Embarrassingly enough, I had no idea who the Strokes really were when I first heard of them. An older friend of mine told me I needed to go to Maxwell’s in Hoboken with her to check out this awesome new band. This was back in May 2001, before Is This It was released. Back in those days, I was already a fan of the Swedish rock bands like the Hives and International Noise Conspiracy and just getting into the new type of Modern Lovers-style rock-and-roll.
On that particular day, I was thinking, “Do I really want to go all the way to New Jersey via the Path from World Trade for this?” Note, this is when the Twin Towers was still a thing.
Well it’s a good thing I went. I was blown away by hearing “Last Nite” for the first time. I heard the songs and they seemed okay. You haveto remember, this was before Is This It was released. It’s not like I knew any of the words to the songs. However, it’s really cool I can tell people I saw the Strokes before Is This It was a thing.
The next time I saw the Strokes, I was living pretty far uptown and a short cab ride to the Apollo Theater. It was New Year’s Eve and went to see the Strokes with my friends. The show was a great escape from the turbulence of my life at the time – and by then, I learned all the words to Is This It. The show was fourteen and a half years ago and I don’t remember much, except that I was in Harlem and I couldn’t go back downtown to eat with my friends. I was straight in a cab heading home, sadly.
The next two times I saw the Strokes were incredible. The Strokes did two shows with the White Stripes, both at Irving Plaza and Radio City Music Hall. By then, those bands became my obsessions and I was looking forward to these shows all of that August in 2002. The funny thing was, I went with this friend of a friend to both of these shows as a mutual friendly trade. I was responsible for getting us into Irving Plaza and she got the tickets for Radio City Music Hall.
Even when I was a young teenager, I had the ability to get into any show at Irving Plaza, plus VIP passes. It’s a privilege that I retain to this day. Most of the time it’s an asset; other times it can get deadly, like with T.I. a couple of weeks back.
White-Stripes-and-Strokes-fest seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am sincerely glad I had the opportunity to go two days in a row. It’s evident both of those bands will never play Irving Plaza as a co-headline ever again, and if they both did, they would play at a venue like Barclay’s or Madison Square Garden.
Over the years, I caught the Strokes at Outside Lands Fest in 2010, Hammerstein Ballroom, Roseland, Governor’s Ball in 2014 – and I always had an adolescent love for them. It never went away.
On Monday evening, I went to the Strokes pop-up shop on the Bowery where CBGB used to be. It was a Strokes fan wet dream come true. The store has DJs, exclusive merchandise like LTD edition posters, and all of the Cult Records and Strokes discography. The decor is dedicated to the history of the Strokes and their early beginnings. It’s genius marketing concept to celebrate the past, present, and future. (Props to Paul, who did the experiential marketing for it.) The place even has an espresso bar!
I honestly went there to look for a someone to come with me to the Capitol Theater to see the Strokes. I felt that, as a fan, I needed someone that was equally deserving of an opportunity I got to experience so many times over in my early teenage years. I was seeking a Strokes fan, and found a nice Chinese girl named Lu that goes to NYU and was originally from Shanghai.
China is one of those countries where rock bands have to jump through hoops for the opportunity to enter and perform. That’s why you’re most likely to see rock bands go to Japan, and maybe Korea (there’s not really a rock and roll market there, but I digress) as part of their “Asia” tour. I also found a cool guy named Larry from Australia and made friends with him. It was a really cool visit and I’m glad I made some fellow international Strokes fans.
So, Last Nite, I saw the Strokes.
Their first gig in a small place (a Hammerstein Ballroom equivalent) in nearly two years happened at the Capitol Theater, 25 miles north of NYC, in a small town called Port Chester. To get there, I had to take a Metro North train from Grand Central, not the usual subway. I was so excited for the show and me and my new friend Lu couldn’t contain our excitement. Finally, after so many years – I got to see the Strokes the way I got to see them as a teenager. Not at Outside Lands. Not at Governor’s Ball. Just at night in a club, the way I originally used to see them.
Rey Pila opened up. I can say I was really paying attention to them because I was just looking forward to see my boyfriends again, especially Nick Valensi.
When the Strokes finally started playing, it was like a trip back in time reliving an experience that I haven’t had in years. So many years.
They opened with “The Modern Age” and “Soma”, and boy, was that trippy. I also swear they haven’t done “Alone Together” in fucking ages too! They debuted “Drag Queen” and “Oblivius” from Future Past Present. They closed with “Reptilia”, my favorite song from Room on Fire. Here’s the set list.
On the way home from Capitol Theater, I was geeking out with Lu over the best Strokes show I’ve seen in nearly ten years. When the train came, I got on it and overheard a few girls talking about Albert Hammond Jr. and his dating history. They were talking about some former Australian model he dated named Lisa and the deeper meaning of the song that Albert wrote about her. I also remembered Albert dated Agyness Deyn when she was the it model of her day. I used to worship Agy.
On the rest of the way home, I just stared out of the window figuring out how I could be as skinny as Alexa Chung ASAP so I could maybe land a Stroke one day. Then I realized that this is 2016 and all of them, except for Fabrizio, are married. And, of course, he has upgraded from Kristin Wiig to a model named Zuzanna Krzatala. Sigh. [JL]