Live Review: Five Years of Strap Originals // 100 Club, London, 29.05.24


Tonight marks five years of the record label Strap Originals, and what better way to celebrate the landmark than throwing a party! All eight artists on the label are performing through the mini tour of Manchester and London in a show of love and support for the success of the label.

Strap Originals is co-owned by Peter Doherty and Jai Stanley, who is also Doherty’s manager, and contains some of the most exciting bands in the industry. Tonight is the first leg of two nights at London’s legendary 100 Club, the scene of many a wild rock ‘n’ roll night and the bill features Evan Williams, a Q&A with Peter Doherty and a headline set by Trampolene.

First up to the stage is Evan Williams, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter. Backed with a full band they open with ‘The Doghouse’, the melodic intro leading the track before it hits you with its punchy chorus. “We’re from planet Thanet” announces Williams, proud of his Kent roots. 

‘Ride On’, livens the crowd with its driving bouncing bass, which climaxes with Williams’ Elvis-inspired leg shaking finale. ‘Traffic Lights’ is moody, atmospheric and has themes of moving and separation. Williams plays keys for a new song, which has a familiar refrain and is almost haunting. Considering the band was still running through it in the smoking area it sounded good live. 

They finish on ‘The Arsonist’ the most polished and complete track which showcases Williams’ passionate and roaring vocal performance. He is full of commitment and belief, the band slightly wavering and nervous behind him. Doherty later states that Williams got discovered working behind the bar at the Albion Rooms, and in a neat full circle he has recently finished the recording of his debut album and he is clearly excited for the fruits of his labour to be released into the wild, on this form it will be worth checking out. 

Matt Wilkinson enters the stage with label boss Peter Doherty for what is billed as a Q&A, but the presence of guitars beside Doherty indicates the audience will be treated to more. Doherty describes that he started the label when in the Puta Madres in order to release the album they recorded and it went from there. Jai Stanley, a former semi-professional footballer, is “his eldest friend from school and the most reliable person he knows” and so the obvious choice to form a label with. Doherty is now the elder statesman of the alternative rock scene, and has experienced highs and lows and lived to tell the tale. 

We are quickly treated to an impromptu solo gig, with Doherty playing ‘All At Sea’  a song which first originated in the Babyshambles sessions in early 2003. This induces a mass sing-along, to the wistful and lost lyrics of a previous time in Doherty’s life.  

There is a hushed silence in the room as ‘Merry Go Round’ is performed with its playful childlike lyrics. Originally starting out with The Libertines this song ended up on the debut Babyshambles album. The song is gentle and delicate and has lost none of its charm over the years. 

His storytelling skills are nearly as well refined as his songwriting. Doherty did reveal that there is a secret, or not so secret now, project to release the legendary Babyshambles sessions, which were originally given away free on the internet. His label at the time, Rough Trade considered it “suicidal commercially”, but Doherty ever the purest thought “f*ck it”.

Doherty played a cover from one of the new Strap Original artists, Tomas Irwin titled “Tommy Was Born A County Antrim Boy”. He explained how he met Thomas busking in Berlin and invited him to support him that night. Doherty’s passion for music is vital in these times when it has never been harder for a new act to break through and the industry is suffering. 

‘Songs They Never Play On The Radio’ from the latest Libertines album was played, which is a beautiful tender number, which feels like a post-war romantic, yearnful and sentimental for previous years. 

Doherty also let slip that he has a new solo album all mixed and getting ready to be released in October/November time, which he described as a bit “country-ish Alan Moss” style. He debuted a new track from the album, ‘Felt Better Alive’ which has reference points of North London and Margate but to my ears, it felt like a lonesome cowboy venturing through towns observing the people and places and singing his blues. Doherty leaves the stage with the crowd in raptures. 

The PA blasts out to the ‘Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite’ which fades out to the ‘Artwork of Youth’ the spoken word tales of firsts in the playground as Trampolene bounces onto the stage. The three-piece launch into ‘Sort Me Out’ from their latest album ‘Rules of Love & War’. The song’s thrashing guitar blends in with the vocal harmonies. Jack Jones the charismatic frontman grins widely at the crowd as they chant “You Jack b*stard”. 

The start of the set is marred with technical issues with a disobedient mic stand then the guitar and amp start playing up, but ever the professional the band play through. The crowd helps out by singing the guitar parts.

Jones elevates in front of the audience to perform ‘Ketamine’ a poetic ode to the horse tranquilizer, perched up high he leads the crowd through as they scream ketamine in response. ‘Thinking Again’ follows with its slowly building eerie intro before the waves crash into the hopeful verses. ‘Imagine Something Yesterday’ has a harder rock edge with a softer vocal chorus intertwined with a lovely melody. 

Jones is a wordsmith, creating instantly catchy couplets. He shares the microphone with the front row of the crowd for ‘No Love No Kisses’ who enjoy the interaction, albeit they sound tone deaf. There is a blurry frantic shape of a man thrashing around the stage. At times he is closer to the ceiling than the stage.

‘Uncle Brian’s Abattoir’ is the best example of the marrying of Jones’s poetry with the music. Doherty returns to the stage to sing the chorus whilst spinning his hat on a cane. The song ends with a beautiful moment as bass player Wayne Thomas is embraced by both Doherty and Jones in a three-man pile-up.

‘Alcohol Kiss’ has the venue pulsating and raucous as the riff kicks in. A clear crowd favourite, Jones runs like a manic from mic to mic, both positioned on opposite sides of the stage, to duet with himself. Jones is as natural a frontman as you can find and easily entertains the crowd with his natural charm. The song’s pace slows for the final verse, giving the song a different angle, more melancholic, and sadder. With more space between the notes of the riff, it allows it to breathe and reverberate around the room and the lyrics take on new meaning before it lifts for the final frenzied crescendo. 

The set ends with ‘Pound Land’, a poem to the nation’s favourite budget shop. A carrier bag of the aforementioned high street shop is discovered from with the crowd and provided to Jones who duly puts it over his head whilst reciting the tribute to the joys of toilet duck spillages and liquorice. The show gets brought to a fitting end by a cartwheel of Kyle ‘Mr’ Williams, drummer and seemingly able gymnast. 

Jones is idolised by the crowd, who he holds within the palm of his hand for the entire gig. He is a fantastic showman and captivates the audience. The lyrics are often tongue-in-cheek or outrageous but perfectly formed and crafted. The music is chaotic but with an undeniable charm and passion. Part circus, part poetry but 100% entertaining rock’n’roll. 

As the night ends and the crowd files out of the room I am left to reflect on the party and music, my thoughts turn to the man pulling the strings behind it all. There is no truer or more authentic artist than Doherty solo and armed only with a guitar. He is still one of the most vital artists currently performing, an absolute star but now even more importantly he is curating and releasing new music to bolster the struggling music industry. We are lucky to have him. As Doherty stated in his Q&A “We are as music lovers looking for bands to fall in love with” With this ethos at its heart here to another 5 years of Strap Originals!

Words by Dave Holgado

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