Pious hipsters and darling bangers
‘N Justice 4 y’all: Electro-punk outfit Justice is the only live act in the world that can unite thousands of evangelical Christians, ravers, stoners, metalheads and yuppies for an evening of dancing in sweat on an island-cum-former military base in San Francisco.
Justice, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de aRosnay (they’re French, so its “zhoo-steece"), came onto the scene in ‘03 after winning a college-radio remix contest. They signed to Ed Banger Records—a French electronic music label whose namesake sparked the term “bangers,” now a common expression for a deejay remix—and quickly gained popularity. In 2007, Justice played their first live gig: Coachella, no less. Now, a year-of-touring removed from that inaugural show, Justice was headlining Saturday night’s Treasure Island Music Festival in the city.
And I’m in the pit, about 10 feet from the stage, a half-hour before their set. The crowd’s 35-and-under, most not of legal drinking age. Everyone’s pulling tiny pills from plastic baggies and downing them with ferocious gulps of Crystal Geyser. Ecstasy, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a euphoric-inducing synthetic, psychoactive, amphetamine that allows people to love even the most unlovable of concert-going assholes. The drug releases serotonin, which causes rapture, and oxytocin, which is what the body typically releases upon orgasm. Things could get sticky.
Only the devout Christians, who adore Justice (also devout Christians) were sober. Or maybe not? What Would Jesus Do? Perhaps bum a toke? Or shotgun a couple Heinekens?
Justice takes the stage, perched above a flotilla of blinking electronic racks, which are flanked by 19 hollowed-out Marshall stacks. De Rosnay stares into the audience like Napoleon surveying Waterloo; Augé holds a fist in the air, sounding a droning organ note, which crescendos into a deep acid bass before breaking out a riotous ass shaker. Glow sticks whirl at all fronts. Alt bros in hug circles smash into your sides. Some chick with a magenta mohawk smacks you in the face. It’s mayhem.
And everyone’s fixated on Justice’s cross: a glowing, holy intersect at the center of the stage that pulsates with the beat. Justice syncopates the mix, and the cross flashes wildly. They slow the track down—thump, thump, thump—and the crowd pumps their fists. De Rosnay and Augé, dressed in black and chaining cigarettes, are like anti-popes: a couple pious hipster deejays spreading their gospel of bangers.
The night ends. Were we saved? Or violated? Only in America. Or France. (Nick Miller)
More bad-assness: Matt Bauer’s voice sounds like a calm, cool wind. In fact, that was probably his nickname in grade school. Matt “Cool Wind” Bauer. Man, that’s so bad-ass. And with that bald head and beard, he was probably the coolest fourth grader ever. I wish I knew him back then.
Fortunately he’s still got it. Bauer’s set at Luigi’s Fun Garden on Sunday was definitely bad-ass. And with that restrained and contemplative voice, he blew through his set pretty quickly, so that Silver Darling had enough time to play all their songs. What a gentleman.
Silver Darling’s Kevin Lee, an unassuming character, reminds me of a guy who is going to get onstage, mumble a few bars and leave early to go drink whiskey with his grandpa. But that’s far from the truth: His voice is so soulful that his squeezed-shut eyes flutter with emotion as he sings. His vocals—which reach Roy Orbison levels of howling sadness ("Leave My Body Like a Stone") and Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) caliber of insanity ("Death: Has No Victory")—lead the band down a dusty path that’s full of spirit as well as devilish mischief. Which reminds me: Doesn’t Lee sound a little bit like Glenn Danzig in his pre-getting-punched-out-by-the-singer-of-the-North Side Kings days?
Anyway, it’s good to know that Silver Darling’s live act is just as fascinating as their recorded material. So if you don’t yet have Silver Darling’s Your Ghost Fits My Skin, get it at www.cdbaby.com; it’s a truly extraordinary piece of work. And catch them live when they perform with the Cave Singers and Oh Foot at the UC Davis Coffee House (in the Memorial Union on campus) on Wednesday, October 1, at 7 p.m. for $5. (Josh Fernandez)