Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past


The New Yorker Festival: A Conversation with "Dad Rock" Band The National

Bookmark and Share
Friday, Oct 14, 2011
The National are impressed they get more women in the audience than Radiohead does.

The New Yorker Festival

(1 Oct 2011: — New York)

The three day long New Yorker Festival hosted conversations with some renowned authors (Malcolm Gladwell), seasoned politicians (Nancy Pelosi), esteemed actors (a reunion and big announcement from the cast of Arrested Development, comedians (Zach Galifiankis) and engaging musicians (Mavis Staples). The connections between the moderators and the panelists were frequently professional and collegial, but one event was arranged simply because the moderator was a fan.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, earned enough clout to select whoever he wanted, so he picked the Brooklyn-based band The National to converse with. Apparently, their music plays in the background during his surgeries. “Psyched” and “giddy” to see the band, Gawande overlooked one small but important part of hosting an event: introducing the band members to the audience. Unfamiliar with each member, I wasted some time trying to figure out who was who. Other than lead singer Matt Beringer seated in the middle, the other four band members are two pairs of brothers - a fact that would have been worth sharing.
Gawande did succeed in exploring the band’s history, each member coming from Ohio, by chance forming the band in New York and being led by the “counter-intuitive voice” Beringer possesses, eventually coming to the band’s song-writing process. Apparently Aaron and Brice (the Dessner brothers) start by writing much of the music before passing it to Scott and Bryan (the Devendorf brothers) and then off again to Beringer who may possess “a lot of veto power”. Listening to the process, it dawned on some of the audience that The National have difficulty crafting their albums because the members are like “different countries” where Beringer claims he is “Iran”. As Gawande succinctly put it, “It doesn’t sound like any fun at all”. Asked what they enjoy, the band suggested that few of the members enjoy the performance. “In front of people under the lights” isn’t a natural setting but they appreciate it when they sink “into the songs” and create a connection with the audience.

The National’s musical performance, aided by a string group and some brass, touched on some non-album tracks and some rarities, as well as songs from their latest High Violet, for about forty five minutes. Seated in the crucible of an intimate theater and stunned by Beringer’s powerful voice, the diverse audience unquestionably forged a bond with The National.

The National. Photo Credt: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

The National with Atul Gawande. Photo Credit: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

The National. Photo Credt: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

The National. Photo Credit: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images



Exile Vilify
Think You Can Wait (Beringer flubbed the middle or “the good part”)
Wasp Nest
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Fake Empire
Terrible Love

Tagged as: the national
Related Articles
By A Noah Harrison
12 Apr 2015
From 27-29 March, Knoxville, Tennessee music fans were treated to a world of daring and avant-garde music at the latest installment of the Big Ears festival.
By PopMatters Staff
9 Oct 2014
These top 20 records of the '00s feature some familiar faces, but also several that, over time, have grown more fondly in memory.
30 Sep 2014
The National's seminal 2005 album Alligator shows the band, like America, to be lit up by white lights even as it is surrounded by darkness.
By PopMatters Staff
26 Dec 2013
It was a year of thrilling comebacks from legends like My Bloody Valentine and David Bowie as well the launch of major new talents like Lorde and Kacey Musgraves. These artists had the biggest impact on the shape of music in 2013.
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.