Okay, okay, I admit it: I'm one of those people who only knew about Twenty One Pilots as being the guys from the Suicide Squad soundtrack and the ones who accepted their GRAMMY Award with no pants on. But during the duo's headlining performance at Firefly Music Fest 2017, I was surprised in the best possible way to learn that TØP are the pure embodiment of wacky musicianship.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun opened their set with a vintage-looking video of a Godzilla-esque monster stepping on the Hollywood sign at Coachella. Joseph later explained the reasoning behind the clip: "It's not that we don't like Coachella, we can't stand it." That bold, no-holds-barred affirmation became the basis of the duo's performance. I had low expectations for TØP at first, but those were quickly shattered when I found myself in the middle of the guys' weird-as-hell but incredibly intruiging freak show.
I've realized that it's very difficult to place TØP in a single category. The Columbus, Ohio natives' fusion of electronica, hip-hop, pop, folk and reggae sounds far-fetched on paper, yet they make it work! The sound was nothing like I never heard before, as the guys drifted into different stages of the performance that reflected their music: the darker and more emotional rap (topped off with frightening gun shots), mainstream-leaning poppy jams that would fit right in with the Halseys and Fall Out Boys of the world and a dance section that was perfect for a major festival stage (Firefly is their favorite, by the way).
As Dun pounded his sticks into the drum set with intensity, Joseph performed like a theater kid at his debut Broadway show while pouring his raw emotions on the stage. He had more outfit changes than Rihanna (my favorite was a glam rock look that would make a "Bennie and the Jets"-era Elton John very proud) and jumped around the stage with ease. TØP's lineup was a mix of old and new favorites, with the crowd roaring in content as Joseph sung "Heathens," "Stressed Out," the cutesy "Tear In My Heart," "Car Radio," "Heavydirtysoul," the singalong jam "Ride," "Message Man," "We Don't Believe What's On TV," "Screen" and the electronic madness that was "Lane Boy."
The duo also had a few special guests throughout their performance, with Joseph bringing his dad on stage to perform DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" and had a jam session with buddies Judah & the Lion to Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping" and House of Pain's "Jump Around." There was a brief moment where I found myself staring in awe at the funhouse before my eyes as Joseph goofily grinned at his fans with the most genuine smile. After last night, I hold Twenty One Pilots in a cool new light and I'm so glad they proved me wrong.
Stay tuned to all of Fuse's on-the-ground coverage from Firefly Music Fest 2017 all weekend right here! Next, watch this old-school Fuse interview where we follow Twenty One Pilots into a haunted speakeasy: