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RINGING IN 2008

The wait for Justice pays off

January 02, 2008|Charlie Amter | Times Staff Writer

As it turns out, the only thing that was "hard" at downtown L.A.'s Hard NYE music festival was enduring the long security lines in chilly weather to get in. The inaugural event, held in the arts district near the 6th Street bridge, otherwise went off with only minor hitches, offering up a global palette of DJ-centric artists who perform with rock-star attitude.

Berlin-based electro-rapper Peaches gave the proceedings a decidedly R rating, whipping the crowd into a frenzy for Hard's co-headliners, the Parisian duo Justice -- whose DJ set, much to the delight of the throngs at the main stage, leaned heavily on their own material.

It was a slow build to that climax. DJ Steve Aoki, whose Dim Mak Records was one of the event's promoters, spun for just more than 300 souls, as most of his crowd was tardy. The visibly drunk DJ, wearing a vintage sequined American flag vest, nonetheless delivered a wildly energetic set.

DJ A-Trak, the Montreal-based beatmaker and Kanye West collaborator, proved one of the night's best catches with his 11 p.m. set on the second stage, expertly reading the crowd with a set varying from Germany's Digitalism to sped-up versions of West songs.

By the time Peaches took the main stage, the hipster crowd was ready for some chaos. She obliged, offering a set heavy on the steamier side of her back catalog.

Wearing a gold leotard fringed with hair and surrounded by scantily clad dancers, Peaches toured her underground hits such as "Two Guys for Every Girl" and "AA XXX." By the time the Toronto-born artist rang in the New Year with her most-beloved anthem (" . . . the Pain Away"), she was joined by 40 or so audience members onstage. Aoki, clearly having a great time, even reemerged with them -- only to stage-dive his way into 2008.

But if there was any question who the crowd was truly there to see, French electro saviors Justice provided the answer. Despite being dogged by technical problems (audio would occasionally cut out for seconds at a time), the duo won the crowd with their anthemic brand of dance music. By the time the Parisian pair, who DJ'd from atop a giant illuminated crucifix onstage, played one of their bigger hits ("We Are Your Friends") the dance-happy crowd had tripled in size. It was Justice who owned the night -- and gave Hard its edge.

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charlie.amter@latimes.com

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