It was only two years ago when The Strokes co-headlined the New York festival scene in support of 2013's Comedown Machine, so asking why it's necessary for the band to return again to Governors Ball 2016 is a fair question. But aside from the typical answer of "They just released new music!," there's one thing The Strokes bring to the stage every time that other bands don't—an undeniable coolness.
Ahead of their performance, I toyed with idea of wearing this iconic band tee. But that was immediately deemed uncool once I saw a sea of the exact same shirt flood the festival grounds. The Strokes' main stage set also began almost 30 minutes late, something that other headliners would be booed for (they weren't). Yet Governors Ball is right in their backyard, so leave it up to them to make their own rules.
Many people don't understand why the return of The Strokes, both on festival lineups and in the music community, still gets hyped up after all these years. But once frontman Julian Casablancas nonchalantly emerged onstage rocking a pair of red Converse and sunglasses at night, that magnetic, almost satirical cool factor—which they're well aware of—couldn't be ignored.
Wisely, The Strokes weighed their set heavy with classic hits, as they kicked things off with "The Modern Age" from their 2001 debut Is This It. Casablancas kept his sing-speak tone and playful banter steady throughout the performance, energizing the crowd with nostalgic favorites like "You Only Live Once," "Take It or Leave It," "Ask Me Anything," "Someday," "Heart In A Cage," "Last Nite" and "Reptilia."
In a tender moment, they paid tribute to Brett Kilroe, an artist who designed the artwork for Is This It, as well as Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s solo debut Return to the 36 Chambers and albums for Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters. Kilroe passed away from cancer in March, and The Strokes dedicated "Electricityscape" to their friend.
The Strokes also played new tracks off the just-released Future Present Past EP, including "Threat of Joy" and "Drag Queen" (the quintet also threw in a badass and rare cover of The Clash's 1980 tune "Clampdown"). But the way they seamlessly integrated with their older songs, it proved the band didn't really need to put out new music.
After all, they do have five albums and a handful of solo side projects under their leather belts. The performance served more as a treat for diehard fans who still weren't satisfied despite critics thinking the band would've already faded away years ago. And neglecting the fans' music cravings would be very uncool.
For more of The Strokes, check out an in-depth look questioning if the band is truly back, and see our conversation with The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. at Lollapalooza 2015 below.