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July 2019
Festivals

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

What comes next  - if anything - is anyone’s guess, but for one summer evening, Victoria Park was treated to living proof that The Strokes remain untouchable.
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Published: 9:36 pm, May 29, 2019Words: Jamie Muir. Photos: Patrick Gunning.
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

The Strokes are the best indie band in the world. It’s not the sort of baiting statement that wants to lure in thousands of opinions, it’s just a stated fact. Only a few bands ever have come to hold such a place in people’s hearts that to this day, they remain peerless. No matter if there’s new music about or just a long gone memory, there’s a respective tier for bands like that and with The Strokes, that sense of mythology and standing has arguably been what’s kept them firmly on the top. It’s why All Points East is absolutely jam packed, streams of people around ever corner of the site as the must-see date in the diary descends upon Victoria Park.

Their influence can be felt across every facet of the day. Carving their own world, Egyptian Blue are an early highlight packed with potential and a sound ready to kick all sorts of doors off their hinges. Underneath the looming X Stage, that spirit of punk individuality is there but there’s something entirely unique and different about the melodic zips and dives they rip into across their set. A hefty unit whose sound already feels fully formed and ready to take on any stage they come across, it’s an eye-opening taste of an exciting new force bubbling under the surface. They’d be looking over at Dream Wife as a perfect example of the way forward, stepping out onto a scorching hot stage with a sizzling burst of energy that immediately grabs Victoria Park to shake any sort of early-day rust to bits. A combination of fun and fever, ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ is the perfect soundtrack for a band clearly enjoying the freedom and sights of larger festival stages - with new songs and sounds teased today gearing up for chapter two in the Dream Wife story. With the sort of live show that feels like a collective coming-together, Dream Wife have the power to easily convert thousands in a matter of moments - as shown by the packed crowds bowing down in awe by the time their set winds down. 

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

The air of carefree silliness is perfectly captured by Feet, playing the sort of prime weather set that most bands dream of every night before they play a festival. A crackerjack of indie-sorts, they bounce around and pull every gathered closer - a cleansing half hour of pure and potent energy that laughs and soars in equal measure. Recent cut ‘Adblue’ is an unravelling gem, while frontman George Haverson is like a modern day Jarvis Cocker throwing shapes and cracking jokes that sees the whole band join in. Whether it’s songs about dog walking and hot dogs or turning things to whole new levels on the scorching ‘Petty Thieving’, Feet prove why they’re ready to take that next move to the big leagues - a good time guaranteed.

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

You can hear Amyl And The Sniffers before you even see them. That’s the sheer force that comes with a band taking over the festival’s main stage with the sort of no-fucks-given charm that basically thrusts you into pandemonium. It feels like a moment - their debut album released to the world the day before, and that drive pours out of every note they throw at Victoria Park. With Amy Taylor prowling the stage, they prove just why they’re on of the most celebrated live bands going right now - making a main stage feel like a sweaty basement of frantic hooks. With mosh pits going and the band themselves thriving, this won’t be the last time we see Amyl And The Sniffers on a main stage - serving up a set that could rightfully claim its place as one of the day’s best. 

Just under an hour later, Victoria Park is getting busy and of all the bands to guide thousands upon thousands into the evening, Parquet Courts feel like a perfect choice. Undeniably accomplished, the New Yorkers focus around the party-pops and grooving backbones of latest album ‘Wide Awake’ - the title track itself sitting at the perfect moment as the sun rains down on All Points East. Full of scattery punk rips, it’s the most assured they’ve ever been. Old favourites such as ‘Borrowed Time’ and ‘Master Of My Craft’ are screamed back in unison and that rich range of what Parquet Courts now are as a band shines bright. Their slot feels like a step-up, making it very clear that if you need a party done right, you need Parquet Courts.

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

It’s fair to say that Courtney Barnett is pretty darn special. There’s something ever so natural to everything she does, and across two albums she’s shown a knack for earnest and direct songwriting that very few doing it right now can even come close to. It’s what makes her set at All Points East a real warming snapshot of a songwriter in her prime - delving across her catalogue with ease and whisking a packed crowd to another planet. Feeling intimate yet grand at the same time, the likes of recent cuts ‘City Looks Pretty’ and ‘Nameless, Faceless’ pack an almighty punch when melded with fan favourites such as the closing run of ‘Depreston’, ‘Elevator Operator’ and ‘Pedestrian At Best’. What’s exciting is that this set really feels like a glimpse at the paths she’s bound to go down next - an artist emerging into a real poet of modern times with one of the most on-point sets of the day.

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

Jack White’s had history. A scatter box of ideas and frantic moves, there’s been a lot of good moments but also a lot of out-there moments which at time have seemed to push away at the fans and standing he has. What’s remarkable is that, back with The Raconteurs, he finally feels reborn as if the surroundings of a band who last released an album 11 years ago has returned him to a level of showman that basks in those bigger performances. The Raconteurs see a giant crowd turn out to see their set, one that gives nods to across their career whilst also looking to the future and upcoming new album ‘Help Us Stranger’. For a band who’ve been away for so long, you’d give them some leniency if there’s some ring rust but for The Raconteurs that’s just an urban legends. It’s a furious set that rushes with immediacy as the music does the talking. ‘Salute The Solution’, ‘Consoler Of The Lonely’ and ‘Level’ capture moods - before ‘Steady As She Goes’ lights up the fuse to crown out a memorable comeback. This is the springboard for something more, and who’d of thought we’d be saying that about The Raconteurs in 2019.

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

It’s fitting that Interpol play today alongside The Strokes - with the history and importance of a time, place and era all meeting for a special occasion. While The Strokes melded in indie-heights, Interpol were always the darker, more dangerous gang around town that looked deep within to explore the bleak surroundings gathered in the world.

Their blend of mystery and swagger continues to reign, but history rings out today with seminal anthems galore. ‘Evil’ and ‘Say Hello To The Angles’ are beguiling and epic in equal measure, and 'Antics'' one-two of ‘Slow Hands’ and ‘Take You On A Cruise’ are effortless in their power.

While Interpol are firmed and fixed, thriving as a band in 2019, some sound issues mean certain songs end up blending into the background, that wall of sound that usually comes from the band fading away thanks to the volume on the North Stage - but all in all, that doesn’t matter when you have a catalogue like they do. Fans pour their lungs out from start to finish, and as ‘Obstacle 1’, ‘PDA’ and ‘Roland’ wrap things up - that hypnotic magic Interpol have always mastered continues to be a step above anyone else.

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

No matter where it is, what the time, year or day is - The Strokes have a special ability that means they can come along, plug in and grab that status as one of the greatest indie bands on the planet. It’s a feeling that throbs from the masses swarming the main stage as they await the return of a band who have the sort of place in people’s hearts that can’t be tainted, and it’s why when they do take the stage the next 90 minutes is nothing short of a journey.

As soon as ‘Heart In A Cage’ kicks into gear, arms and voices raise aloft - Julian Casablancas leads a procession that bounces off each of the band in an effortless whip. The Strokes have always been that band who ‘wouldn’t care’, who were too cool for any situation and it's that exact reason that made thousands upon thousands want to be just like them - but tonight there’s a glint of taking in the moment.

They fire across a set with a renewed energy. What’s bolder is that it comes with a set tonight that plays on fan-service, the likes of ‘Ize Of The World’, ‘I Can’t Win’, ‘Razorblade’ and ‘On The Other Side’ aired to jubilation as The Strokes rolled with every situation and moment. It perfectly encapsulates why the world first fell in love with them, doing things on their terms and unifying millions behind it as a vital shot in the arm for guitar music.

The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East
The Strokes prove they can still pull in the crowds at All Points East

An unstoppable run of hits fills a set that focuses firmly on their first three albums. ‘You Only Live Once’ sees Julian almost drowned out by Victoria Park, a one-two of ‘The Modern Age’ into ‘Hard To Explain’ practically scorches its way through East London while ‘Reptilia’, ‘Someday’ and ‘New York City Cops’ are once again greeted with an overflowing wave of passion and screams. The Strokes know exactly what they’re doing, and it all comes so easily.

Stepping back on stage to round out the evening, ‘Is This It’ feels like an undeniable line in the sand - a drunken croon of regret and despair that is serenaded back to the band. There’s a more practical reason for the serenade, and arguably the noted news point of the day in the patchiness of the sound throughout The Strokes' set. While some found themselves in a good spot to experience it all, for others, it became a minimal blur (something All Points East have since noted in a post-event statement), and all that was left was a muffle.

For a crowning moment, it’s an agitating end to the day, one with chants to ‘turn it up’ that Julian himself notes at one point during the set. It’s a shame, with The Strokes flying through a true greatest hits setlist, but not one that completely tanks the show - something that only a few bands could overcome. What comes next - if anything - is anyone’s guess, but for one summer evening, Victoria Park was treated to living proof that The Strokes remain untouchable.

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