Last night, the Strokes headlined a massive Bernie Sanders rally at the University of New Hampshire.
The legendary indie rock band took the stage before 7,500 Sanders-supporting students and volunteers, coming on after a stacked lineup that included Dr. Cornel West, Cynthia Nixon, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the indie band Sunflower Bean, and of course, the Senator from Vermont himself.
"This is no ordinary campaign," said Dr. West. "This is a movement that has a spiritual, strong coming together. It's part of the genius of Hebrew scripture—I don't care if you're Muslim, I don't care if you're Christian, I don't care if you're Buddhist, Hindu—it says the spreading of Hasid, the spreading of that steadfast love to the orphan, the widow, the fatherless, the motherless, the oppressed, the occupied, the dominated—it's rooted in the best of America… That's a moral and a spiritual dimension, and I thank god my dear brother Bernie Sanders has got the courage and the vision to bring us together."
"We're moving forward," said Ocasio-Cortez in her introductory speech for Sanders. "Forward to a multiracial democracy. Forward to guaranteed health care. Forward to a living wage. Forward to indigenous rights and honoring sovereignty. Forward! That's where we're gonna go! We're not going back to the days where people had to hide!"
Sanders is currently surging in nationwide polls and is expected to spar with Pete Buttigieg for the top spot in the New Hampshire primaries, which will be over by 7PM on Tuesday, February 11th. He took to the stage to cheers and the sound of "Power to the People," and delivered his typical invectives against the 1% and his calls for unity.
The Strokes, who performed last, remained relatively apolitical throughout their raucous set, which consisted of the infectious indie rock that made them into legends of the New York downtown scene in the early 2000s. They played some of their classics, like "Someday," and debuted a new song called "Bad Decisions." At one point, frontman Julian Casablancas announced that his album was coming out April 10th. At another, he launched into a tirade about pirates, who represent the "evil people" that "stole and r*ped for money" who "Bernie Sanders would knock out of office." He made sure to clarify that he meant "no disrespect to pirates" and added, "modern businesspeople? Way worse." The banter was strange, but the energy was undeniable.
Near the end, Casablancas asked fans to look at a screen hanging above the audience. He then played a new song, "At the Door"—an autotune-heavy, synthy number reminiscent of his work with the Voidz—while a psychedelic animated video played in the background.
The video "At the Door" appears to follow several disparate science fiction-inspired storylines, and uses vintage Disney-style animation. There's a little boy who leaves his house with a Grim Reaper-type figure after watching his parents fight. There's a superhero-esque woman who kills her captors and embarks on a heroic journey in a racing car. There are a couple of rabbits reminiscent of Watership Down who are forced to run from both an enemy mutant rabbit and a massive dark sun. And then there are a host of aliens, who seem to live in a paradise world on the other side of the real one. Filled with starry, surreal imagery, the video blends science fiction and fantasy with reality and seems to present different possible futures, some apocalyptic and some Elysian.
There are a lot of ways to read this video in the context of the rally. It could have little to do with the burgeoning political revolution that Sanders is leading. Then again, the rabbits, the little boy and the trapped woman could also represent some of the fear and suffering that occur in America—ecological disaster looms, suffering reigns, and mutations land people with incurable illnesses—and Sanders' campaign promises to fight these realities with environmental movements like the Green New Deal and beneficial programs like free college and Medicare for All.
Whether or not the Strokes' new video was a symbol of political revolution, it struck more than a few chords. But it was far from the end of the show. Casablancas had been complaining periodically that the lights had been turned on, and when someone told him that the cops were to blame, he launched into a version of the song "New York City Cops," an anti-police number. Perhaps frustrated by their presence and disruptiveness, and inspired by general frustration with cops, he invited audience members to jump onstage (much to the disdain of the present police).
When the show finished, crowds poured outside and launched into an impromptu ice skating session on a frozen pond, writing "BERNIE 2020" in the snow.
Prior to the event, Casablancas released a more political statement that said, "We are honored to be associated with such a dedicated, diligent, and trustworthy patriot — and fellow native New Yorker… As the only truly non-corporate candidate, Bernie Sanders represents our only chance to overthrow corporate power and help return America to democracy. This is why we support him."
The Strokes—with their private school backgrounds and rockstar ethos—might not be the most obvious representatives of Sanders' campaign. But something in the gritty energy of their music seems to perfectly embody the spirit of hope and determination that's carried Sanders' campaign from obscurity to the front lines of the future.