Justice House of Blues October 28, 2012
"They told me if I brought out this flag they would kick me out," says a guy dressed like Hunter S. Thompson sitting next to me on the balcony last night at Justice. In his cargo pocket was a large French flag, in honor of the French electro duo who made their first-ever stop in Houston last night at the House of Blues.
"It's just a flag, though," I respond, watching the stage begin to flutter with life. Seriously, who or what venue would kick someone out of a concert over a French flag? This ain't 2003, bruh. The guy agrees but is still cautious. He smells like pot, natch. The crowd below us is teeming with cell phones and mosh-ready dudes.
"Look, if anyone gives you a hassle, tell them it was my idea," I say. If security decides to rip down his flag, I have volunteered myself to step in as counsel. If things get weird, I can go home early and have something cool to tell you all about, right?
"Are you, like, a biker or something?" he asks. Because only a "biker" would defend a man's right to wave a French flag at a concert? Yeah, it's probably the jean vest, the leftover party eyeliner and, wait, do I smell? Definitely the jean vest.
A fun fact about Justice's HOB show was that the duo replaced the venue's sound and lighting with their own, necessitating a cherry-picker in the process. It paid off. I hadn't heard a better-sounding electronic show at the venue ever, being a big Justice fan notwithstanding.
The band's onstage focal point is centered on a glowing white cross, which has been their emblem since they came aboveground in late 2006 and into 2007. Album covers, singles, merch, their brand is at once archaic and futuristic. It's not religious, but it does evoke rapture. The musical kind.
A friend tweeted around showtime that seeing Justice would be like cheating on his beloved Daft Punk. I've never seen the robots live, but from the clips I have pored over, Daft's shows are a little more refined than Justice's, which are the stuff that old-school rock concerts were made of, right down to the ELO, Steely Dan and Queen pumping over the PA before the show.
Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé are attached at the hip behind two consoles of knobs, with de Rosnay lording over a pad of noises. They conduct the crowd with a series of hand signals, bringing the energy higher and higher until gravity takes over.
Justice came from a leather-clad period in EDM before it became the EDM you know today. Back then it was them, Boys Noize, Daft Punk, MSTRKRFT and others packing hipster and industry parties.
I don't even remember it being called EDM then. Today, EDM is for everyone, from stoners to sorority girls, wannabe Eurotrash and dudes in neon. You now hear bass drops in Justin Bieber songs.
Justice's live set lasted around an hour and half roughly, spanning the biggest bangers from their two albums and a few club singles. Opening with "Genesis", from 2007's Cross the way they can seamlessly layer their catalog together is astonishing. There is no chronology, and they treat their work like one giant chunk of rock to be molded live as they see fit.
Their light show is without parallel. The six Marshall stacks ended up being light boxes, the facade covering the duos booth came apart at the cross to reveal a keyboard, and curtain of lightbulbs pulsed and glitzed nonstop.
My eyes are still blinded. How did I drive home? How do people deal with concerts without strobes, mosh pits, and huge pulsing crosses?
Oh, and the flag dude! He waved it wildly nearly the whole show, sometimes in my face, but nothing happened. He even attached it to the barricade and walked off to get a beer at one point.
Personal Bias: French electronic music. Giorgio Moroder synths. Flashing lights. Put a fork in me, Jerry, I'm done. Plus, this was much better than the last time I saw them, just doing a DJ set in Austin at a late-night party.
The Crowd: A little bit more aggro than most of the EDM things I have been too. And wearing a lot more clothes.
Overseen In the Crowd: People crowd-surfing, 1993 Pearl Jam concert-style. Some of the people doing the surfing were probably fetuses back then. Crowd-surfing fetuses.
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Random Notebook Dump: Speaking of weirdo electro duos, I kept hearing twinges of Suicide last night in Justice's set. Time to break out Suicide I and Suicide II about now.