On being a nationalist #ntl

Being a nationalist in the 21st century is hardly voguish. After all nationalism implies hefty loyalty to a particular cause. It also requires a willingness to participate in events and media binding you to concepts of nation and nationality. More importantly it necessitates a profound and continuing sense of togetherness. In an age when the transience of our focus shifts from tweet to post with IMG_20140716_212508hitherto unexperienced speed, adhering to the specifics of nationalism is difficult, if not impossible. Impossible that is unless you have discovered Indie Rock band The National.  One night in a hot tent with a few thousand others in the west of Ireland in mid July listening to The National and you will be hooked. One night with The National and being a nationalist will become your new and, perhaps, your sole preoccupation. One night with The National and your love of popular culture’s mob tendencies, minus the ugliness, will be renewed.

Inflated and exaggerated these claims may seem, but having witnessed The National bring their audience on a “blood buzz” last week at the Galway Arts Festival, I am convinced of their merit  now more than ever. If this has happened to you in Galway or elsewhere then it has probably become  impossible toIMG_20140716_234430 avoid embracing nationalism. You will find yourself scrolling their Instagram posts, liking them on Facebook, waiting for notifications on Twitter and seeking out possibilities to hear them play once more. You will connect with other fans and seek out reasons to discuss the band’s  gradual yet stunning rise from the sparsity of their early albums to the beautiful craft of  Boxer and Alligator, and later to the heartbreaking layers of High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me. You can probably find little else to think about other than stunning honesty of Mr November or that suspended moment when The National yielded their acoustic offerings of Vanderlyle, Cry Baby, Cry to the audience. This is the kind of focus that makes you a new nationalist. And no, it doesn’t matter that you have already seen them play twice this year because The National provoke that kind of dedication in their fans.

But what is it about The National that prompts people to follow a band  that  in many ways are subtle, discreet and underwhelming? Perhaps it is the very honesty of their subtlety that appeals to their fans. Being a fan of The National allows you to join with others in melodic mappings of failure’s heartbreak, the vulnerability of human weakness, terrible loss and the fear of joy’s abrupt truncation. Matt Berninger and the other members touch these tender human traces  making their fan their peer and not their idoliser. The National pull the threads of pain and exhilaration out of all of us to form a binding togetherness that can only be described as being a nationalist. The loose binding of a hashtag #ntl goes deeper when you are a nationalist. Am I a fan? Just a little…

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