I think I found God at a Twenty One Pilots concert.. Not like “found” as in come-to-Jesus-born-again-christian type of way, but “found” as in-God was totally there singing loudly and being powerful and shit. And it was amazing.
The doors opened at 6:00pm that night, and as we rolled up around 6:20 the line stretched close to three blocks from the entrance. We parked at the back of the lot, and opted to leave our coats, despite the 15 degree wind and snow outside. Honestly, worth it. We stood in line for what seemed like an eternity, but really ended up only being about 45 minutes, not bad for a sold-out show. As we jumped at the end of the line and jokingly noted how “totally not cold” it was, we decided to take a pre-show selfie. That’s when God showed up the first time. The guy behind us photobombed our selfie, which immediately sparked conversation about the weather, the show, the other people in line, and how excited we all were. The conversation grew from the five of us, to the people in front of us as well, and soon the people two places behind-busy chatter of how “it’ll be totally worth it if I lose my toes to frost bite”, “are those girls really wearing shorts and tank tops? I thought my flannel was a bad idea.” We never ended up asking for names, but we didn’t really need to. In the short time, it felt like we were all in this slow-moving, freezing journey together and had been for as long as any of us could remember. We maintained an unspoken bond, amidst all the excitement and shivers, over this experience that no one else-besides the other hundreds of people in line-could understand. God was there, laughing and working, and possibly saving our toes from the “ice tan.”
After we finally made it into the warm fieldhouse and checked our toes and feet for frost bite, we made our way down to the floor. We settled on a spot as close to the front as we could get, and still had plenty of space to move and breathe. Around us were couples, excited (and annoying) twelve year old girls, people smoking weed, and an evil mom who tried to fight people several times. This was good. Quickly, more and more people arrived and also decided they needed to be where we were. And they pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed.... until we could see our old spot about five heads in front of us, and now we couldn’t move, or breathe, without spooning at least three people at once. The opener played, more people showed up. Jon Bellion played, more people. Every minute, people getting angier, and more pushy. Some loudly declaring that “this was their spot” and no one could pass through. People were passing out left and right from heat, and plenty of “fuck-yous” and “fuck offs” were tossed around. Basically, chaos ensued. All of us fighting for our right to be there and experience this amazing thing that was about to happen. I kept thinking how dare these people come in here and be assholes..we were having a good time, and these people are ruining the vibe. Fuck you guys. This is MY experience, and you’re making me cranky. Idiots.... Finally, after hours of waiting, the opening song was played...and the power went out. The cap to the chaos blew. The attitude of the room was defeated. We were tired, and hot, and slightly pissed off. But that’s when God showed up again. Quietly and initially unnoticed, from the back left side of the seated section, a small group of people did their best to start a high spirited “wave”. Slowly but surely, people caught on. The wave grew to the people around them, jumping section to section, finally reaching the whole left side of the arena. When the other side picked up what was going on, they started their own, and a short competition began. Soon, flashlights and sound effects were added until the entire building was involved. Then from separate groups, it became one. One big continuous wave of lights moving around and around and around. From left, to right, to the floor, back to the left, and over again around the arena, all together. For that moment, we became once again, a group of people part of something bigger than our small selves. Even if just for entertainment, we had a small moment of grace. Yelling subsided, and people focused on the spectacle of 8000 cell phone lights moving in unison around the room. And aside from the “woooo” sound coming from the wave, the room was quiet.
The stage manager then came over the loudspeaker announcing the return of power. The show began. Seriously, it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The light show synchronized to the songs, the videos interacted with the performers. The talent that those two dudes have in their little toe, was more than the entire room combined. And when they played-they put their whole selves into it, and it felt like they wanted you to be there. All 8,000 of us, individually. The favorites flew by, Guns for Hands, The Judge. When Stressed out came on, I think the band only sang five words to the song, and the crowd sang the rest. “Wake up, you need to make money.” we yelled. We all knew that too fucking well. Then the song Screen was played. Tyler Joseph prompted us to sing solo this part of the song:
We're broken We're broken We're broken We're broken people.
I'm standing in front of you I'm standing in front of you I'm trying to be so cool Everything together trying to be so cool.
We all sang. And God was there again. It didn’t seem like your typical call-response type song, and it was more than just thousands of excited fans who know every word to every song. It was broken people, singing. Giving a sort-of sigh of relief, as every single one of us could relate to those words. A confession almost, to ourselves, that this is what we were. The difference though, was that we were together on this one. Any doubt, fear, burden, frustration, exhaustion, we were experiencing-were released in that moment of universally understood and deeply felt....peace? The goosebumps on my arms aren’t really sure what the feeling was. I think it was peace, actually. A total unified release, that was felt throughout the room. A moment of unspoken recognition for the shit we all have experienced and are constantly experiencing. A manifest of all the pain in the nation and the cries of hearts, let go in one loud, flashy moment. “We’re broken people.” And we knew it. And for the moment, it was okay.
I left the concert feeling full. Which is the first time in a very long time I have felt that way. It was just for the moment. But I really I experienced something that was more than just a concert. Powerful shit. Truly representing the human experience and the power of spirit within us. All night, we moved in and out of holy and ugly, baring our true sides. We showed selfishness, and greed, then hospitality and generosity. We were spiteful, and rude, but found kindness and inclusivity. Any coin you can imagine, and we showed both sides of it. The human existence is obviously a complicated thing, and unique to every person. But it is also wildly the same. I think that’s how Twenty One Pilots brought us all together. They sing about brokenness, loneliness, heartache, vulnerability, hope, change....real things experienced by everyone, but no one can talk about. I think that’s why God showed up there. Those are the things God is looking to be a part of. The real stuff. The hurting and weary hearts of people looking for respite and belonging from a chaotic world. And God used the 8,000 of us there-despite all our tremendous flaws and incredible short-comings as people,to remind us that God is still working. God didn’t leave. I needed to be reminded of that. I’ve been feeling abandoned lately, especially by my church experience. Feeling like traditional places of worship, and “religious institution” are losing sight of the real stuff-focusing on the politics, and appointments, and “rights and wrongs”-we are leaving God behind. But I guess that’s part of the human experience, thinking that we know how things should be done. I miss God. But dammit if God is gonna leave me behind. Even if it takes a fancy light show and ice tan to get my attention again. Thanks God. Alright, I’m stupid listening.. thanks for showing up.
I think I found God at a Twenty One Pilots concert...