To all the teens in the front of the line, he was the leader. The man. The father of the year.
John Wach, 47, sat in his folding chair under a tree in Canalside on Tuesday, where he had been since 8 a.m. Monday in hopes of landing in the front row of the Twenty One Pilots concert that evening.
The Cheektowaga resident was “dead set on being the first in line.” Canalside tweeted Monday that you could start lining up for entry to the sold-out show at 3 p.m. Tuesday rather than 6 a.m. as originally planned, and that camping overnight was prohibited. But that and a rain storm didn’t turn Wach and several other devout fans away.
When his 12- and 14-year-old daughters arrived at 11:30 a.m., they joined him at the start on the sidewalk across from the concert lawn. At least 100 people were lined up behind them.
They has perfect timing. At about noon, without warning, two security guards came by and asked the crowd to stand up and file a proper line: They were about to get a number that solidified the order they would enter the venue in.
Wach made sure "1" was drawn on the back of his right hand in black Sharpie. Others weren’t so lucky.
Michael Leljedal, 18, Caleb Madl, 17, and Manely Gavich, 19, were part of the original crew. They took their place at about 5 p.m. Monday and were the fifth group in the line. They braved the rain and hail and later decorated the fence they leaned on with another fan’s cloth banner, Madl’s ukulele and Gavich’s white bandana. Twenty One Pilot fans connect instantly, they said, and their new friends took turns making runs to Tim Hortons.
Madl and Gavich made theirs too late.
“I got my number, but my friends didn’t,” Leljedal said quietly, folding up his sleeping bag. As soon as the boys returned, they ran to find the security guards. A blond girl next to them lifted her round white sunglasses to wipe her eyes, upset that for the same reason, despite being there all night, she was a little further in line.
Everyone around each other began pulling friends old and new closer to ensure they were in line. A few groups on the corner melded into one after hanging out for five to six hours. They planned to go in together and make their way toward the stage.
“Concert friendships are the best friendships,” Katie Burgoon, 18, said.
It’s their love of Twenty One Pilots that brings them together. The duo's music is mixed genre, identified by fans as “schizophrenic pop,” and usually poetry-based. They’re not afraid to be different, said Clare Willette, 17. Their music is dark yet happy, and brings up important issues most other artists “push under the rug.” She said she opted out of a Regents exam to attend the show.
“I can’t think of another band I would do this for,” said Willette, who drove from Rochester with her sister and a friend.
Skylar Jensen, 18, said she couldn’t describe the band without sounding “super emotional.”
She and her friends Hope Brennan, 19, and Sarah Alexander, 18, got in line about 1 a.m. with a plan: They would sleep in shifts, have one person throw their blankets, Uno cards and other belongings in the car, and lastly, make it to the stage.
However, they ditched the part that included a house to sleep in.
“We were going to stay at my house, but we stayed on the sidewalk instead,” said Brennan, who is spending the summer with her dad in West Seneca.
As for Wach’s daughters, they said they’re going to have to find a way to thank him for saving them a prime spot.
“It’s crazy,” said Rachel Wach, 14. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s amazing.”