The photograph of Sen. Bernie Sanders sitting in isolation, waiting for the Biden-Harris swearing-in Wednesday morning, had turned into a cottage industry for memes before the ceremony was even over. And for some reason, it particularly appealed to members of the music community, who could relate to the insufferability of perennially waiting around for something to happen — even if mittens usually aren’t part of the picture.
Perhaps the most popular of the Bernie/music memes is one put up by the band Pup, created by the group’s tour manager, Dan Case. It recasts Impatient Inaugural Bernie as Had-Enough Merch-Table Bernie, ready to sell some T-shirts, with folded arms that make it clear he’d rather be taking on big business or the health care system than having to carry unopened packages of CDs back to the van.
Variety reached the man behind the meme, who explained his inspiration: “Being a merch person for a support band can be a tough, thankless gig,” says Case the tour manager. “You have to stay at the table all night with the hopes that someone finally pays attention to what you’re selling. I’m sure Bernie can relate to this.”
Says Pup’s own Steve Sladowski: “The image the internet fell in love with today is the sort of perfect crystallization of Dan’s singular ability to keep us all sane and laughing when we tour together. We could not do the job that we do without him, just as every band you love could not do the work they do without the numerous crew members and people working behind the scenes.” (Anyone who wants to check out the band, sans merch opportunities, can check them out Thursday on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series.)
— PUP (@puptheband) January 20, 2021
In a way, beyond just being absurdist and funny, the club-set memes feel like nostalgia for all the things music fans or crew members used to find terribly irritating about attending or running concerts… which, of course, we’d give anything to have back now, even if we might still be a little grumpy once we’re taking live shows for granted again.
The Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn put Sanders in charge of the club’s guest list. There are emotional mysteries behind the mask, of course, but in this instance, as opposed to the merch stand, we can guess that Sanders is prepared to not take any crap from crashers who might insist the band made a mistake in leaving their names off the list.
Guest list for all pic.twitter.com/3BIJXTyFNr
— saint vitus (@saintvitusbar) January 20, 2021
Sometimes no Photoshop was required to come up with a resonant one, as with an indie label that determined Sanders best represented the lone club attendee on a night out who has suddenly looked at the overpacked lineup of bands and realized it’s going to be a very, very long night.
Realizing it’s four bands not three pic.twitter.com/8UAh6QXtXh
— Polyvinyl Record Co. (@Polyvinyl) January 20, 2021
Although, for all we know, Sanders was grinning beneath the mask (although the lack of smile lines would indicate otherwise), his meme may be destined to become the greatest attitudinal meme setup since McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed”-looking facial scrunching while getting a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. For the record, Maroney insisted she made that face “all the time” and it was not meant to convey chagrin or superiority… just as meme subjects Sad Keanu and Sad Ben Affleck were compelled to eventually explain that they were not, in fact, sad. Perhaps Sanders will come forward, too, explaining that this is his natural posture of delight.
Anyone done this yet? pic.twitter.com/Kr7Q1OZJ65
— Adam B. Vary (@adambvary) January 20, 2021
Although the memes set at mundane rock shows are for some reason the most rib-tickling, there’s been no shortage of tweeters transporting Sanders into famous album cover art, too — as with a circulating example that positions Sanders in covers by Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Drake.
some album covers with cold Bernie pic.twitter.com/teg6TWBdXV
— Pigeons & Planes (@PigsAndPlans) January 20, 2021
By the way, anyone who would like to wear the same mittens as Sanders to concerts, when they resume: They have officially been sourced.
Bernie’s mittens are made by Jen Ellis, a teacher from Essex Junction, Vt. She gave them to him 2+ years ago and was surprised when he began wearing them on the campaign trail. They are made from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles. pic.twitter.com/ErLr29lY2t
— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) January 20, 2021
Scour social media long enough, and you may even find yourself — or your swag — going down the rabbit hole of Bernie in nightclub wonderland.