Bernard Sanders, the current frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has been known to thank bands for their music. He says it just like that—“Let me thank [band] for their music”—in his notoriously thick Brooklyn accent, and it’s the best. But which is the best of that best? That’s what we’ve set out to determine, ranking Bernie’s expressions of musical gratitude, though only the ones that follow the aforementioned pattern, of which there are, so far, 21. We’ll update this ranking accordingly as Bernie thanks more bands. Let us thank you for your eyeballs.
Honorable Mentions: Bernie has shared stages with the likes of The Strokes, Sunflower Bean and Vampire Weekend, and spoken highly of Prince and Phish, all bands worth thanking, but we simply have to draw the line somewhere, and we’ve drawn it at “Bands he’s asked us to let him thank for their music in a certain, specific way in video clips we’ve seen and can easily share on this website.” Please respect our wishes.
Technically, Bernie’s words at the nine-minute mark of the video above constitute a Bernie band thank you, but there’s a reason this didn’t transcend the campaign footage in which it appears. Hearing him utter the word “Dickie” is obviously funny, but there’s no joy in Bernie’s delivery. This one mostly just leaves us cold.
Bernie thanked Lissie in Cedar Rapids (at the 1:58:54 mark above), deviating slightly from his signature style by adding “that great band Lissie” to the thank you. It’s nice to see Bernie enthused about one of these acts, but it’s also off-putting—these bands are all Bernie’s children, and to see him play favorites like this distracts from the quality of the thank you. This isn’t Succession!
19. Sarah Lee Guthrie
This disappointing digital thank you, which Bernie delivered during a livestreamed coronavirus town hall, is solid but for one crippling Achilles heel: He touches his face during it! That is a major pandemic don’t, and it mars an otherwise functional thank you significantly. We’re all for hand gestures, but in these crazy times, Bernie needs to be protecting his health at all costs, not playing fast and loose with his fidgets.
18. Pet Symmetry
Chicago rockers Pet Symmetry opened for Bernie and AOC at a rally in Coralville, Iowa, in November 2019, and were actually on the receiving end of the first “Let me thank [band] for their music” as we know it. That said, this is as standard-issue as Bernie band thank yous get—he delivers the “Pet Symmetry” moniker 100% accurately, and it’s no fun at all, a huge missed opportunity for some quality “symmetry”/“cemetery” confusion. Granted, it’s the foundation all this was built upon, but it’s workmanlike at best. Little did we know, Bernie was just getting started.
17. Molly Burch
This Austin, Texas, thank you to singer-songwriter Molly Burch (at 23:10 above) is most impressive due to the stamina Bernie displays: It’s sandwiched between two others, but you’d hardly known it from the Molly Burch bit alone. He leaves off the “for her music,” sure, but it’s still a respectable delivery from one of the most consistent band thankers in the game.
16. The Black Angels
Bernie’s Black Angels thank you (at 23:15 above) immediately follows his Molly Burch thank you, and is laudable for all the same reasons. Here, the degree of difficulty is even more advanced: He’s already thanked two bands, and is about to launch into thanking other, nonmusical people, yet Bernie shouts out the Angels and doesn’t miss a beat. A pro.
15. The Venomous Pinks
What this Arizona thank you (at 1:23:30 above) lacks in technical proficiency, it makes up for with charm: Bernie is visibly unsure about the last word of the Phoenix punk trio’s name and makes sure to check his notes so he can really stick it, much to his audience’s delight. His pronunciation of the word “pinks” is a real Mona Lisa smile of an utterance—almost fascinating enough to distract from the lack of a “for their music.”
14. André Cymone
Not even a global pandemic can keep Bernie from thanking bands, and his thank you to former Prince collaborator André Cymone has an odd energy befitting these times of social distancing and mass anxiety. The rhythms of it, the little stops and starts, are almost as self-assured and funky as Cymone’s music itself. It’s no masterpiece, but makes for a compelling entry in Bernie’s oeuvre nonetheless.
13. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
This is the first band name Bernie’s had to utter that is basically a sentence unto itself, yet Bernie makes it look (sound?) easy, thanking Rateliff and his band (at 2:29:42 above) with a vengeance, though not “for their music.” It’s an impressive effort, with enthusiasm to burn (Bern?), but Bernie has definitely done more with less in delivering other thank yous.
12. Anna Burch
Detroit singer-songwriter Anna Burch was on the receiving end of a characteristically proficient Bernie thank you in March, highlighted by his blatant mispronunciation of her first name—Bernie getting your name wrong is a feature, not a bug, and that clearly wasn’t lost on Anna Burch (it’s currently her pinned tweet, as a matter of fact). He also includes a “for the music,” allowing the listener to imagine he’s thanking her for “the music,” in general, and not necessarily her own.
11. Jim James
This thank you itself is largely unremarkable, but the circumstances surrounding it are anything but: Since the coronavirus pandemic has forced Bernie to eschew the public addresses where he typically delivers his thank yous, he’s pivoted to digital rallies, the first of which featured him thanking My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. Later in the same video (full version here), he also effusively thanks Neil Young (“one of the outstanding musicians in the entire world”) and Darryl Hannah, but that one breaks the “Let me thank…” pattern pretty hard and we aren’t counting it.
10. Joyce Manor
Million Dollars To Kill Me
rockers Joyce Manor were treated to a quality Bernie band thank you in San Jose, Calif., on March 1. Since Bernie doubles up on thanking Kitty Kat Fan Club and Joyce Manor, the latter doesn’t get a “for their music,” but our judgment call is that it’s implied in this case. Points for the fun band name augmentation (which Joyce Manor themselves have embraced), but points off for the incompletion.
9. Austin Bands for Bernie
In Austin, Texas, Bernie thanked a collection of local bands (Honey Made, Scott Collins, Torre Blake, Color Candy, Sobbrs), and you simply have to admire the efficiency. The man thanks five acts in one sentence, and he puts some oomph into it—what’s more, he thanks two other bands in quick succession afterward. Concerns about Bernie’s age are utterly unfounded, if this thank you is anything to go by.
8. Kitty Kat Fan Club
California “funky metal” act Kitty Kat Fan Club were also thanked in San Jose, and if we had the wherewithal to just put Bernie saying “Kitty Kat” on a loop, we would do that. This is some of Bernie’s subtler work—he pauses afterward, in a rare moment of letting the thank you breathe. What we have here is an artist learning to utilize negative space, and it really makes the “Kitty Kat” part pop.
A modern classic, this digital thank you to Nahko Bear, frontman of Nahko and Medicine for the People, features one of Bernie’s most radically accented utterances yet. There should be a Netflix series about the musician titled Narkos after this. Bernie includes a “for the music” and everything, but his pronunciation of “Nahko” really steals the show here. Terrific.
6. Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grass. Laura Jane Grass. LAURA JANE GRASS. LAURA JANE GRASS. (*pounding fists on desk*) LAURA JANE GRASS! LAURA JANE GRAAAAASS!!!
Now, Bernie’s thank you to Texas rockers Sparta is a gem—the band opened for Bernie at a rally in El Paso, Texas, in February. It’s simple, but undeniably powerful. Bernie is an artist, and his trademark flourish is the a: phoneme. They might as well rename their band Sparter—throw out all the T-shirts and print new ones, because Bernie has improved you. This man could order “tarta sauce” in a restaurant and get exactly what he wanted. Sparter, better, faster, stronger.
Bernie broke new ground by thanking “Proto-mah-tr for their band,” reinventing the thank you form he made famous. It’s a sign of true artistry—never content to just go through the motions, Bernie continues to push his creative boundaries and reinvent the wheel, and the result is this extraordinary use of the English language. It’s an instant-classic Bernie thank you.
3. Lucy Dacus
We love Lucy Dacus and her band here at Paste, but somehow we love “The Lucy Dacus Band,” which did not exist until Bernie spoke it into being, even more. Just listen to the cadence of this—it’s as if he realizes he is creating a linguistic masterpiece and strings the sentence out as slowly and steadily as he can, allowing the audience to savor every syllable. We’ll transcribe it: “Let me … thank the, uh … Lucy, uh, Dacus Band (?) for their music?” With “Dacus” pronounced correctly and everything! Chef’s kiss.
2. Soccer Mommy
Bernie is in absolute top form here. His thank you to Soccer Mommy, whose new album color theory is out as of Feb. 28, is a tour de force. Not a wasted breath, no hemming or hawing, and he absolutely hammers the “Soccah Mah-mee.” We love Soccer Mommy around here, as well, but we’re on record that it’s a goofy band name, which makes hearing Bernie deliver it with such authority even better. This video is a precious gift to us all.
Here it is: the Bernie band thank you that made the Bernie band thank you what it is today. It’s perfect, from the purposeful pause just before “the, uh, Ratboys” and the not-quite-right embellishment of the band name to the contrast of a silly band name and the serious tone of a lifelong public servant running for the land’s highest office … it’s Bernie’s masterpiece, and we dare you not to chuckle at it.
Scott Russell is Paste’s news editor and he thanks Bernie for thanking these bands for their music. He’s on Twitter, if you’re into tweets: @pscottrussell.