Girl Talk is not a DJ and he'll be the first totell you that. He's something more important: he's a party architect.
Gregg Gillis, stage name "Girl Talk," has figured out the formula to get everybody to dance, and I mean EVERYBODY. He takes hundreds of slices of dance and pop hits from the '70s up through today and transforms them into one gigantic hour-long song that's physically impossible to not dance to. His recent tour in support of his new CD Night Ripper (Illegal Art) took him to a sold-out Middle East Downstairs on Saturday night.
Now, we here in Boston shoulder the reputation of being stodgy New Englanders who'd rather look at our shoe laces than rock out to our favorite bands -- even when we see them live. Girl Talk single-handedly demolished all preconceptions of who we are with a single click of his mouse.
Just before he took the stage, a bright white light beamed at a spinning disco ball, which seemed to pop up out of nowhere above the crowd. A venue transformation was imminent. The Middle East was about to morph into a proper dance club. Many have tried this feat before. Few have succeeded.
Girl Talk walked onto the barren stage, outfitted in a white sweatshirt -- hoods-up -- a white headband, and sunglasses, like cult leader out for a jog. After slapping introductory high fives in the front row it was time for the jams. The audience erupted in joy as he stoked up a bouncy Beyonce remix, effortlessly blending in some heavy metal riffage, which got the crowd amped up even more. The crowd's hands flew up in the air. Fists pumped to the thud of the kick drum sounds. The music spoke for itself.
When Girl Talk wasn't staring intently at his laptop monitor he was dancing himself. And during a few key moments, he used the laptop table to propel off of to do a double-kick move -- a mid-air split, Van Halen-esque, and extremely impressive.
Samples and loops from indie dance night faves like Elastica and the Verve set a back line as verses by the Ying Yang Twins and the Clipse spat over top. He did no wrong. The audience ate out of his hands.
Though very little of what he did appeared to be "live," he redefined the term "performance." Mid-way into his set, audience members climbed on stage to dance around the sample maven. More important than what Girl Talk was doing was what he was doing to people. They weren't just swaying, or shuffling, or bobbing their heads. He was making them dance.
The throng engulfed Girl Talk and he disapeared into the crowd on stage. Dudes and dudettes stood on monitors and grabbed the rafters and pipes above them for support. The room got so hot that perspiration started dripping down from the ceiling. In the span of a single hour Girl Talk went from Night Ripper to pipe dripper.