From Within the Crowd: The Music, the Fans and the Rockstar of the Bernie Sanders Concert

The crowd observes at the Sen. Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City on Jan. 30. Photo by Ingrid Roettgen/TMN.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]My first major Iowa Caucuses 2016 rally enlightened me to the very real star power of Bernie Sanders and the enthused millennials that stand behind him. His campaign’s rallying cry #FeelTheBern, which has dominated my Twitter feed over the last nine months, made sense once in the presence of the presidential candidate — his strong rhetoric and lofty ideals can be felt throughout the venue. Saturday night’s event had a trifecta of presences to be felt — the music, the fans and the rockstar, Bernie Sanders.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The opening band at the concert and rally sets the tone for an evening of music and politics.
The opening band at the concert and rally sets the tone for an evening of music and politics. Photo by Ingrid Roettgen/TMN.

The Music

“I’m not excited, but should I be? Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?”

This section of the chorus from Vampire Weekend’s song “Unbelievers” poignantly captures the dilemma of enthusiasm during election season, and especially at Saturday night’s Students for Bernie Concert and rally. Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig prefaced the song at the rally by saying the band originally wrote it from a frustrated, nihilistic place. But for this event, Koenig told the audience that the answer to the song lyric is yes, they should be excited. For this event, it would be an exciting rallying cry for Bernie Sanders, whom he called a “once in a lifetime candidate.”

Jill Sobule, another performer included in the concert program, brought an equally political message through her song “America Back.” The song retorts statements from immigration opponents with the line, “Life was better, we lived right, life had a paler shade of white, when they sing, ‘We want our America Back.'”

Strong points of view from the musicians set the tone for the evening before Sanders took the stage.

The Fans

Hipsters, as far as the eye could see, filled the University of Iowa’s Iowa Field House. The line waiting to get into the concert, which started five hours before the doors opened, snaked all through campus, stopping at crosswalks and picking right back up on the other end. Each pocket of students waiting in line had a new combination of combat boots, septum piercings, man buns, army jackets and flannel, and a few t-shirts with Bernie’s face plastered on every inch of the fabric. One can only speculate as to why the majority of attendees stuck to their hipster uniform as opposed to donning “Bernie” wear.

Josh Hutcherson, best known for the Hunger Games movie series, takes the stage to convince attendees of Bernie's viability as a candidate.
Josh Hutcherson, best known for the Hunger Games movie series, takes the stage to convince attendees of Bernie’s viability as a candidate. Photo by Ingrid Roettgen/TMN.

Beyond the clothing, the overall mentality of the crowd leaned young as well. When the doors opened to the venue, ralliers burst into the concert space, jockeying for front row place as if at a summer festival. Teen couples were hanging on each other while waiting for events to start up. Enthused viewers silently cheered with vigorous head nods in response to statements Bernie made during his speech. One attendee said “Trump, Trump, Trump!” during pre-rally events in the sarcastic tone perfected by millennials, only to be chastised by his friend, saying “Don’t even joke about that.”

The rare individuals I saw who looked over 25 were there with their high school or college-aged children. The even more rare individuals over the age of 60 were not phased by the overwhelmingly young crowd. One older man called the energy at the rally “epic.”

The Rockstar

Movie star Josh Hutcherson graced the stage of the Bernie Sanders rally, much to the pleasure of the young teenage girls. Yet, the international movie star didn’t receive the loudest or most passionate applause — when Bernie Sanders came onstage, the crowd exploded in excitement and carried the enthusiasm all throughout his speech.

Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd of nearly 3,500 attendees at the University of Iowa. Photo by Ingrid Roettgen/TMN.

Any doubts that the majority of people attending the rally were actually here to see Bernie Sanders and not just the the musicians and celebrities were quelled after seeing and feeling the crowd reaction during his speech. Yes, much of what he said during his rhetoric is easy to cheer along to – ending racial inequality, pushing for women’s reproductive rights, fighting climate change – but the passion was felt there alongside the logical support.

One girl in the crowd, anxiously waited to shout the Bernie slogan, “Enough is Enough,” along with Bernie during his speech, then quickly turned to her friend and cried, “I’ve been dying to say that!” like she just sang along with her favorite band to their hit song.

Though flanked by musicians and celebrities, Sanders stole the show as the rockstar Saturday evening.

If you liked this piece, be sure to check out Mary’s perspective from within the crowd a the Trump and Clinton rallies, coming soon.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]