience—after all, the music was already on my phone, no crowds or flashing lights included. 

However, this thinking all began to change when I started to become interested in the band Twenty One Pilots. As I began to understand the songs on a deeper level, walk through life with them by my side, and wait with anxious anticipation for their newest album, I knew I had to hear them in real life. For my birthday this year, I received concert tickets to see Twenty One Pilots at the Pepsi Center. I went to my first concert with a friend and had no idea what to expect beyond being wildly excited. Their albums, along with this tour, have grown to mean so much to me.

The Bandito Tour began in the fall of 2018, and toured North America and Europe. After they “weren’t ready to bring The Bandito Tour to a close just yet,” more dates for the United States in 2019 were announced. This concert was created based off Twenty One Pilots’ newest album Trench, released last year. 

Although highlighting their newest songs, pieces from previous albums Blurryface and Vessel were also featured. Each time the songs shifted to a different album, the band switched costumes and color schemes to fit the themes of that album. In Trench fashion, concert attendees came dressed in black and dark green, complete with accents of yellow. These outfits were references to the themes and storyline of the latest album.
Leading up to Trench’s release, Twenty One Pilots left several clues for their fans to find. This secret website contains several letters and photos from Clancy’s journey. It gave people an idea of what the album would be about before any songs were released. This map of Dema was also included.

My favorite aspect of Trench—which was followed through in the concert—is the hidden meanings and story within the album. Trench tells the story of Clancy, the alter ego of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer. Clancy is from a city called Dema. This city is controlled by nine bishops and it is “at the very bottom of the world.” Clancy tries to escape through a trench, uncharted terrain, along with the banditos, a group of rebels. He gets yellow tape to put on his jacket, and contains accents of this color everywhere. This helps him in his attempted escape; the bishops cannot see yellow and it protects him. This narrative is shown throughout three music videos: “Jumpsuit,” “Nico And The Niners,” and “Levitate.” 

Although this storyline may sound strange and confusing, it is a metaphor for facing mental illness. The story shows Joseph (Clancy) feeling trapped by anxiety and depression (Dema) as the bishops will not allow him to be set free. He tries to cope (escape) with the help of his friends (banditos) and finds small amounts of happiness (yellow) to help him through life. Joseph often says the album captures the feeling of being “stuck between two places in life,” and is dark yet beautiful.

The concert opened with a visual from Trench, with Joseph standing onstage, sporting his taped jacket, holding a torch for a solid minute. They built up incredible amounts of audience tension and anticipation before exploding into “Jumpsuit.”  I loved hearing the crowd sing along to “Bandito,” as it was The Bandito Tour. It made me feel a part of the story, and that everyone in the stadium had a common goal to help each other through. I was particularly excited for “Smithereens,” a song I sang for a choir final that has a cheerful, loving feel. 

Twenty One Pilots
The concert began in darkness, with several sounds of running and a horse filling the room. In the middle of the stage, Joseph appeared with his torch, and the room erupted into cheers.

As insane as the energy for the alternative rock band was, I also appreciated times when all the flashy elements were taken away. For the song “Ride,” Joseph sat on the floor at the front of the stage, just holding an electric keyboard in his lap. He played around with the opening of the song, making it a slow, peaceful, and somewhat melancholy anthem by changing the melody and pace. That song was particularly notable for showing off Joseph’s amazing control over his voice, as well as his creativity in playing with a song. Bringing it back to their 2009 album, Twenty One Pilots, another highlight of the night was “Fall Away,” complete with a guest trumpet player. 

For their 21st song, the band left before their encore as a karaoke track was played for their widely popular song “Truce,” and the audience was left to all sing “the sun will rise, and we will try again” and “stay alive, for me” together, an emotional moment of the evening. The band closed with two encore songs, “Chlorine” and “Trees.” Their last song was written by Joseph when he was just seventeen, and is still being played at concerts today. 

Hearing Joseph in person was beyond anything I could have expected—even better than on recordings. His vocal range blew me away, hitting high notes with jaw dropping falsetto, rapping without hesitation, and showing vulnerable emotion when his singing turns into shouting. Joseph’s voice is quirky, raw, and unapologetic. Additionally, he played ukulele, piano, tambourine, and bass throughout the show.

Drum Magazine
Dun arrives at his “drum island” being held up by the crowd.

I must admit, I know very little about percussion. I am in choir, so I know about singing technique, but I have no critical ear for drummers. I do not feel fully able to do justice to just how much Josh Dun, drummer of Twenty One Pilots, is amazing at what he does; I am blown away. He is highlighted countless times throughout their show, and every time he does not fail to hype up the crowd. From watching videos of bands perform on YouTube, I have seen lots of drum solos that all sound the same. Dun is the most unique percussionist I have heard, bringing a fresh and energetic vibe to drumming, and always surprising me.

Relatively speaking, this show could have been extremely simple and boring. After all, a band of two members on a stage with one drumming the entire time does not sound exciting. There were no backup dancers, no flashy lifts of the lead singer, and no glitter. What I found instead was stunning visuals: lights timed perfectly to emphasize lyrics, videos that brought out what we love most in their songs, and elements of the stage that would raise up to show off Dun and Joseph. They had moments of “crowd surfing.” People with floor seats at times would hold Joseph as he stood and sang, or they would hold up a drum kit bolted to a board for Dun to join in. Both band members enjoyed use of the piano, not just as an instrument but for also jumping and backflipping off of. I was constantly surprised for hours, and I experienced my favorite songs like I never have before. I love Twenty One Pilots’ songs so much I could have enjoyed every second of a show with no visuals, fire, or confetti, but the added features made the experience more immersive and inspiring.

Twenty One Pilots
Joseph, in a red hat for songs from Blurryface, watches as Dun does a back-flip off the piano.

When describing the concert to a friend, I said “it was exactly what my soul needed.” I was so worried about being overwhelmed with noise and people, but I felt set free. After a few weeks leading up to the concert of health problems, I was so relieved to have a break from the stress, and I felt like I was truly living—present, in the moment, and singing every lyric without a care at the top of my lungs. I found myself experiencing every emotion, as Twenty One Pilots has songs for every occasion and point of my life—from dark days of depression to hopeful bliss. I finally understand why people go to concerts, to be completely in the moment, experiencing music that they have held onto so dearly. 

Last year, the morning of their Denver concert, I was in the hospital doing a test for my epilepsy. Ironically, that same morning, Twenty One Pilots did an interview just floors below me. I was unable to leave my room to watch, but I was able to watch it on TV from my hospital bed. In that interview, Joseph expressed, “There’s something about music as a language that you can use. When you listen to it, you can tap into it, to help fill a lot of voids. And it’s something that I’ve done, that I always try to tell other people to use music in that way. Don’t be afraid to be dramatic, don’t be afraid to be emotional. You’re not ridiculous. Music can be the background in your life. Your life is exciting, and dramatic, and emotional.” To this day, their words stick with me and their encouragement through interviews and songs helps me through so many obstacles. 

Music can be the background in your life. Your life is exciting, and dramatic, and emotional.”

— Tyler Joseph

My first concert has been more than an experience; it has been an encouragement. It has been a mix of emotions between hopeful and empowered, as well as a release from negativity. Music unites people, and it makes them understand each other and themselves. I do believe that live music is worth it—to bring a story to life that has walked with me was indescribable. I hope that Trench and The Bandito Tour will not be the last I hear from my favorite band, and I will wait with excitement, as I did with Trench, once more.

This story was originally published on Etched in Stone on November 14, 2019.