Thursday, March 27, 2008


The killer concert is in the eye and ear of the beholder, so we thought it would be fun to write two reviews of the JUSTICE Myspace tour - both the SF and the PDX shows.

JUSTICE's stop in Portland is the Roseland Theater. Located downtown with capacity of 1,400 - Roseland gets the slightly more recognized acts - usually on their second pass through town. So, you get people who know the hit song
or are going on recommendation of a friend - and this group always creates an interesting dynamic with the "original" and hardcore fans.

For JUSTICE, the die hards are, of course, mega-hipster-doofuses. Mostly 20 and younger, these fanboys and girls were endowed with the power of the spirit - much like the middle American mega church revival crowd the glowing cross called to mind.

The other crowd could best be described as meat heads. I swear I watched an entire baseball team walk in. Everyone wearing (nonironic) tees, baggy(!) jeans and wearing hats that weren't even meant to make a point beyond their allegiance to a sports team. Weird. I owe their presence mostly to the Mos Def and Spank Rock remix of DANCE floating
around on the web.

I understand the necessity of all ages clubs. I know up and coming H-D's want to see the shows, but it really does completely ruin the experience to have id checking, security lines and strict segregation. At the Roseland for example, the 21+ crowd is packed on to the balcony - forced to choose between a powerful thirst and the full music experience.

Despite all that the crowd was hyped, ready to move and about to bring the place down by the time the Augé and de Rosnay walked on stage. When the drop hit, well over 1,000 people jumped into a fist pumping frenzy. Illuminated by a glowing cross, insane crossed up strobes, LED amps and glowing speakers - in a word; shit got crazy.

There were some phenomenal moments in the show and some masterfully timed sound, light and effect touches. The boys know what they are doing, although often find themselves more interested in proving their intricate technical prowess than necessarily delivering what the people want.

Many of their set ups were strong: building beats, smashing rhythms and a delicious tease of samples from their biggest hits. But, frequently, as a result of ADD or a powerful desire to show off their cuts, the payoff didn't come.

A note to artists: no matter how much we like your music, we do not want an acoustic version with us singing your biggest hit, it's just not as cool as you think it is. We paid to see YOU.

Even when they decided to let the crowd revel in that dirty pleasure of just rocking out to a hit single (you know you like it) they still seemed to admonish that desire, such as significantly lengthening the builds and shortening the hooks on DVNO. JUSTICE is, if nothing else, a couple of kids with some great chops but an even greater ear: intensely pleasurable melodies and catchy hooks are your game, so let them play!

The overall flow was good, although they couldn't help indulging themselves in repeated samples of the same disco era cuts - one of which I counted four times through the evening. Despite distractions, the show, the beats and the lights (irrational fears of epileptic fits haunted me throughout the evening) built to quite a crescendo as the encores approached. I will leave a full description of them to those who still have the show to attend, but plan to rock the hell out.

JUSTICE put on a great show, played the audience and its energy well and even indulged in theatrics such as hand-holding and bowing, crowd surfing, smoking at the boards and numerous encores. Despite that, I never felt any real connection to the people on stage. Part of seeing a live performance is an insight into the bands you love - getting to know them on a different level, and to a large degree, feeding off their energy and their performance. Hidden behind insane light displays and mostly head down hard at work on the task at hand - the energy of the "band" just wasn't there to carry the music.

Overall I would say the show is good with some elements of greatness. The Myspace aspect was weird but not terribly distracting. The power of the spectacle and the energy of the crowd carried the night. As an "adult" who occasionally allows themselves to get down, head out on a school night and get down and just plain groove to some wild electronic DJs, I hope next time the group is willing to indulge me, give in to my hedonism and let its fans revel in all the best of their music (even if it is a top 40 hit)...

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