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EDM has turned into an arms race

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Lollapalooza 2012

EDM has turned into an arms race to see who can have the most imposing onstage set. Daft Punk had its neon pyramid. Skrillex twirls his brolocks inside a Battlestar Gallactica spacecraft. Button pushers overcompensate for a lack of stage presence.

Justice's three-amp-high Marshall stacks would only come up to the nose of Avicii's monolithic human head. But size only matters when it comes to sound.

Note: I did not say bass. Justice is not going to win that bowel-rumbling battle with the single-minded mooks over on Perry's stage. Justice is simply heavier. The duo approaches electronics like a metal band. Dubstep treats their software like a jam band. It's the difference between Kubrick and Bay. Dubstep is for jocks. Justice represents the D&D band geeks. At least this is how I try to justify why I eat this up and find that wub wub stuff the worst music ever created by boys with technology.

Which is not to say the crowd is anything other than a rave. Girls in kitty cat hats suck on pacifiers. A dude does the shuffle while twirling a light-up up yo-yo. A man with a beard pumps a giant inflatable phallus into the night sky. Guys playing air keyboard. I saw a dude air knob-twiddling. I shit you not. Still, I wish I could drag the Black Sabbath fans back for this set.

The Frenchmen take the stage to the national anthem. Ours. They wear black satin jackets with the band's logo on the back, like villains in The Karate Kid. Their environment looks as if Lemmy built a cathedral on the moon in 1971. A cross glows before a tall altar of vintage electronics. As the set progresses, as Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay melt their riff-heavy monsters into each other, the light show dazzles a la Close Encounters. "Canon" bursts into "D.A.N.C.E." The LED wall behind them turns into a starfield, red sirens, spotlights. Flecks of both Jay-Z and Bach are tossed into the mix. The two demand applause like dictators, gesturing upward with their palms.

At one point, the audio drops out and the two stand stock-still, bathed in white light, for a solid two minutes. It's dramatic, over-the-top and knowingly a bit ridiculous. The hardware altar slides apart to reveal a piano set against a wall of light. Both Augé and de Rosnay take their turn at the keyboard. Here is the facade, literally cracking apart, to show a little Parisian man making monumental music with his hands.

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