It had all the makings of an incredible celebration.
After HeadCount‘s noble and tireless efforts to register voters and engage the electorate in the political process throughout the circus that was the 2016 election season, the polls were closed, and their work was finally done–at least for the time being.
All that was left to do was sit back and watch the results of this monumental election roll in, and the HeadCount team had put together an appropriately monumental “soundtrack” for the historic evening. Billed as “Soundtrack To History”, the election night party was set to mix the pride of electing a new President with the familiar excitement of live musical improvisation: As a projection screen on Brooklyn Bowl‘s stage (and TVs throughout the venue) showed ongoing election coverage, a massive, star-studded Everyone Orchestra lineup would play two all-improv sets of music. Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits), Steve Kimock, Mihali Savoulidis (Twiddle), Vinnie Amico (moe.), Jay Jennings and Chris Bullock (Snarky Puppy), Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic), Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band), former The Motet frontman Jans Ingber, Karina Rykman, and unannounced special guest Robert Randolph served up two sets of incredible improv–the sort of special performance that stays with you, that inspires the feelings of appreciation, awe, and elation that live music enthusiasts constantly chase.
But on this night, the crowd was not buzzing with the fervor that this kind of celebration should have evoked–and it was no mystery as to why. While the band wailed away, the crowd grew increasingly distracted by the elephant in the room: despite virtually every early media source pointing toward an easy Hillary Clinton victory, controversial Republican nominee Donald Trump had taken the lead. As contested states continued to go in Trump’s favor, a palpable air of dread began to permeate the audience. Gradually, the crowd in front of the stage began to thin, and the crowds around the TVs in the front of the house steadily grew, fixated on the incoming poll numbers in stunned silence.
By the time the band finished their second set and began to take their bows, the outcome that virtually no one expected was slowly but surely becoming a reality. Donald Trump was going to win. The crowd was in a state of disbelief as HeadCount founder Andy Bernstein stepped onstage to address the audience, himself visibly surprised by the outcome. “We all came in here having no idea what the night was going to be like…We’re all going to remember this night for the rest of our lives. And whatever you think of what happened, we had beautiful, powerful music and we were all here together.”
At the time, these words rolled off my back without sinking in. The utterly astounding turn of events that we had just seen unfold had descended on me like a thick fog. I love and fully appreciate the unifying powers of music–more than most, even, I would venture to say. But on this night, that sentiment did little to console me. We, as a country, had just elected President Donald Trump. This man that has consistently horrified us for over a year was going to be the leader of the free world. The crowd thinned slowly, many in attendance reluctant to leave this small bubble of like-minded music folk and walk out the door into the real life.
It wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I was able to truly appreciate what Andy had said. Despite the crushing blow of watching the one thing we thought could never happen–the one thing many hoped and prayed would never happen–occur before our eyes, and despite the palpably distressed cloud that the results cast over the event, I had spent a historically upsetting evening watching incredible live music surrounded by great friends, all coping together. While no one is sure of the challenges we’ll face under this new regime, all is not lost. We can still create this magic. We can still strive to make the world a better, more positive place, even in the face of overwhelming negativity. Together, we can still do good. And that’s something we can all be thankful for.
Below, you can watch full video of the “Soundtrack To History” Everyone Orchestra show below, courtesy of nugs.net, and view a full gallery of photos from the historic evening’s event courtesy of Andrew Scott Blackstein Photography.