The Strypes @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire – NME Awards Shows 2014

Image: Aurelien Guichard.
Image: Aurelien Guichard.

I first came across The Strypes when they supported Arctic Monkeys at their Earl’s Court Show last October. That night, the wait was endless and I was hungry as hell but then the lights went down and some kids came on stage. I’m not going to lie, I was very sceptical to begin with. I changed my mind pretty quickly though. I enjoyed their performance so much that I decided to get tickets for their show in London as part of the NME Awards Shows.

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the band, here’s a bit of an introduction.

The Strypes are a rock&roll/RnB quartet from the tiny county of Cavan, Ireland. The four Irishmen have some strong musical influences from the 60s and 70s such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly and from their musical taste you would expect a bunch of old guys jamming in a half empty and poorly lit pub. However, the oldest members of the band, lead guitar Josh McLorey and bassist Pete O’Hanlon are barely 18, drummer Evan Walsh is 17 and lead singer and harmonicist Ross Farrelly is just 16. Yes, 16.

Back to the concert. It was an all Irish gig. Support came from Northern Irish band, The Raglans and Belfast based band, Southern. After a not so great forty five minute wait it was finally time for our main act. The lights went down suffusing a red glow and the room was packed. The kids around me started going mental and the guys finally came on stage. Guitarist Josh McLorey exhorted the crowd to ‘go f***ing crazy!’, and they certainly did. The set started off with an electrifying sped up version of ‘What a Shame’, the third single from their debut album Snapshot. The song was inspired by Arctic Monkeys and written while the boys were touring around Europe with them and you can absolutely hear the influence.

The tunes got catchier and catchier with ‘What the People Don’t See’ with Farrelly’s scratchy voice and McLorey’s guitar moves while he stood on the brink of the stage staring at the crowd like a shark ready for the kill. The boys then threw in a cover of The Coasters’, ‘I’m a Hog for You Baby’ and ‘Concrete Jungle’ – and no, not the Bob Marley version, but the one by The Specials. This prompted the parents who were dragged to the event by their children to start clapping their hands and go crazy, dancing to a great jazzy vibe. Here the gig got a little dirtier with ‘Angel Eyes’ and its seedy bass line à la Queens of the Stone Age.

Now we’re talking. This was the turning point of the night, and even the shy lead singer who regularly hides behind his black Wayfarers got more comfortable and whipped out his tambourine and harmonica. The guys then took us to the heart of the show with their radio hits ‘Blue Collar Jane’ and ‘Mystery Man’ – at this point the beers really kicked in and I was shamelessly jumping and singing while being judged by my friends. By this stage of the night, it didn’t matter whether you acted your age or not: the band was putting on quite a show and everyone was having a great time.

McLorey, who really loves his rockstar moves, threw his sweaty towel to the girls in the front row. At the end of the set, people started singing the band’s hit cover of  ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’ encouraging the guys to get back on stage and deliver an encore. Some guys were sitting on top of their friends’ shoulders and some girls grabbed McLorey’s guitar – that annoying little habit of his of getting so close to the edge of the stage really bit him in the ass this time, but they finished in great style. Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ played in the background while people were leaving the venue closing the night on a sweet note and wishing us goodnight.

Even though at the beginning of the gig I felt like I was babysitting and wondering who the hell gave pints to some 15 year olds I really enjoyed myself. The Strypes are an excellent group of musicians, and although they might not be the most alternative or quirky band out there, their musical culture and taste should be appreciated, especially at a time when people think they can be bonafide musical artists with only a Mac Book in front of them. It was a pleasure to watch them perform and I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more from them.


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