What It’s Like to Be a Musician in Post-Election America

“Art is more powerful than ignorance.”

It was November 8, 2016, and I anxiously watched the television with my band in an Airbnb in the middle of New Mexico. None of us had imagined that our celebratory champagne bottles would be popped too early in the night for the wrong reasons or that our pantsuits would end up folded away into our luggage.

The morning after Donald Trump was elected into the position of U.S. President, we silently loaded our musical gear into the tour van in somber shock. As we spent the day driving to the red state of Arizona, I fretted about the all-ages show we were about to play in Trump territory. Was everyone going to be crying? Were they even going to show up? Or would racial slurs and sexist comments be hurled my way as I drummed? All I knew is that everything had changed.

As I stepped onto the stage at the Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, I saw a young, diverse crowd staring up at us waiting to be moved by something, maybe anything.

MUKTA MOHAN

Co-founder of Honey Power, an all-female L.A.-based arts collective, and a DJ at independently run radio station, KXLU 88.9 FM.

“I have absolutely felt a shift in the energy at live shows since the election results. There’s so much at stake, and, as our country changes by the day, there’s a contagious sense of urgency. It’s interesting to notice the environment at shows. I think it depends on where people are at in their own lives.

“I’ve noticed some people feel very empowered to take action and be vocal, whereas others feel emotionally drained and are going to shows to renew a sense of self. I have found myself in both instances—sometimes so drained that I can’t imagine having to leave my house to DJ but still do, and other times feeling really inspired and energized by the music and people around me. But overall, it seems like people are more present, more attentive, and more loving towards each other!

“The election really activated Honey Power and myself to get more involved in our community and focus on organizing events that raise funds and awareness for local organizations that are doing good work. It completely shifted our approach to what our collective is and what kind of work we want to be doing!

“When we heard of the fire in Oakland, we threw a last minute fundraiser at my house for the emergency relief fund with Girlpool, Feels, and the Paranoyds. When there was a confrontation at Standing Rock, we organized a letter-writing event at a local DIY music venue and sent out over 200 letters. All of this has happened in a couple months after the election, and I think it’s important that we used our platform and energy to encourage people to take part in supporting their communities and also to provide a way for people to have fun and decompress while still contributing positively.”

Richard Brandon Yates
Richard Brandon Yates

Nightspace

Ambient darkwave dream-pop artist based out of Seattle and New York City.

“I’ve noticed more of a crowd showing up, being loud and outwardly coming out for the sake of art and standing in solidarity with each other. There’re not too many of us, but we’re still here.

“Keeping spaces and what we’re doing alive and safe is really most important right now. We really have to show up and be present for each other; we’re all we have. This country’s future will be completely dominated by ignorance, if we don’t keep being loud and making noise.

“Art right now should focus on making a lasting yell, not a silent shout. A long vibration, not a first impression. Being an artist continuing to put out empowering work and make a real statement is a very important job, and it’s ours. To keep creating and being present. Art is more powerful than ignorance, and we need to keep inspiring people to be strong. We can’t stay quiet. I want to work now and make noise now so all the young P.O.C. and baby queers can pick up where we left off. Create, scream, and dance with less fear in us.

“I create music to heal. When I play it live, it’s a release. An exchange of energy. I’m giving out something hopefully others can take or find something valuable from. Hopefully the audience can find solace in watching me make noise, moving with me in solidarity. Art is an escape: It’s music, it’s empowering, it’s bonding, it’s love, it’s revolution, it’s coming together, it’s me and you and everything. It’s our tool, and it’s time to build.”

This interview first appeared in Tom Tom‘s Digital issue. 

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