NEW YORK, June 5, (AFP): The Strokes set off a cultural moment when they emerged 15 years ago in New York, opening the century with a throwback to the brusque punk aesthetic.
The rockers returned at full volume to their signature sound Friday night as they headlined the first day of their hometown’s Governors Ball festival, where the band presented its first new music in three years.
With the knowing title of “Future Present Past,” the new EP by The Strokes, released on Friday, consists of three original songs with echoes of artists who preceded them.
The first track, “Drag Queen,” takes on the gloomy atmospherics of Joy Division with a dark synthesizer giving way to a heavy bass.
On “Threat of Joy,” frontman Julian Casablancas takes on the spoken-word singing manner of Lou Reed for a track that explores the social constraints imposed by relationships.
However with its tight rock structures, the EP moves closer to The Strokes’ early work than recent experimentation.
The band’s last full album, 2013’s “Comedown Machine,” brought a backdrop of 1980s-style synthpop beats.
The band members have since pursued side projects with the frontman going for an abrasive, industrial sound with his group Julian Casablancas and The Voidz.
While playing tracks from the new EP, The Strokes — who have performed sparingly in recent years — went straight at Governors Ball into the crowd-pleasers from their debut album, 2001’s “Is This It.”
The album, which came out weeks before the September 11 attacks devastated New York, has come to be a milestone that ushered in an era of raw garage rock — as well as skinny jeans.
However influential, Casablancas is not one for conversation. “Say hi to your mothers,” he said by way of a departure statement.
Just weeks after the sudden death of Prince, the Purple One appeared in spirit at Governors Ball, which takes place on Randall’s Island in New York City’s East River.
Prince’s image, as it appeared on the cover of his 1981 album “Controversy,” looked out at fans on the grass alongside portraits of other recently deceased stars.
Alternative rock great Beck honored Prince with a rendition, mostly faithful with a touch more acoustic guitar, of “Raspberry Beret.”
With a bass-dominant back-up band, Beck also offered snippets of Prince’s “1999” as well as “China Girl” by David Bowie, who died in January.
Beck last year pulled off an upset when his melancholy “Morning Phase” won the Grammy for Album of the Year, with Prince presenting the award.
Beck confided to the Governors Ball crowd that he was “terrified” to see Prince but decided to hug him, not expecting to have another opportunity to meet the reclusive artist.
Beck later looked for a photograph of the moment. “When I found it, there was a big smile on his face,” he said.
Bloc Party, the versatile London rockers who glide between pop, punk and electro, also paid tribute to Prince with a mash-up of his “I Would Die 4 U.”
Showing composure rather than risking mangling the song, frontman Kele Okereke sang while reading from a handheld sheet of white paper and did not dare go into Prince’s falsetto range.
Robyn, the Swedish electropop singer who has performed few live shows recently, took an unusual approach of remixing most of her songs.
Dancing across the stage, Robyn surprised the crowd with unidentifiable versions of much of her work.
Other major artists Saturday included the warm-spirited New York dance duo Matt and Kim, always a favorite of festival crowds, and indie rocker Father John Misty who put away his sometimes outlandish stage theatrics for a straight-forward performance.
Christine and the Queens, the introspective French electro singer who was closing a North American tour, led her quartet of tightly choreographed male dancers as she delighted an audience despite light rain.
Governors Ball runs for three days with rap superstar Kanye West the headliner on Sunday.
Despite opposition from six-year-old Governors Ball, a second music festival will start next month in New York, also on Randall’s Island.
Called Panorama, it is being put together by the promoters behind California’s lucrative Coachella festival amid a US boom in live music.
BERLIN: A rock festival in western Germany was suspended Saturday after scores of people were injured in a lightning storm and forecasters predicted more severe weather.
Paramedics said more than 70 people were hospitalized after a storm struck the Rock am Ring festival late Friday at a former airfield near Mendig, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Frankfurt.
Organizers on Saturday urged tens of thousands at the festival to seek shelter in their tents or cars, saying local authorities had ordered them to put the festival on hold.
“It’s not about causing panic but giving people the feeling that someone is looking after them,” said Marek Lieberberg, head of the organizers.
The German Red Cross said 72 people were taken to the hospital due to the storm — including those who got electric shocks from nearby lighting strikes, were hit by flying debris or had serious asthma attacks. Spokesman Frank Bredel said one person had to be revived by paramedics and remained in critical condition Saturday.
Rock am Ring is one of the most popular festivals in Germany and has been staged since 1985. Performers this year include Tenacious D, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Black Sabbath.
Lieberberg dismissed reports that organizers had failed to act quickly enough to warn music fans about the storm, blaming instead the “catastrophic weather situation in Germany” for the large number of injuries.