At 2012’s inaugural Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, I was amazed at the number of people walking around in Twenty One Pilots T-shirts. There were so many, in fact, I began to wonder if one of the top-of-the-poster bands had bailed and been replaced by this well-followed upstart.
That was not the case, obviously. Twenty One Pilots’ fervent fan base radiates outward from their Columbus headquarters, so it’s no surprise that the faithful showed up at Sawyer Point like a mellow Mongol hoard.
Twenty One Pilots formed in 2009 when college pals Tyler Joseph, Nick Thomas and Chris Salih channeled their musical interests into an Indietronic trio. Joseph christened the group after studying the Arthur Miller morality play All My Sons (where a businessman directly causes the deaths of 21 pilots in World War II with his shoddy airplane parts); within months, Twenty One Pilots released their eponymous debut. After extensive statewide touring, Thomas and Salih exited the band in 2011 due to scheduling conflicts and Twenty One Pilots downsized to a duo with the addition of Josh Dun.
Within weeks, the newly pared down twosome released Regional at Best, which broadened their audience, sparking label interest that landed them a contract with Atlantic-distributed Fueled by Ramen. After a profile-raising tour with Neon Trees and Walk the Moon, the duo hit the studio with renowned producer Greg Wells (Adele, One Republic, Katy Perry) to create Vessel, featuring six new songs and another half dozen revamped Regional at Best tracks. Released early last year, Vessel spawned a pair of hits — the Synth Pop/Hip Hop bouncer “Holding on to You” and the sweet ukulele-charged Indie Pop reverie of “House of Gold” — that cracked Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart Top 10.
Although technically still touring Vessel, Joseph has said in interviews that a new Twenty One Pilots album is in process, and some of that new material could possibly leak into the set. Wells has predicted a bright future for Twenty One Pilots, but the band’s sizable Ohio contingent will tell you they’ve already hit it big.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS headline Saturday’s (April 5's) O.N.O. (One Night Only) Fest at the University of Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena. Visit thisispac.com for tickets and info.