Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday The Strokes were the brand spanking new doe-eyed rock and roll darlings, taking on the world from the depths of New York’s bubbling magma of effortlessly cool garage bands.
As The Strokes dropped a new record this year and with Julian Casablancas’ birthday upon us, we are taking a look back at one of the seminal moments in the band’s career. The moment in question? The time they were beamed into the televisions around the world with their defining performance as part of MTV2’s $2 Bill concert from 2002.
The short-lived series has seen some great acts take to a pre-prepared audience with some of their best tunes — from the likes of The Killers to Kanye West — there is one particular show which will always be remembered as the series’ finest. The brilliant performance that left the indelible mark on their career was The Strokes and their sparkling show in ’02.
It’s a performance from Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti that is special for a few reasons. First up is the alleged chance meeting between Nick Valensi and his future wife at the show. Next is the plethora of dancefloor-ready garage rock that the band powered through to devastating effect, shining a light on the brand new sounds that were coming out of NYC.
In 2002, there was no band any hotter than The Strokes. With their record Is This It arriving in 2001 to widespread rock and roll adoration, the band were equipped with not only a shiny Smith & Western filled with target-hitting garage-rock bullets, but the rugged looks of a Hollywood cast and the spur-tapping swagger of a cowboy with nothing to lose.
Smashing through tracks like ‘Someday’, ‘The Modern Age’, ‘New York City Cops’ and their standout single ‘Last Nite’ to an audience unlike any they had met before, that’s because the audience was, for all intents and purposes, not Strokes fans. The group may have been the hot things from the East Coast but across the US they were relative nobodies.
The final reason for this being such a seminal performance? This is the moment The Strokes went big time and took the global audience with them. This was the moment they changed the script and ensure their place in the pantheon of rock.
Filmed in Hollywood the crowd was made up of music executives, well-dressed passers-by, and the odd Strokes freak. Having been born from the flowing underground movement that was surging through New York City at the time, from their earliest show, The Strokes had always come face to face with a crowd who were excited to see them.
This crowd may not have started out as a block of Strokes fans but they sure left the filming with all the bouncing and effervescent energy that The Strokes couldn’t help but deliver with their shrugging nonchalance. It was an act that was repeated across the globe.
The Strokes were beamed into the homes of millions with this performance, scooping up the last remnants of rock and roll fans who hadn’t yet been confirmed into the Church of Strokes. This was The Strokes finding their niche and carving out their own piece of the rock world to call their own. With this show, they burned their brand into the rawhide of America.
They were everything that was good with new music in 2002. Effortlessly cool, strumming through dancefloor bangers, and with or without their knowledge, changing the face of youth culture with every ripped-jean and leather-clad performance. This is the moment The Strokes became big time.
Watch the full $2 Bill concert from rockmusicuploads which sees The Strokes at full tilt back in 2002. The footage is ropey but the show is stupendous.
Pre MTV broadcast:
0:00:45 When It Started
0:04:12 Is This It
0:06:55 New York City Cops [1st take, HQ]
Official broadcast: [0:10:32]
0:11:32 Alone, Together
0:15:09 Barely Legal [HQ]
0:27:57 Take It or Leave it
0:33:10 Trying Your Luck [1st take]
0:36:50 New York City Cops [2nd take]
0:41:17 Trying Your Luck [2nd take]
0:45:00 The Modern Age [HQ]
0:48:45 Hard To Explain
0:53:16 Last Nite
(the modern age 2nd take??? who knows if it exists)
0:56:56 Meet Me In the Bathroom
1:00:16 Between Love & Hate