If Girl Talk’s Night Ripper (2006) and Feed the Animals (2008) are crowded, dizzying sweat-soaked parties that serve tall-boy cans of Sparks-caffeine and alcohol-laced, sugary and spazzy-All Day (2010), his fifth studio album, is their more sophisticated cousin, a loft party on a warm summer night, breeze floating through open windows, gin and tonics raised in women’s hands as they dip and sway to an echoing, expansive soundtrack. They’re different beasts, to be sure, but they’ll both get you sweaty and drunk.
Since the success of Night Ripper, Girl Talk’s live show has also evolved. In 2006, I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Gregg Gillis at Chicago’s venerable Empty Bottle, a live rock venue with an occupancy of 300. Like many others, I was dubious of what one man could do with only his laptop as a musical instrument, but Gillis is nothing if not confident and he owned the crowd the moment he stepped on stage. In a black, slim-fitting suit and Ray Ban wayfarers, Gillis strutted and dipped to a sample of Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin’ Down,” simultaneously evoking the sex appeal of Tom Cruise in Risky Business and the white-boy funkiness of a “New Pollution” Beck. By the end of the night, his suit would be on the floor (having been shed piece by piece throughout his set), half the crowd would have danced on stage, and this writer would be happily stunned, having witnessed one of the greatest shows of her entire life.
As reigning mash-up king, Gillis now plays to larger crowds of party kids looking to dance their asses off. Despite the greater size of these venues, he is no less engaging with his audience. As in his music, in which Notorious B.I.G. might be blended with top 40 hit-makers like Gwen Stefani or classic rock tunes like “Tiny Dancer,” the traditional lines of a concert-going event are similarly blurred during a Girl Talk show. His concerts aren’t performances to be passively observed, but happenings in which the audience is expected to participate. Stagehands shoot off rolls of TP into the crowd, hundreds of balloons are dropped from the ceiling. Everyone dances with everyone else-the stage and the dance floor one in the same.
If you’re one of the lucky people to have snagged a ticket to Saturday’s sold-out show at the Canopy Club, you can expect to dance, you can expect to sweat, you can expect to leave happily stunned.
Below is an interview with Dan Morgridge, a freelance writer in Chicago, who toured previously with Girl Talk.
Smile Politely: In what capacity did you aid in the tour?
Dan Morgridge: I was the tour manager for Max Tundra, who opened for Girl Talk for the second leg of the tour (NYC-LA).
SP: How long were you out on the road? Where did you go?
DM: We started off in New York City at Terminal 5 (where recently LCD Soundsystem played their final five shows). We went north up the coast, did a show in Montreal, and then worked our way West to Seattle, and then down the West Coast to wrap things up. We did 24 shows in 31 days.
SP: Did you dance like a maniac every show? How does Mr. Gillis keep each night fresh – a little different than the one that came before?
DM: Tour life is pretty stationary, so you need to find some exercise – if that happens to come in the form of one of the world’s best dance parties, so be it. And the show is never the same – there’s some fixed cues that the confetti/balloons work around, and some of it comes from the album tracks – but he’s always coming up with new matches, and tweaking them every night.
SP: Does he make any eccentric demands? Were you scrambling every night to fill a brandy glass with 1000 brown M&M’s?
DM: The gang keeps in pretty good shape actually – fresh fruit, avocados, turkey and mixed greens for sandwiches – when you dance as hard as that man does every night, you can’t be living on the Taco Bell diet.
SP: What were some of the tour highlights (besides meeting Drew Barrymore)?
DM: Drew Barrymore did come out to see the show in LA, and even got up on stage to dance (she’s apparently a huge fan). Lady Gaga apparently asked about guest list spots while we were playing in Vegas. White Williams, Dougg Pound from Tim and Eric and Flying Lotus all came by to see the show as well.
SP: What’s your favorite part about Girl Talk shows? What does his live performance bring that others might not?
DM: The sheer amount of energy Greg and his crew put into the show is infectious, and can’t be discounted. But to point out the obvious, it’s really about the music itself. At one of the after parties, we saw another mash-up DJ perform. His set was heavy on jukebox favorites over jukebox favorites, and the early morning crowd was reasonably happy. But the odd twists and turns – the bizarre joy of hearing the outlandish Souja Boy rapping over a track from notorious introvert Aphex Twin and finding that not only is it entertainingly incongruous, but just plain entertaining – plant Girl Talk firmly above standard DJs, even those who follow his blueprint. Hearing him dovetail parts of different songs is like having someone point out an optical illusion where there are two faces in one – once you see it, you wonder how you ever saw just one version.