Although they had radically different sounds and origins, The White Stripes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were still contemporaries during the indie-rock boom of the early 2000s. While Jack and Meg White preferred the stripped-back blues style that came from their Detroit roots, Karen O and her band of art-rockers seemed like the quintessential New York act, down to their appreciation for the likes of Patti Smith and Television.
Although The White Stripes continued to call Detroit home throughout their career, they made frequent pilgrimages to the Big Apple. While there, they would occasionally share bills with some of New York’s hottest up and coming indie bands. That frequent presence led to an appreciation of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and when the trio’s debut Fever to Tell dropped in September of 2003, White was one of the many fans who gravitated towards the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s unique art-punk sensibilities.
When The White Stripes landed a headlining gig at the 2004 Reading Festival, they were one of the few contemporary American indie bands to perform. While international indie-rock brethren like The Hives, The Libertines, and Franz Ferdinand performed, The White Stripes decided to add a reference to one of their home country’s most exciting new bands when the duo decided to cover ‘Maps’ during their set.
Jack and Meg were no strangers to covers: their set that night included some other artists’ songs that had become integral to The White Stripes’ own catalogue, including takes on Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, Son House’s ‘Death Letter’, and Burt Bacharach’s ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself’. Right after the latter song, and right before finishing their set with a rousing rendition of ‘Seven Nation Army’, the Whites busted out a seemingly impromptu cover of ‘Maps’.
Jack does his best to replicate Nick Zinner’s rapid-fire opening guitar figure, while Meg dutifully blasts out Brian Chase’s signature drum rhythms. White’s tenor belting eerily invokes Karen O’s own voice, while his dedication to the song’s structure goes against The White Stripes’ normal style of reworking covers into their own identifiable sonic style.
The 2004 Reading Festival would be the first and last time that The White Stripes would ever cover ‘Maps’. Two years later, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs themselves made it to Little John’s Farm and performed an acoustic version of the track, bringing the history of ‘Maps’ full circle. Check out The White Stripes’ rendition of the song down below.