Justice photo by Timwillis
Justice, Diplo @ Showbox SoDo & Neumo’s VIP Room
I was all ready for Justice to have their big Fatboy Slim jock jams moment last night. Let me explain: I went to see Norman Cook in 1999 at the Paramount Theater, and, by that time, dude was well-entrenched in the mainstream consciousness, the “electronica” moment had passed having failed to save/kill rock’n’roll, and the show was, in large part, a suburban bro-down (myself included) waiting to hear “Praise You.” (Confidential to Rachel: Sorry about that.) Anyway, I was expecting last night to be something like that, for Justice (and Diplo) to have reached massive enough crossover appeal—headlining the Myspace music tour—that their show wouldn’t be a party or a rave but a bummer.
But it was actually pretty fun, once you got past the half-dozen flat screen TVs playing a loop of music videos and commercial stills (for myspace, a credit card company, and the performers’ record labels)—harder to ignore during Diplo’s set since he didn’t have any kind of lights or stage show, easy enough to forget amidst Justice’s strobes and lit-up cross and ornamental amps.
The show was sold-out and already fairly full (though it never got uncomfortable crowded) as Diplo took the stage promptly at 9pm. “I’m not Justice,” he said, sounding pretty sedate. “I’m Diplo.” Then he launched right into the Todd Rundgren break from Hot Chip’s “Shake a Fist,” bypassing the song’s build-up to cut right to the hook, setting the tone that would last his whole set. Diplo’s not gonna fuck around with warming a crowd up at a show like this, he’s not going to allow peaks and valleys and dynamics in his mix, he’s going to jump from two minutes of one song’s peak to another’s, building a plateau rather than mountain range. It works because Diplo’s mixes and selections are tight—some filter electro mix of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the Lyn Collins break from “It Takes Two”—but it can be a little exhausting at 9:30pm. One wasted 16 year old apparently got dragged out of the club by security screaming “I’m 16, you’re gonna make me cry!” Diplo eventually declared, “I’m just fucking around now,” and proceeded to mix in Dead Prez, Daft Punk, M.I.A.’s un-fuck-with-able “Paper Planes” remix with Bun B, and Hawtin’s “Spastik.”
After Diplo, the lights went down, the between-act background music stopped, and Justice went on, two silhouettes surrounded by smoke and the unplugged amps and flashing diodes of their stage setup, backlit by bright lights, their big, floursecent cross lit-up in front. They played a slightly more polished version of their set from Neumo’s, mixing their own tracks and remixes and re-edits together into a long-playing medley (their remix of Scenario Rock’s “Skitzo Dancer” over “Let There Be Light,” for instance), really stretching out the breaks and builds for a crowd that was hanging on their every kick and snare. Brandon Ivers saw a couple high school age boys slapping each other in the face out of excitement. Dropping the music out during the chorus of “Never Be Alone” seemed to elicit more scattered singing along than at their Neumo’s show (but at least you could move through the crowd here).
Some purists will tell you that Justice aren’t very musically substantial. Others will point out that their success seems out of proportion with their, what, four great songs. But what these people ignore is that Justice is a whole package deal—graphic design, fashion, stage show, etc, etc—and that the music is just one prong of their multi-media assault. They’re a triumph of branding as much as they are a triumph of techno, maybe more, perfect headliners for a myspace music tour.
Diplo & Justice photo from deathoftheparty.org
The free after-party in the VIP Room was perfect. When we got there, it was just PRetty Titty playing the awesome new Hercules & Love Affair record to a handful of people (that record officially won me over last night), but within an hour, the basement bar was slammed, Diplo was loosening up on the turntables, Justice were hanging by the bar, and all the usual dance party kids were tearing shit up. This was going to be my big contrast—the hipster party versus the jock jam—but both parties were plenty fun, although, really, that basement was the motherfucking jam!