All photos by Andrew Markowitz
If you’re looking for a good dance party, you can’t do much better than Girl Talk.
Gregg Gillis, the man behind the moniker Girl Talk, sits as the king of the mash-up, where different parts of different songs are combined into a track that’s both retro and fresh. The genius of Girl Talk is that he shifts from one part to the next so quickly that it doesn’t get stale – before you can name that tune, it’s on to the next one. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the ADD generation.
I thought that the best way to enjoy Girl Talk was to sit around with your friends, drinking beers and calling out which Radiohead beats were mixed with which Missy Elliot verses. Of course, Girl Talk’s music is solid enough to stand on its own, beyond being just a long game of ‘name that tune’, and the live show propels it to a new level. It seizes your attention and never lets go. If you stop paying attention, you’re bound to get hit in the face with toilet paper propelled by a leaf-blower.
After his first song, I was already a bit overwhelmed by the brightness of his lighting setup – a towering display of LEDs and steel. Throughout the night, random lo-fi graphics of animals, falling thumbtacks(!?), and lyrics flashed on the display. The first track faded out, and Gillis brought about 20 people on stage, who danced throughout the night.* I thought this was pretty neat – it really seemed like he was one of us, just another guest at the party.
I barely noticed him throughout the night, besides when he would jump on top of speakers or rip his shirt off. He did spend most of his time hunched over his laptop, bouncing his head like mad. But with everything else going on, his presence hardly mattered. The ebb and flow of the concert went like this – a bangin’ track would come on; the track would slow down and fade; then it would blow up again as Gillis shot at us with confetti, balloons, and toilet paper.
My favorite mash-up of the night was “Get It Get It” from his new album All Day – the Aphex Twin track sounded great with all its electro-goodness, and it offered a slight change from the hip-hop beats and indie-rock guitars we heard most of the night. He also brought some new material – I especially liked his mix of Kanye West’s “Runaway”, with its sparse pianos, with Biggie’s “Juicy”. Again, the pianos were a relief from the norm.
Honestly, by the time the concert was winding down, I was a bit exhausted.** While most bands will shift between styles, or at least between fast and slow songs, Gillis only has one mode of operation – full-on party mode. Before the encore, he announced that he was going to play some more “experimental” material. This got me excited! But the only thing different about the encore tracks is that they were new. How about mashing up something besides rap verses and pop beats, just for a little while?
But people came for a non-stop house party, and that’s what they got. It’s impossible not to smile as confetti and balloons rain down from the ceiling as “your jam” comes over the speakers. By the end, the crowd was a sea of glowsticks, headbands, Kanye glasses, and sweaty, smiling faces.
*I heard that he goes around before the show and grabs people from the lines outside to invite on stage.
** I wasn’t the only one – I caught one of the on-stage dancers taking a break from dancing to text her friends! Lame.