When The Strokes arrived onto the scene just after the turn of the millennium to say they were a breath of fresh air is an understatement.
Following the gradual death of Britpop, the musical landscape had shifted to a world of Coldplay and Travis but thankfully, out of nowhere, old school rock ‘n’ roll suddenly returned in the most emphatic of fashion.
Bizarrely, The Strokes made their name in the UK before they managed to do so in their home country. After sending their three-track EP titled The Modern Age to a newly reformed legendary British label Rough Trade, the label snapped up the New Yorkers in order to release the now-iconic debut record.
The EP featured the titular track alongside the decade-defining ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Barely Legal’ which would all go on to feature on the group’s debut full-length album. The release date was set for January 29th and to promote the material, the label organised a deal with NME for the publication to give away a free CD of ‘Last Nite’ taken from the upcoming release in the previous week’s issue.
The decision would turn out to be a marketing masterstroke as music lovers around the UK, who had been pining for the return of rock ‘n’ roll, had been granted their wish in the form of ‘Last Nite’. Just two days after Rough Trade released the EP in the UK, The Strokes began their first ever UK tour of intimate venues in support of The Modern Age and tickets were like gold dust.
The tour kicked off on January 31st at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, and they would go on to visit Brighton and Bristol before finishing with two dates in the capital at The Astoria on February 3rd, the dates concluding four days later at The Monarch in Camden Town.
After the unprecedented hype that followed after the release of this EP, a bidding war would commence as all the major labels swarmed upon the band and fought out for their signature with RCA winning the race. The label would then release the EP in America in May. However, the response didn’t replicate the same attention they had organically evoked in Britain, the progression to fame taking a couple of years longer.
One person they could call a fan was Noel Gallagher, the Oasis man would reflect on the “hype” surrounding the band in 2001 before they took to the stage at T in the Park: “Well I got the record, and as luck would have it when we were out in America they were playing at a nightclub about four hours drive away, so when went in a van and we drove to see ’em,” remembers the discerning Britpop monarch. “And there’s only about 50 people there ‘cos no one has ever heard of them in the States, yet.”
He continues with his glowing endorsement: “And I thought, that night, it was the most exciting thing I’d seen since the Stone Roses,” said Gallagher at the time. “I think they’re the most important band right now in the world for what they may inspire other people to do.” Noel Gallagher would argue that he is very rarely wrong and he certainly got this one spot on.
Watch their full-concert below from their takeover at The Astoria on February 3rd, 2001.