Despite wearing the loudest outfit in an arena crammed with 7,500 Bernie Sanders fans, Julian Casablancas didn’t have much to say about the Democratic Senator from Vermont. The Strokes were the headline entertainment at Sanders’ latest presidential campaign rally on Monday night at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and Casablancas took to the stage dressed like a lounge lizard who’d just teleported from a Comic-Con in Atlantic City.
Though Casablancas has gotten political before, The Strokes decided to use the Sanders’ rally to make a lot of official band news: They’re releasing a new album on April 10, presumably called The New Abnormal, Casablancas announced. They also debuted some new material, including the new song “Bad Decisions” and premiered a new animated video for the song “At The Door.”
To that end, it was more about music than politics for The Strokes: For a long spell, Casablancas let his cartoonish outfit make the band’s most grandiose statements. That changed, though, when local police started tinkering with the venue’s lighting toward the end of the set, citing a safety concern. In honor of the police’s impromptu meddling with the ambiance, Casablancas ordered the band into a rendition of “New York City Cops,” and invited some eager members of the student body onstage for a defiant frolick. With Casablancas their ringleader, the students were having a pretty incredible Monday night. The New Hampshire cops were not pleased, as was Casablancas’ intent.
It was the most outwardly political act of the night for The Strokes, aside from some vague and nonsensical musings Casablancas made about “pirates” and “business people” who “stole and raped for money” (these are ostensibly the kind of people Sanders will do away with if elected president).
What’s clear, however, is that The Strokes played the Sanders rally—officially called the “Bernie Beats Trump Rally,” ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic Primary election—because, like everyone in attendance at the Whittemore Center Arena, they stan Bernie. The Strokes aren’t exactly professing their Sanders-love from the rooftops, but the band did issue a chipper press statement ahead of the show in which Casablancas called the Senator a “dedicated, diligent, & trustworthy patriot—and fellow native New Yorker!”
So it’s no surprise The Strokes were there Monday night, fully invested in bolstering Sanders, playing their first show ever in New Hampshire in the dead of winter in a packed college auditorium. They opened appropriately with a cover of The Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House,” which was smart and cute and timely, but really only served to highlight how a certain 78-year-old Democratic Socialist had stolen the show just minutes earlier. It was Bernie’s house and The Strokes were just living in it—a fact both parties were cool with.
Scanning the audience at Whittemore Center Arena, there was a lot of synergy between The Strokes and Sanders campaign, notably conveyed on a t-shirt worn by droves of young supporters. The shirt features the Senator’s name emblazoned in the fashion of a Strokes’ logo. It’s a melding of their respective brands and an unlikely New York union, available for $27 at the rally. It’s a worthwhile question to ask which party needs the other more, and all signs point towards the rock band having a bigger void to fill than the ascendant politician gunning for the White House.
Even so, as The Stokes played some of their vintage hits like “Hard To Explain,” “You Only Live Once” and “Someday,” the vibe was nostalgic and energetic, and the swaying bodies in front of the stage gave one the impression that only Bernie Sanders could turn a political rally into a rock concert in 2020. He has The Strokes to thank.