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The National encourages voter registration, support for Obama in Ohio State visit, Columbus concert

Tim Kubick / For The Lantern

Standing center stage in front of a young crowd at Newport Music Hall, guitarist and keyboardist Aaron Dessner of the New York-based and Cincinnati-bred band The National reiterated the theme of the night.

“The most important thing you guys can do is go vote,” he said.

The National hosted a GottaVote Concert Wednesday at Newport Music Hall as part of President Barack Obama’s GottaVote campaign to encourage young adults to register to vote and cast their vote for Obama. After the show some of the concertgoers and the band watched the first presidential debate at Big Bar, located next to the Newport.

And it was no secret who the band members would be voting for.

Lit from behind by a glowing sign reading, “Forward,” – Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan – and from above by red and blue stage lights, The National took the stage at about 7:45 p.m.

After encouraging the crowd to register and vote, the group kicked off the concert with its song “Start a War,” eliciting some cheering and clapping from the audience.

Nearly all the tickets to fill the 1,700-capacity venue were given away for the show, said Laura Allen, regional press secretary for Obama For America, which assisted College Democrats in organizing and hosting the concert.

Posters reading “Obama Biden” and “Gotta Vote” covered the walls of the Newport. And in place of the band merchandise normally sold at concerts was campaign gear, including T-shirts, posters and Frisbees.

The band played 12 songs, and those that had the crowd singing and clapping along were “Afraid of Everyone” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” off of its newest album “High Violet,” which released in May 2010.

Earlier in the day, the band members helped College Democrats register students to vote on the Oval.

Eli Collinson, a first-year in electrical and computer engineering, is an Obama For America volunteer and was also helping register students on the Oval Wednesday. He said having The National there helped attract students to the registration tent.

Dessner said the band managed to help register nine people during the hour they were on the Oval.

For some students, Wednesday was not their first time hearing The National.

“The National is my favorite band,” said Kerry Reardon, a second-year graduate student in medicine. “I volunteer for the Obama campaign, too, so this was perfect.”

Reardon’s friend, Michael Yang, also a second-year graduate student in medicine, wasn’t as familiar with The National.

“(Kerry) dragged me along with her,” Yang said. “But I liked the band. I’ll probably check their other stuff out.”

Preceding the concert, members of College Democrats and Obama For America handed out wristbands for the “after-party” at Big Bar, located next to the Newport.

After an acoustic version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” ended the show, Matt Berninger, lead singer and songwriter for The National, left concert goers with a political call-to-arms: “Now everybody go get drunk and watch the debate.”

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