The Circus That Was The Strokes

The Strokes' Is This It

The Strokes’ Is This It

If you happened to be sauntering around Queen West yesterday in search of new pants or maybe some fancy boots, you’d have surely noticed the untold amount of Sloan Pretty Together posters stapled to, literally, every post along Queen between John and Spadina. If you didn’t know there was a new Sloan record coming out before yesterday, you sure as hell know now. You may have also noticed the ridiculous line-up of people trying to get into the Horseshoe.

That Sloan were getting some street-marketing love from their new label BMG Canada isn’t shocking. But what was interesting was how it represented just a small part in an elaborate plan that would pay off most effectively around 12:30 a.m. later that evening as The Strokes triumphantly strode off the stage from their free show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The invasion of the much-hyped Strokes proved an excellent opportunity for piggy-backing. Along with aforementioned New Yorkers, their label BMG Canada coyly set up an early evening showcase with Copyright. The catch, if you wanted to get a “privileged” ticket to guarantee admission to The Strokes, you had to go to the Copyright showcase at the Rivoli to pick up said ticket. It was a sly move for sure and it seemed to pay dividends as the plied-with-free-liquor insiders gave Tom Anselmi and crew surprisingly hearty round of cheers, though more mean-spirited colleagues of ours took great pleasure in deriding bass player Eric Marxsen’s Archie Bunker rock ‘n’ roll look.

And then it was off to the madhouse… It was a mighty surreal sight to behold a line-up to get into the Horseshoe that stretched well past The Rivoli and was three or four people wide. Clearly, a lot of folks were going to be sent home unhappy but the optics of such a ridiculous display must have been pure gold in The Strokes’ camp.

Shortly after the ‘Shoe doors were flung open and the kids with dollar bills between their teeth dutifully attacked the merch table, troubadour Pete Yorn took to the stage. He started off on the right foot with a cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” — an effective move considering the crowd of hipsters and anglophiles in attendance — but lost much of that initial steam when the weight of the inane chatter filling the club rendered him mute.

Around this time the celeb spotting began in earnest. There was Patrick Pentland from Sloan, some members of Treble Charger, Copyright, Robin Black and his ubiquitous posse of spandex casualties, hip-hopish upstart K-OS, Neil Leyton, members of Wayne Omaha and Maximum RNB and no doubt a whole bunch of others that we didn’t see just because it was too damn packed to actually move.

For the more disgruntled types, pretty much every high-profile music reporter in the city was hovering around as well, including reps from the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Eye, Now, local radio and Much as well as no less than 10 different Chart writers. All it would have taken was one well-timed machine gun attack and there’d be no more scathing condemnations of Big Wreck, Big Sugar, Our Lady Peace, The Watchmen or any of the other usual suspects we rock reporter types use as fodder for our elaborately constructed punchlines.

And speaking of punchlines, let us discuss The Moldy Peaches’ wardrobe. We’ll start with Adam Green, the skinny acid-casualty of a singer whose range of facial expressions ranged from vacant to, um, vacant. For one, guys wearing hats like that need to be shoved in lockers, and two, what the hell was that gossamer poncho get-up? Really? We’ve got to start a whole new paragraph for Green’s singing companion Kimya Dawson. Looking like a cruel experiment between an understudy for Cats and too many cheeseburgers, Dawson was somewhat more entertaining, though the cat-calls of “Get off the fucking stage!” were getting hurled at her and her band with regularity.

At least they played their anthem “Who’s Got The Crack” quite well, though few of the stern, and by this time sardine-packed, audience members picked up on the wonderful singalong possibilities of chanting “Who-woo-woo’s got the crack?” over and over. Opportunities lost, children.

From there it was on to The Strokes. The band were clearly on the top of their game as they ran through virtually every song from their Is This It album. Though the record isn’t even officially out yet in Canada, MP3s and a fortuitously early Australian release of the album meant a substantial number of the multi- hundred jammed into the ‘Shoe knew songs like “Hard To Explain” and “Someday” intimately.

Considering the stodgy and downright prickishly cold nature of most Toronto audiences, the zeal that bordered on fanaticism in support for the band was a sight to behold. It’s rare that the icy reserves of such a collection of know-it-alls and too-cool-for-schools would be broken down so effectively, but that’s because The Strokes showed and proved all of their advance billing. The band’s rock ‘n’ roll swagger made every machination, line-up and invasion of personal space moot.

Commence your “I saw them when” stories now.

This story was originally published October 3, 2001 via Chart Communications

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Filed under Concerts, Music, Recollections

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