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LIVE REVIEW: Twenty One Pilots

twenty one pilotsA line started forming outside the Boston House of Blues at 2:30 for the Twenty One Pilots show, which didn’t start until 7:30. Hashtag dedication.

I’ve been to sold out shows before, but at this one, everyone seemed to be pushed up as close as possible to the stage, which made it seem a lot fuller than when a portion of the crowd is hanging out by the bar–which no one was doing because 99.9% of the crowd was high schoolers. For a lot of the night, I couldn’t move, but there were times when everyone seemed to jump in perfect unison and find pockets to throw their arms up in the air.

The adorable duo from LA, Hunter Hunted, got the show rolling at 7:30, saying they were “v nervous” to play for such a big crowd. Dan Chang and Michael Garner kind of sound like a mix of The Killers and Foster the People; with their intricate vocal harmonies and heartbeat rhythms, their songs toe the line between indie and folk rock. By the lack of singing in the crowd, it would seem as though the majority of the audience had not heard of Hunter Hunted, but the duo did a great job of getting us to join in on their more popular tunes, “End Of The World” and “Keep Together.” Everyone should keep an eye on these guys; they’ll be at Firefly and Bonnaroo this year.

The Swedish electro-pop trio NONONO took the stage next. First observation: vocalist Stina Wappling is the cutest ever. After almost every song, Wappling would take a few seconds to step back and just look at her fans in wonder and affection. Producers Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel Rocwel, with their infectious smiles and positive stage presence, expressed similar gratitude. Seeing that makes you feel good… it gives the audience the feeling that the band truly wants to be there, just hanging out and having a good time with fans. NONONO’s hit single, and presumably the only song the crowd knew, “Pumpin’ Blood” is super catchy, so of course that got everyone singing and dancing. (You can check out a live video of that song below.) Wappling’s passionate and energetic, yet tender and soft-spoken, voice has a way of soothing you, although I do wish they would have turned up her mic a bit; I could barely hear the words she was singing at times. Their set was more subdued than I was expecting after previously hearing their music. But I 100% prefer NONONO live compared to their tracked work, because, like with many live shows, you could actually feel the unique vocals, the synths and the whistles, and the overall good, contagious energy. NONONO’s performance definitely had me saying YESYESYES.

And last but not least, the headliners, Twenty One Pilots. I will start by saying that this was my second time seeing the Ohio duo, but they lived up to, and exceeded, my already high expectations. If you’re going to listen to Twenty One Pilots, listen to them live. The quirky and super dynamic pairing plays a mangling of genres, with a bit of rap, a pinch of synths, some pianos and a ton of drums. Tyler Joseph, on the vocals/keys/ukulele, commanded the stage with his shy yet energetic demeanor, and he delivered the lyrics with such fervent conviction that you just had to sing and dance along. The other half of Twenty One Pilots, drummer Josh Dun, kept the fun going with intense beats. It’s remarkable that a two-man band can possess this type of electricity without letting their performance suffer; you can see the two lose themselves in the music and it’s almost spiritual.

Along with fan favorites such as “Holding Onto You,” “Migraine,” and “Car Radio,” the duo graced the crowd with some older songs—“Anathema” and “Forest’’—and a very synth-y cover of Gary Jules’ “Mad World.” That cover blew my mind; it was incredible. Twenty One Pilots captured the crowd with their amazing setlist, leaving the audience with arms flailing, voices surprisingly in tune, and bodies twirling around. My only issue was with all the teenyboppers; put down your phones and your cameras and just be in the moment and enjoy the amazing talent in front of you! In addition to acrobatics—backflips off of pianos, Josh’s crowdsurfing drum set, and Tyler scaling a light fixture—a big part of Twenty One Pilots’ show was the costumes they wore: full body skeleton onesies for the opening song “Guns for Hands,” bank-robber style ski masks, and Tyler’s kimono.

As they closed the show with another crowd surfing drum session, I couldn’t help but be wrapped up in the magic and passion that the two brought to the stage. It’s one of those shows that kept me smiling nonstop, swept into the melodies as I felt as one with the duo and the sold-out crowd. It was a flawless show, from all three bands–the kind of show that leaves a mark, both in the form of crazy memories and in the form bruises from crashing into the crowd around you.

You can check out music, purchase a CD, or buy concert tickets for Hunter Hunted here, NONONO here, and Twenty One Pilots here. Check out photos and videos from the show below.

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Maggie Masse

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