While much of The Bottleneck was excited to see a member of The Strokes on Wednesday night, what they didn’t realize was how much of a personal journey they were witnessing unfold in front of them. Nick Valensi, guitarist for The Strokes, spent three years making an album that explores an adventurous side of songwriting for him. Now, he’s exercising his musical muscles as he moves from the side of the stage to the spotlight with his engaging new band, CRX.
Every song CRX dived into on Wednesday played with different genres and tempos. These were all rock numbers with addictive hooks and heart-racing tempos. You heard new wave influences with dark lyrics, a stark contrast from Valensi’s chipper (and almost aloof) nature onstage.
The band’s good mood could be attributed to the fact that they pretty much had the Lawrence version of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” They were spotted at the Merc, they spent time at KJHK, they ate at Taco Zone, picked up a fur coat at a thrift store, and bought a guitar from Richard’s. Valensi was nearly giddy as he mentioned guitar prices in Lawrence and joked about the places he visited downtown.
By the end of the set, he was happy to hover over the edge of the stage and rock out with fans who gave him happy pats on the shoulder and were a mere couple of inches away from his guitar. This is a grand contrast from the last time we photographed him with The Strokes, barely able to spot him as he was tucked away on the side of a massive stage at a large outdoor venue at SXSW. This is Valensi’s opportunity to get back to his rock roots. He’s spent time in the same band since the 90’s, and now he’s hitting the road, playing small venues across the nation with intimate crowds who are eager to rock out inches away from him, as well as chat him up after shows.
CRX were joined by Streets of Laredo, a New Zealand act sporting beautiful female vocal harmonies, a heavy trumpet presence, and a large sound thanks to their many members. The Gloomies, dressed from head to toe in white (even their shoes), opened up the evening with impeccably fun numbers for lovers of both psych rock and leisurely demeanors. This was an addictively fun band that the Lawrence scene would just eat up should they return.