Haunting synthesizers rumbled from the speakers, welcoming the audience to the show and the two band members dressed as skeletons to the stage. Lights flashed and drums surged — the band’s performance had begun.
Twenty One Pilots, a two-man band known for blurring the lines between genres, mixing rock, rap, pop and electronic into an eccentric sound, took the stage in the Student Center Pit at Rowan After Hours on Friday, May 3.
“I’ll stay awake,” Tyler Joseph, the vocalist of the Ohio duo, crooned during the song “Ode to Sleep. “’Cause the dark’s not taking prisoners tonight.”
Voted one of MTV’s “Artists to Watch in 2013,” Twenty One Pilots, toting staccato rapping, soaring melodies and synth undercurrents, is the product of the combined talents of vocalist and pianist Joseph and drummer Josh Dun.
“We normally do our planning a semester ahead of time but we found out that they were available and we could get them,” said Assistant Director for Programming and Special Events Rio Napoli. “We really hit a home run with Twenty One Pilots. We lucked out, we got them at the right time for a very good price and it happens that they started to blow up on the radio [after we got them].”
Playing 11 of the 12 songs from their debut studio album with the record label Fueled By Ramen, “Vessel,” Twenty One Pilots brought their high-energy performance to the Pit.
“I was already expecting them to be good,” said sophomore RTF major Derek McCauley. “But honestly, they exceeded my expectations 100 percent.”
Bouncing along with the bipolarity of their album, Joseph danced across the small stage. His energy had the crowd jumping, singing or head-bobbing along.
“Every once in awhile, we’ll do these college shows and they’re really cool because I feel like sometimes we don’t know what our demographic of age groups is going to be — sometimes it’s a little younger, sometimes it’s even older — so it’s kind of cool to play with people that are relatively our own age,” Dun said.
Twenty One Pilots’ set included a ukulele-accompanied medley of Top 40 favorites featuring karaoke hits such as “Call Me Maybe” and party staples like “All I Do is Win.” These, along with a tag-teamed assault on the drums, showcased the full spectrum of the act.
“We thought, ‘What a better way to go out at the end of the semester than to bring in this band?’” Napoli said.
From the mechanically charged “Car Radio” and “Semi-Automatic,” which utilize the stylistically murky sounds of synthesizers, to the organic nature of “House of Gold” or the reggae breakdown of “Guns for Hands,” Twenty One Pilots moved feet to more than just an introspective beat.
“I see them as more than the ‘next big thing’ because that seems to imply a fad,” said Michelle Dziuda, a senior communication studies major and fan. “In my opinion, they have brought an entire new genre to music that is unable to be classified — one that ‘phenomenal’ does not even begin to justify.”
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