You know what Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend believes in? He believes in fighting for women’s rights, racial justice, LGBTQ equality, caring for veterans, better social security, and, yes, Ezra Koenig believes in Bernie Sanders. And on Saturday night in Iowa City, he gave Bernie Sanders and thousands of fellow Bernie believers a pretty awesome live show. Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth joined him on guitar for a performance of some classic Vampire Weekend songs, and they were backed up with harmonies from some very amped young women from the University of Iowa’s Hawkapellas.
Koenig kicked things off with “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” and then introduced “Unbelievers”:
“Ok guys, this next song is called ‘Unbelievers.’ But, I feel a little funny playing a song called ‘Unbelievers’ when there is a big sign out that that says ‘A future to to believe in.’ So I wanna say that, maybe when this song was written, it came from a place of frustration or nihilism about the world. But we’re so excited to be here because we feel the same way that you do about Bernie: He’s someone to believe in. So here’s an optimistic version of unbelievers.” (His whole performance starts around minute 45.)
And it was a pretty inspiring version. I felt optimistic watching it, even got some goosebumps. There is something about political rallies that turns pop music into a fount of hope. Plus, backed up by all those Hawkapellas in gold and black, the world seems so purely good.
Afterward, Koenig, a budding political activist, had more to say:
“We just wanted to say that song is a little bit nihilistic, ‘I’m not excited, but should I be?’ Obviously the answer is yes. This is the first time any of us have really come out to play music to support a candidate. I think we all know the reason why: This is a once in a lifetime candidate, somebody who was independent for 30 years. We don’t see people who have been saying the same thing over and over again. Thank god we have Youtube, we can go back and watch Bernie speeches from 1991, and he’s saying the same thing he’s saying today. In 2002, the same thing he’s saying today. And it’s not boring, it’s amazing. We’re so exited to hear it, and I’m sure you guys are just as exited as us that we’re going to get this guy come speak here very shortly.”
After Sanders spoke, Koenig et al closed with a charming cover of “This Land is Your Land”—and with Sanders himself, up on stage, kind of off-beat bopping and clapping along. It’s a beautiful site.
“Make some noise for Bernie!” Koenig yelled afterward, as Sanders embraced Longstreth. “Go out and vote!”