Photo Credit: Bao Ngo
Originally appeared on Grimy Goods.
The phrase ‘representation matters’ has gained popularity of late, a rallying cry that accompanies demands that Hollywood diversify casting. Though the symptoms are different, an issue of representation persists today in the music industry as well. The ratio of white executives to executives of color at the most powerful companies is troublingly high, but even setting that aside, the bands given the biggest and best opportunities are also overwhelmingly white. And what’s more, representation among fellow fans can be just as important as any of the above—after all, the fans don’t commiserate with the band itself or the executive who greenlit the project upon the release of a new album or at a live concert. Instead, fans are a community of their own, and the sense of belonging can be just as significant as elsewhere.
What must it be like, then, when someone feels out of place among an audience brought together by love for the same music? Bartees Strange is a lifelong fan of indie rock mainstay The National, but noticed that he was one of very few Black folks in attendance at one of the band’s concerts in DC in 2019. Providing more disappointment than shock, Strange set out to make his own mark on the indie rock scene—specifically by re-imagining songs by The National.