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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pete Buttigieg hopes to be first president to have played piano with Ben Folds

Illustration for article titled Pete Buttigieg hopes to be first president to have played piano with Ben Folds
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Every day we learn new things about South Bend, Indiana mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Unlike most politicians suddenly thrown into the national spotlight, most of these things are even good—like that fact that Buttigieg apparently learned Norwegian, one of the eight languages he speaks, because he once liked an author from Norway enough that he wanted to read the rest of their books that hadn’t been translated into English.


Now, more from his past has surfaced, including a newspaper essay he wrote back in college about pre- and post-9/11 pop music and that time in 2015 he played piano with Ben Folds at an Indiana show.

The above video shows Buttigieg jamming on Ben Folds Five’s “Steven’s Last Night In Town,” more than keeping up with the rest of the band. In an article for Esquire, Kate Storey asked Folds about the performance. Though the musician thought the idea of a mayor “sitting in” on the song sounded “like a possible train wreck” after being introduced to the idea, he was happy when they “went over the music” and it became clear “he was a very good pianist.”


“It was a very difficult song he pulled off,” Folds says. “I’m serious. He’s a fine player.”

Better yet, “Pete’s presence didn’t elicit the predictable ‘political’ feel that comes over an audience” and, thank god, “he didn’t take the moment to grab the mic and talk or linger on stage.”

Pitchfork’s Jeremy D. Larson recently brought up another musical highlight from Buttigieg’s past: a 2003 article for The Harvard Crimson that the site describes as being about “the music [he] heard around the Harvard campus for the past four years and [reflections] on the heady political times of the Bush administration, the September 11 attacks, and the pulse of the new millennium.” This being 2003, Buttigieg centers Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief alongside Eminem and, we’re sorry to say, Dave Matthews. The Crimson piece itself is fine, but analyzing its writing style and message is probably less interesting than simply noting the fact that Pete Buttigieg now represents the only time the United States has had a chance to elect a leader whose CV includes an essay about Radiohead, Eminem, and Dave Matthews Band as well as a guest performance with Ben Folds.


With interest in his run surging and more endearing stories surfacing seemingly every day, it doesn’t seem like there’s much holding Buttigieg back other than people figuring out how to pronounce his last name. Somehow, actually, he’s already got that covered, too.

[via Esquire]

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.

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