I feel old. Very old. At the October 21 way-sold-out Justice/Midnight Juggernauts double bill at Philadelphia's Trocadero, the average age appears to be about eighteen. I have (ahem) perhaps a decade (and a half) more under my belt. (On the plus side, short and sweet lines at the bar.) In a "Rocktober" that saw indie-dance darlings from Klaxons to Erol Alkan to Digitalism to New Young Pony Club making the rounds in Philly, this particular show was the most eagerly anticipated of all, bringing out electro music lovers in droves. On a school night, no less.
Midnight Juggernauts, Aussie imports that until recently have been overshadowed on these shores by the likes of Cut Copy and the Presets, were hand-picked by Justice for this North American tour. The Juggernauts personify that same rock-meets-dance aesthetic that Justice ascribes to, only perhaps more heavily weighted on the rock side than their French counterparts. Although they've put out a few EPs and dance-floor shakers over here, the trio's full-length, Dystopia (the one garnering them all that "Next Big Thing" praise), has not yet been released in the United States. Still, through the magic of online file-sharing, a good portion of tonight's crowd seems familiar enough with the album tracks to sing along.
The set begins with the ominous, almost tribal beats of "Scorpius." Like post-apocalyptic visionaries, there's something otherworldy about the music the scruffy trio creates, not too far removed from what Klaxons have achieved. It takes the audience a few songs to warm up to this distinct brand of heavy prog-rock disco, but, lucky for the Juggernauts, the kids came to dance.
Their stage show is pretty free of special effects, but Midnight Juggernauts need not rely on any fancy gimmicks to get the crowd going -- the energy they emanate from the stage is more than enough, bouncing buoyantly as they power through "45 and Rising," "Into the Galaxy" and "Tombstone." Band members Andy and Vin (last names unclear) trade vocal, guitar, and keyboard duties several times, while newest juggernaut Daniel beats his kit as if his life depended on it. By the time they get to "Shadows," the entire floor is a sea of arms aloft, hands clapping unison. The Philly crowd (not known as the easiest to please) is clearly impressed.
Then it's time to worship at the church of Justice, the distortion-loving bastard sons of Daft Punk who've all but broken through electro's mainstream barrier in the U.S. The now-legendary, larger-than-life stacks of Marshalls flank either side of a small booth; the enormous cross glows as if truly illuminated by a higher power.
From the very first brain-crunching beats and seizure-inducing strobe lights, the kids go insane. The seamless set forgoes some of Justice's slower-tempo album tracks in favor of nonstop noisy energy, and less frenetic tracks like "D.A.N.C.E." and "DVNO" get the new-and-improved-for-greater-ass-shaking treatment. Although the duo never forgets about the all-important ebbs and flows of orchestrating the dance floor, the crowd seems the most amped when being rocked by "Waters of Nazareth" and the various versions of "Phantom."
Philly's strict no-smoking policies be damned, both Frenchmen enjoy chain-smoking throughout the set, adding much appropriately ambient smoke to the show. While Xavier de Rosnay busies himself with knob-twiddling, cultivating an expressionless cool, Gaspard Auge incites the crowd further (quite unnecessarily) by pumping his fist, clapping, et cetera, working them up into a religious frenzy.
As expected, the anthem "We Are Your Friends (Never Be Alone Again)" results in a venue-wide chant-along. Despite having the unpleasant misfortune of being stuck behind the only people in the room who actually don't get it (two middle-aged, likely coked-up douche bags who insist on loudly yammering non-stop while massaging various body parts of the underage chick they are taking home), there's a definite sense of community, of camaraderie, that we are all experiencing something special. Maybe not quite Daft Punk at Coachella '06, but special nonetheless.
Having pumped out all the crowd favorites earlier in the evening, we're left to wonder, "Whatever will they do for an encore?" The boys return to their duties, only to hit our ears with some familiar strains: a fine mash-up of their good friends Soulwax's "NY Excuse," which slowly melds into . . . "Master of Puppets"? Sure, why not? In a flash, hipsters turn headbangers; hands that were grooving to the beat just seconds ago now pound the sky with devil horns. When we've almost had more than we can take, it's over, leaving our heroes to inconspicuously and somewhat awkwardly exit the stage in semi-darkness.
And Justice for all, indeed.
Justice audio: http://www.myspace.com/etjusticepourtous
Midnight Juggernauts audio: http://www.myspace.com/midnightjuggernauts
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