The elevator is sardine tin crammed. Excited teens are clutching photographs, t-shirts, and – in a couple of cases – a ukulele. At the 39th floor, the doors open and we spill out at the Twitter Australia HQ. It’s floor to ceiling glass on nearly all sides, the view over the CBD and the glittering Sydney Harbour throat lump inducing. A small stage occupies a small corner of it.
Twenty One Pilots are about to undertake a 12 date tour of the country in support of their 2015 record Blurryface, having just jumped across the trench from New Zealand. Blurryface has been a relatively slow burn in Australia, outside of their cult of fans – it garnered positive reviews upon release, but until the release of single “Stressed Out” in February, they hadn’t cut their way through the mainstream.
Their songs are a brilliant kind of hot mess, having been described as everything from ‘dance-rock-rap-reggae’ to ‘the Christian Eminems’. Within a single song, they slip and slide from genre to genre, mostly successfully. Their live shows have been rapturously received, by an audience so devoted that they have camped out days before their show tonight at the UNSW Roundhouse. Today, however, they’re giving a special acoustic gig for a few fans and media.
Thanks to the red beanie merch table at the entrance, by the time the room is full it looks a little like a scene from a Where’s Wally comic. Drummer Josh Dun is redundant today, happily remaining the cheerleader as Tyler Joseph hops up armed with a ukulele. “There’s something about a ukulele that turns every song into an island song,” he laughs, before strumming his way through the “Lane Boy”. Away from their hefty production and overblown instrumentation, it’s impressive that the songs are still so strong, their pop hooks left to bloom. “Stressed Out” follows, the crowd offering back up vocals, and the charming up stokes of “Holding On To You” finish it off.
Back in the elevator, the chatter has only increased. “I flew interstate just to see this,” a girl tells her neighbour. When a band inspires this level of devotion, it’s hard not to take notice.
Photo: Jabari Jacobs