The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more at All Points East review: we’re gonna party like it’s 2005

Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs  (Invision)
Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Invision)

If it weren’t for the sea of smartphones and disposable vapes, it could have been 2005. In Victoria Park on Friday night, the second weekend of All Points East kicked off with an unashamed nostalgia fest, bringing together the stars of the early ‘00s New York City indie scene and some of the newer acts they inspired.

Alongside The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and other NYC indie heavyweights, you could also see The Libertines, La Roux and members of Klaxons play DJ sets, and even take in an ‘indie sleaze’ set. If you’re going to target the nostalgia market, might as well go all in…

Across the day, there were only a few hints that we were in 2023. Most notable were Aussie punks Amyl & The Sniffers, who laid waste to the West Stage during a torrential downpour and are fronted by a modern superstar in the sweary, hilarious Amy Taylor. Then there was Picture Parlour, one of 2023’s brightest new voices, who are also indebted to The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but add a little more grandeur to the sound.

Nostalgia was the order of the day though. Firstly, the recently reunited Walkmen reminded people of their underrated status in the scene, with frontman Hamilton Leithauser a magnetic force up front. Their hit single The Rat sounded as urgent and vital as ever, and remains one of the best songs of the entire scene.

Then, after the raucous set from Amyl, Yeah Yeah Yeahs closed the stage with an ecstatic hammerblow. Perennial underdogs to The Strokes, the Karen O-led band have existed at second on the bill for most of their 20 year career, but Friday’s show made a case for them being on the top step. The show, drawing from all five of their studio albums, was impeccably tight, pulsatingly loud (a sad rarity for All Points East sets over the years) and conducted magnificently by their outstanding frontwoman.

Julian Casablancas performs with The Strokes (AP)
Julian Casablancas performs with The Strokes (AP)

Celebrating 20 years of debut album Fever To Tell, the band rattled through Y Control, Rich and more with as much energy and vibrancy as they had the first time around. “This is a Yeah Yeah Yeahs love song,” Karen told the crowd while introducing Maps, before correcting herself. “This is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs love song.” It’s also the defining love song of the scene, and sounded as potent and devastating as ever.

It was in stark contrast to this that Julian Casablancas mumbled his way through The Strokes’ headline set that followed. When the band kicked into gear and fired through the likes of Juicebox and Reptilia, they sounded as good as ever, but momentum was hard to build up when breaks between songs would stretch to multiple minutes of inaudible chatter from the frontman. On the strength of their hits, The Strokes still absolutely deserved to be at the top of the bill, but the hunger, desire and showmanship here all came from Yeah Yeah Yeahs.