At one point during the March 11th Justice show at the WaMu Theater, I overheard a giddy fan admit, “I mean it’s Justice. They kind of blew up, so I guess this is how much I have to pay to see them now.” And Justice has blown up, from the early rumblings of a dirty, decadent Paris club phenomenon to features in Fader and a spot on the Vice Records roster, to their current nationwide tour — all of this less than two years after appearing on the U.S. radar with their wildly catchy single, ‘We Are Your Friends’. And this isn’t just any tour: they’re on the MySpace Tour, visiting 18 venues in four weeks. Justice is hot, and if their new fans want to see them, it will have to be in a corporate venue instead of at a gritty, downtown after-after-party, and they’ll have to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $70.
Initially (and ambitiously) scheduled for the MSG arena, the show was later moved to the more modest WaMu Theater (that’s “Washington Mutual,” as in the bank), where capacity is smaller by about, oh, 15,000. The theater resembles, more than anything else, a high school auditorium. And in the glare of the pre-show house-lights, the bustling fans, about half of them teens (some with parents in tow), resembled nothing so much as a crowd outside a midnight screening of Rocky Horror, with plenty of lycra-based costuming. American Apparel, it would seem, has made a mint on Justice fans.
If the scene felt a tad juvenile, the five MySpace computer kiosks in the lobby just felt creepy, like marketing robots primed to steal your soul via a very slow server. The skinny, black-clad MySpace helper guy was loathe to speak to the press (“You’ll have to consult the MySpace PR people!”), but eventually bragged about how popular the kiosks were. “None of these bands would exist without MySpace,” another fan volunteered. Or, I wish I’d added, “None of these bands would be hauling in $70 per ticket, anyway.”
Back inside, gray-haired ushers in their green or red jackets graciously lead ticketholders to their seats. Once the lights went down, though, it was a free-for-all, people taking over the aisles, meandering to different rows, abandoning their assigned seats. The parents in attendance seemed particularly dismayed at the lack of order, but they also seemed pleased by the general wholesomeness. This was no dangerous warehouse party. Nobody was getting dosed here. The over-21 minority didn’t shy from buying beers, but it somehow felt awkward, like getting wasted at Cats or something, like we were all being chaperoned.
DJ Mehdi, a veteran of first wave French house, more recently incorporated into Ed Banger’s stable, opened the night with a spirited DJ set alongside the tall, goofy Busy P, who handed out what looked like bubblegum to fans. A few minutes into the set, the clock said 8:10, but Busy P and Mehdi were trying to force the frenzy of something more like 3:30am. Elbows flailed for a spell, then the lights came up and the crowd turned polite again. It was all, “Excuse me” and “No, excuse me.” Kids with parents were visibly mortified that, a few moments before, Busy P had led the crowd in a chant of, “Ready to fuck! Ready to fuck!”
Next up was Chromeo, who told the crowd that they “might remember” them from a few years back, and seemed kind of sad singing a song titled ‘I Am Somebody’. Also, why does every one of these bands have its own gang sign? “Throw up your ‘C’s”? After rocking a snippet of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ to the most spirited crowd response of the set, Chromeo closed out and lights came up to Supertramp playing softly over the system. No one sang along with that.
Justice finally appeared onstage amid a patently ridiculous setup: a stack of fake Marshall amps and a battery of blinking whatzits, with an illuminated cross in the middle (their gang symbol!) and some strobes and assorted other lighting gizmos about. Atop this colossus were Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay doing… whatever they do with computers and sequencers and stuff. Typing, I guess. It’s not too exciting watching them bob around way the hell up there, but the stage set and flashing lights give people something to look at, like a metal band’s huge smoking skull on stage or Daft Punk’s elaborate space pyramid set. You know, Daft Punk… the other French house duo?
The crowd went wild for Justice, especially to ‘D.A.N.C.E.’, ‘DVNO’ and ‘We Are Your Friends’, which all peaked through a buzzy mess of acid squelches and pounding bass, and all took moments for mass singalongs (user generated content is important!). It sounded confident, cool and utterly slick, and the audience affirmed with cheers that this is what they paid their money for. Yet the distance between the Justice boys, smoking their cigarettes way up there behind the giant prop and the swaying, cheering, fresh-faced audience did feel awfully wide. •