To one proudly mounted Strokes flag but largely camera pans of shoulder shrugs, the early 21st century kings of New York City cool wandered on the Samsung stage 12 minutes late and partied like mid-to-late 2001.
History will remember this band as the last great gasp of when a print magazine cover was the most vital thing a secular musician could do. Singer Julian Casablancas still lurches behind shades like he’s nursing a hangover on a morning flight — he’s leaning on one of the age’s most effortlessly cool voices.
Without question, the Strokes drew the smallest Samsung headliner audience — where Friday’s Foo Fighters and Saturday’s Drake sets respectively made No Chair Zone markers about as walkable as the Mexico City subway at rush hour, Sunday it was a calms-seas place to meet friends and plop down a blanket at showtime.
“I love me some city limits,” Casablancas said three songs in, before quipping. “Will you keep it down I’m trying to work up here.”
But there’s tread left on these tires. “Someday” is still a first-gen-iPod generation vessel of romance; here it inspired inebriated swaying and punk rock skank dancing where you shake hips and bounce your bent arms like a Muppet.
But if the Strokes release an album in the woods, does it make a sound? Believe it or not the band has released two albums — 2011’s “Angles” and 2013’s “Comedown Machine” — with minimal cultural and critical resonance. And every time these records were displayed — still good, less urgent, cleaner rock — the band needed an oldie in between to keep the party going.
“Can I get more Weeknd in my monitor?” a mildly annoyed Casablancas said of the R&B pop star crooning across the park. “Why do they always do that? It’s like you can only choose one. I want to see both.”
The Strokes were here last as a headliner in 2010, an ACL wherein only M.I.A. performed under the hip-hop umbrella. Back then, assorted boomer bands like the Eagles still roamed the Zilker earth. The Strokes were grandfathered onto the bill tonight, but on a reputation of hard-living garage rock that sounds better than the album live: Albert Hammond, Jr.’s “Last Nite” solo scorched and punctuated the idyllic clear sky — and they didn’t have to save their enduring, defining anthem for the end.
Instead, the band attacked its closing run with “What Ever Happened?” from 2003’s “Room On Fire” — from an album so hotly anticipated that each member of the five-piece Strokes got his own commemorative Spin magazine cover. It was snarling and mournful, aching rock and one of the single-best performances of the weekend.
“Thanks guys I hope you have wonderful lives,” Casablancas said between encores. Thanks but we’ll settle for a quiet Monday morning at the office.