Photo: Dove Shore
Mashups aren’t particularly my cup of tea, but the infamous mixing maven, Gregg Gillis, is an exception. The last non-Girl Talk mashup I listened to was a sloppily chopped mixture of Eminem’s “The Way I Am” to DMX’s “Up in Here.” Of course, this was when Napster was in its heyday and the apex of my musical taste only reached high enough to consider The Offspring as “underappreciated rockers.” Furthermore, I was 11 years old. However, there’s one factor regarding Gillis’ jigsaw precision of pop mashing that everybody can diplomatically agree upon: It’s insanely catchy.
Still, in order to back up a stellar record production, you need a live show with just as much punch.
Although I’d never attended a Girl Talk show and am hardly partial towards mashups to begin with, I felt hard pressed to see what Gregg Gillis was all about considering he’s been getting repeat plays in my car. From what I’d heard, Gillis’ modus operandi for his live music’s production relied solely on a single laptop—nothing else. I suppose Gillis could be considered a DJ, but not in the regard of someone who scratches on a turntable while having a pair of Pioneer HDJ-2000s cradled between the ear and shoulder. I’m sure it’s amusing to see a DJ dancing maniacally behind a MacBook while taking up a sixth of the stage, but it’s not uniquely identifying and could be easily mimicked. It’s possible China could throw multiple counterfeit Girl Talk shows within seconds. But according to hearsay from last year’s show (which speculators claim was utterly chaotic), he definitely seemed to deliver.
In The Venue was filled to half capacity by the time local electrorock juggernauts, Laserfang, filed onto the stage. Laserfang’s music isn’t exactly of the same fiber as Girl Talk’s poppy dance fusions, but their overextended use of synths and electronics made them sensible enough to be elected as the openers for the show. Some show-goers were able to release dancing energy reserved for Girl Talk earlier than expected with the aid of the band’s electrically charged funk rock. Laserfang’s intensely reverberant music efficiently filled the few open spaces in the venue. The portions of the audience that were not dancing typically became hypnotized by the digitally lulling soundscapes tailored by the two synthist, which were in sync with the analog drums and spacy guitar interludes. Lead singer, Shane Asbridge, resembles a skinnier version of Dallas Greene—which, I guess, most would consider as a contemporary advantage.
An hour later, Laserfang vacated the stage and a few moments later the lights slowly dimmed, cuing Girl Talk’s entrance. Greg Gillis ran on the stage in a sleeveless, white shirt and a headband to keep his hair back. If I saw him in public, I would guess he was either going to “hit the gym” or enter a Richie Tenenbaum lookalike competition. Gillis ran up to his laptop, greeted his anxiously awaiting audience and played the opener to his hour-and-a-half block of seamless splicing of pop music from the past half-century. The opening song was a medley of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” and N.E.R.D.’s “Everyone Nose.” Once the first note blasted out of the PA, about twenty to thirty dancers from the audience ran out on the stage and surrounded Gillis. This is when the venue ambiance quickly went from a moderately tame concert to a batshit-insane European dance club.
Within the first five minutes of the Girl Talk set, two of the commissioned stage dancers held up leaf blowers with rolls of toilet paper affixed on the ends of them. They proceeded to shoot this toilet paper out into the crowd shortly after a cache of balloons was released from the ceiling onto the frenzied crowd below. Simultaneously, large LED displays surrouded the stage, displaying a myriad of abstract, graphic animations, which changed whenever a new sample was played. With the entourage of stage dancers, sporadic confetti bursts, and a light display possibly worth two years of my salary, I stood corrected about any aforementioned stage presence doubts.
The majority of the material that Gillis played during the live set was off of All Day, with the exception of a few featured singles from previous albums. The only difference was that the mashups were in a completely different sequence than in the recorded formats. I even heard one of my shamefully favored mixes: Missy Elliot’s “Gossip Folk” layered atop textures from Daft Punk’s “Digital Love.” Still, the crowd remained an amorphously fluctuating blob of energy, sweat and flailing limbs (the latter due to horrendously apathetic dancers).
The show ended more quickly than I originally expected, but this may be because there were no pauses or breaks between the songs—even the encore seemed instantaneous. True, his live act didn’t reveal material solely saved for his loyal devotees who tossed out $25 for a ticket, but this was far from everyone’s overtaxed minds by the end of the show.
In the end, Girl Talk still manages to put old pop ballads and contemporary hip hop tokens on the same listening level as each other. Gregg Gillis isn’t a conventional DJ, but he still managed to utilize an aesthetic ear and Internet technology at the right place and time. And no matter how many of you slacker critics refute this by claiming that it’s easy and requires little skill, Gillis still beat you to it. He beat a lot of precocious DJs to it. Move on, already.