Flash Factory recently made a New York Times list of Manhattan clubs that are keeping it real, but it probably wasn’t the best place for a populist Bernie Sanders rally – anyone who left a $2 tip on a lousy can of Bud ($9) and a Jack and Coke ($17) would’ve immediately blown the $27 they might have otherwise contributed to the Sanders campaign. But hey, everyone who showed up for last night’s “Bern NY Bern” party got free entertainment from bands like Rain Machine and Wild Belle, plus some Instagrammable speeches from Gaby Hoffman and Susan Sarandon.
Truth be told, it didn’t seem like the crowd of art kids were all that pumped about the event, which was thrown together in under a week. Sarandon tried to get everyone fired up by telling them that “being here tonight means that you’re going to be on the right side of history” (needless to say, not everyone agrees she’s on the right side of history, and she also called out the mainstream media). But with the notable exception of a young woman in the front row wearing a “SANDERS/WARREN ’16” trucker hat, the crowd of a few hundred people, many of them the sort of downtown die-hards you find at your hipper art fairs, mostly chattered through a solo acoustic set by Joshua Winstead, bassist in Metric, or inspected the room for some of the beautiful people comprising the host committee (Rosario Dawson, Zoe Kravitz, Charlotte Ronson, etc.).
Some of the hosts actually did get up to speak: Tennessee Thomas, owner of The Deep End Club, invited people to once again canvas out of her East Village boutique this Saturday and Sunday starting at 1 p.m. And actress Mickey Sumner made appearances with Chris Kantrowitz. Wearing a “FUCK POLITICS, VOTE BERNIE” shirt, Kantrowitz implored the crowd to “Go home, find your friends, smoke a joint, make some good shit— Bernie Sanders will fucking legalize it, you’ll love him for it.”
Speaking of drugs, pyschedelics guru and East Village denizen Daniel Pinchbeck also took the stage, urging the crowd to vote for Sanders so “we can have a politics based on authenticity, we can have people in office who speak truth day in and day out.”
For TV on the Radio fans, the highlight was probably the two numbers, “Give Blood” and “Smiling Black Faces,” that Kyp Malone played with his side project, Rain Machine. “I’ll be so excited to see Bernie in the White House—so excited to see democracy in action,” Malone said. “By which I mean people power— it’s so exciting to imagine America led by people and not by moneyed interests.”
Others had less intelligent reasons for backing Bernie. Godfrey, a musclebound standup comedian who’s a fixture at the Comedy Cellar, did an unintentional impression of a Bernie Bro as he led some chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” and then joked, “Is he winning? I don’t know shit… I just want him to win because he’s a New Yorker…I don’t know what his fucking policies are, he just looks like a nice old man that has candy all the time. He just looks like he has Werther’s all the fucking time.” (Hm, we’ve heard that one before.) As for that other New Yorker, all talk of “love” dissipated when Godfrey tried to steer the crowd into chants of “Fuck Hillary!” – “not even the women want her to win,” he barked.
Alex Levine of The So So Glos also reminded people that Bernie was “the candidate from Brooklyn” and described himself as a “one-man Clash” before he jangled through a cover of Billy Bragg’s “To Have and To Have Not.” He tweaked one lyric: “Just because I dress like this, doesn’t mean I’m a communist… or a Democratic Socialist.”
Between acts, Tommie Sunshine, one of the Bernie supporters who talked to us at the candidate’s South Bronx rally, worked the decks. To round out the night, Kyle Forrester and the Feel the Bern All-Star Band did a Bernie-infused cover of “Burning Down the House.” Sample lyrics: “Bernie Sanders, he stands in nobody’s shadow / I want to give a special corporate media shoutout to Rachel Maddow / She has got to be on our side / but she won’t tell anyone.”
ELEW, a jazz pianist who has performed at the White House, did blistering, Hendrix-meets-Chopin covers of “People are Strange” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Rapper Mapei turned up the energy and spat some Saul Williams before telling everyone, “You live in New York— instead of saying, ‘Sorry,’ and bumping into people, just say, ‘Vote for Bernie.’”
And the keyboardist for Wild Belle, Elliot Bergman, reminded everyone that Natalie Bergman, the hard-grooving band’s Amy Winehouse-esque lead singer, is also his sister, hence the band’s support for the candidate that “has love at the center of what he’s trying to do.”
We’ll see how much love is in the air during Bernie’s upcoming events, which include a dance party hosted by Lady Bunny and others at Lot 45 on April 12, a rally in Washington Square Park on April 13, and a comedy and music marathon at Commons Café, in Boerum Hill, on April 17. Among the upcoming Hillary parties are a bar night at Union Hall on April 11.