Throughout history, we’ve seen types of hysteria that musicians, particularly boybands, have created: the 1960s brought us The Beatles, who set the precedent for the concept of dedicated fans. We experienced the the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync making their mark on the music industry with synchronized choreography in the 90s. The 2000s introduced us to The Jonas Brothers and One Direction. But what happens when a male group rises to fame for making music about depression, insecurities and the hardships of growing up? Twenty One Pilots is born.
Only five years ago, Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun were struggling musicians, delivering tickets door to door for their shows in their hometown of Columbus, Ohio. After being signed by Fueled by Ramen in 2013, the duo began creating a solid fan base through touring their second album, Vessel. In 2015, after nearly three years of touring, Twenty One Pilots released their third album, Blurryface, which debuted at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 – which allowed them to tour multiple times and appear at a handful of festivals. In 2016, the band sold out two shows at Madison Square Garden. Twenty One Pilots is headed to the 2017 Grammys with three nominations for Blurryface: the ultimate sign of making it in the industry.
Twenty One Pilots’ Chicago show at the United Center just a couple weeks ago sent fans into a frenzy: nearly 75 people showed up to the venue the night before the show, prepared to wait in line with tents. The temperature was about 20 degrees. With fans willing to risk frostbite in order to get the best spot possible in the general admission pit, it makes you wonder if the fans would do anything for the band. The scene on Saturday morning – hours before the concert – was even more astonishing. By 11 a.m., there were 200 people waiting in line, embracing the cold and spending time with other fans, playing music on portable speakers and expressing their excitement for the show.
Cecilia Aguirre is a 21-year-old student who has been following Twenty One Pilots since 2014. She developed a passion so strong that she now has a tattoo inspired by their music. Her Twitter account, @IllinoisClique – boasts 3,500 followers and helped answer questions that fans may have about camping out for the band’s Chicago date. She even showed up the night before with hot chocolate to pass out to fans braving the bone-chilling cold.
“I owe my life to this band. I was having a hard time in my life when I discovered them – and that’s why I got this tattoo,” she said, gesturing to her wrist.
“It refers to a song called ‘Truce,” the key message is to just “Stay Alive, Stay Alive, Stay Alive,” she said.
Later that day, Aguirre had the opportunity to meet the band before their show, thanks to winning meet and greets from a radio station. She was nervous, but excited.
Unlike many male bands in the past who have had success catering to a female dominated audience, Twenty One Pilots’ has a large following of male fans.
Mike Murtagh, 21, became a fan in 2013, impressed with their ability to write music with thought provoking lyrics.
“The main thing that drew me in was the lyrical content of the songs. Many songs on Vessel deal with dark thoughts and it helped having music that made me feel normal.”
Murtagh has been a fan of the band since 2013, inspired by their performance at Chicago’s Lollapalooza – and has formed lifelong friendships with fans in the community that he describes in one word as “supportive.”
“I had never been at a show that made me feel the way that one did. The band made me feel like we weren’t just fans, we were their friends. The show was a celebration of getting past dark times and keep fighting,” he said.
Murtagh has seen the band live a whopping 12 times and has slept outside overnight at venues to get the best spot in the crowd. After attending the band’s Chicago date at United Center, he hopped in a car and drove to Moline, Illinois to do it all over again.