Vampire Weekend campaigns for Bernie Sanders, leads students to polls


Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig (left) speaks to students gathered at the Fiji house about the importance of voting on Friday. Koenig and drummer Chris Tomson performed their hit song "A-Punk" before leading students to the polls.

Nora Shelly, Reporter

Students were treated to an impromptu Vampire Weekend concert Friday morning before a student march to the polls event held for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the Phi Gamma Delta house.

Lead singer Ezra Koenig and drummer Chris Tomson spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 students and community members Friday morning about the importance of voting and the reasons they support Sanders before playing an acoustic version of their popular song, “A-Punk.” Koenig and Tomson then lead the crowd to the Evanston Civic Center for early voting in Illinois’ primary, which will be held Tuesday.

“I’m going to be honest with you guys, a few months ago I checked to make sure I could vote in New York, but I missed the deadline to register as a Democrat,” Koenig said. “That’s why I feel such shame, anything I can do — even if it literally means walking with some college students to go vote — is the only way that I can help my guilty conscience.”

Koenig stressed the importance of student voting, saying Sanders is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate and students’ votes will be key to a Sanders victory.

The singer also admitted that Vampire Weekend was in “hardcore studio mode” at the moment so he might not know all the words to “A-Punk,” which he did not. Luckily students helped him out by singing and clapping along.

“Very few things get us out of the studio,” Koenig said. “Walking with you guys to vote is one of them.”

Koenig and Tomson walked and chatted with the attendees to the Civic Center, where some went to vote while others took pictures and got autographs from the band members. Koenig and Tomson then left for their next events, at St. Augustine College, the University of Illinois and eventually Argo Community High School, where they will meet up with Sanders tonight.

The Sanders campaign wanted to stop by Northwestern to increase student-voter turnout and to get some out-of-state students registered, SESP sophomore Kyle Durango, the recording secretary of Fiji who helped organize the event, told the Daily.

Tomson told The Daily this was their second time campaigning for Sanders, and though he was attracted to Sanders’ consistency as a candidate, getting students out to vote for any candidate was the most important.

“Whether it’s Bernie or Hillary or Cruz, or whoever, I think it’s important to vote full stop,” he said. “We’re specifically saying that we support Bernie, but I think that voting is super important.”

Rodney Greene, Evanston’s city clerk who was helping with the early voting, said he was excited so many students were coming out to vote.

“It gives them an opportunity to get involved in the political aspects of the city since they’re going to be here for four years,” he said.

Greene told The Daily more than 3,500 people had voted thus far at the Civic Center, and that more than 280 had voted by 1 p.m. Friday, with what he estimated was around 100 Northwestern students among them.

Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield and Chicago-area activist Ja’Mal D Green were also supposed to speak at the event, but were unable to attend due to delayed flights. Although students may have been disappointed with the lack of free ice cream, the free concert and the chance to talk to Koenig and Tomson seemed to make up for it.

“I came out because I’m a huge Vampire Weekend fan, but of course I’m also a huge Bernie fan as well,” Communication sophomore Yadid Licht said.“Having an event like this is a good way to excite people and have them come vote.”

The event also drew Evanston residents and even out-of-staters.

Vampire Weekend fans Steve and Inna Pecar from Carmel, Indiana, were in town for last night’s The Who concert in Chicago. They attended Friday’s event with their sons David, a junior at Indiana University, and Mark, a freshman at Loyola University Chicago who had heard about the event from a friend.

“We are very impressed that they came out to do something like this,” said Steve Pecar, who said he is torn between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sanders but happy that youth were getting involved in the election. “It’s nice to seem them learn what the issues are and hopefully make an informed decision.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Rodney Greene’s last name. The Daily regrets the error.

Twitter: @noracshelly