Review: Girl Talk

At 11:30 on Saturday morning, nine hours after I walked out of Jake’s Night Club in Bloomington, my ears are still ringing. With approximately six hours of restoration and sleep under my belt, I still feel as if I could hibernate for 12 more. Never have I ever experienced such physical endurance at a concert; quite literally, I was drenched in sweat, my own and my neighbors’, from head to toe. Mash-up artist Greg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, made certain that his Bloomington appearance lived up to everything that his shows are rumored to be. It was, in essence, perfectly executed chaos.

Opening band Hearts of Darknesses were not well-received by the audience. Perhaps this was because an overwhelming percentage of the crowd represented the stereo-typical clubber scene- preppy girls in high-heeled boots, caked-on make-up, and clothing that probably cost more than I paid for rent last month. In most cases, these Barbie-wannabes came fully accessorized with nasty attitudes and dumbed-down versions of Barbie’s counterpart, Ken. I’m convinced their sole purpose for coming was to rub bodies, make-out, and start fights. Not surprisingly, these people had major issues with others �getting in their bubble� and made that perfectly clear by digging elbows into their neighbors’ sides and forcefully fighting for their two-point-five inches of real estate on the floor.

It didn’t surprise me that I loved exactly what they hated. Hearts of Darknesses mixed elements of hard rock and punk music with imperfect, often squeaking and breaking, vocals. I quickly realized how much I respected the originality of their sound, leading me to find a way to love the music more than I first thought. Further intensifying this emotion was the fact that my image-conscious, crowd-following neighbors despised what they were being forced to hear. After only ten minutes on stage, the audience started chanting for Girl Talk every time a song concluded. I was appalled by such rude behavior and lack of respect. In spite of it all, the Hearts continued their set and rocked the bodies that were attached to open minds. As they closed, the lead singer demonstrated more of the band’s peculiar character by leaving his audience with one quirky piece of advice, �Okay guys- If you get sweaty from Girl Talk don’t go outside� ‘cuz your shirt will stick to your boobs and your pecks.� His mother would be proud.

Grand Buffet could be accurately described by their own name. Consisting of two white rappers, this duo was a smorgasbord of humorous undertones, pleasing beats, and intense activity. The skinny one was a tall redhead resembling a long lost cousin of Danny Bonaduce and had a hidden reservoir of child-like energy. He jumped circles around his much larger partner who wore his thick, curly, shoulder-length hair in a bushy high ponytail (think �Pebbles�, from The Flintstones). Shifting gears from the fast-paced rock that was Hearts of Darknesses to the slow steady beats of Grand Buffet was an excellent choice for a supplemental second act. This effectively exposed the audience to both rock and rap before the man of the evening took stage to twist, warp, and reinvent those musical genres himself. Realizing the restless and anxious state of ticketholders in the building, Grand Buffet’s set was noticeably short. They knew what was coming would be epic and wasted no time clearing the stage for adequate preparation.

Jake’s gets a couple of gold stars for playing music in-between sets. While we waited another 20 minutes on top of the two hours already past by, the crowd was able to concentrate on the music coming from speakers as opposed to the lack thereof from scheduled performers. It kept the mood (and our feet!) light. It was now easily recognizable that this show was sold out by the rapidly condensing cluster of people on the floor that extended to the very back of the club. Many a time I have found myself packed in a crowd so tightly that I wondered how I was not experiencing symptoms of claustrophobia. This time, not only was I literally shoulder-to-shoulder, but also feeling a pushing force from the left, right, front, and back. I wondered how we would even find room to dance.

It was only a matter of seconds after Girl Talk took control of the stage that it was flooded by people and he was instantly surrounded by his fans. Not just five or six, but more like 40 or 50. Not just sultry females, but eager men as well. I was relieved to gain some breathing room and inch closer to the stage for a peak at the mastermind. He appeared in a hooded sweatshirt, stripped to a plain white tee within minutes, and traded that for skin shortly thereafter. Behind his table, Girl Talk hunched over his equipment, constantly rocking to the beat. The stage was his horse, the gear was his reins, and the way he moved was equivalent to a musical gallop. He kept a microphone handy, though utilized it infrequently. His focus was on keeping the music rolling, but occasionally let it loop while he hopped up on the table to enliven the crowd. Security lingered on all sides of the DJ table, but was surprisingly lenient. Fans brushed their hands across Girl Talk’s back, placed their hats on his head, and got close enough to count the dials on the board if they so desired. The freedoms given to Girl Talk fanatics during the performance were empowering. Even more amazing, however, was watching him feed off their energy created by such an interactive and personal show.

Overtaken by the crowd environment and the extreme physical demands associated with it, the specific musical selections are a total blur to me. More impactful was the manner in which the songs were layered on top of each other together. Quoting Nuvo’s Scott Shoger in his preview of the performance, �a mashup is created by taking the a cappella mix from one song- usually widely available on EP’s- and playing that track simultaneously with another song, typically an instrumental�. He goes on to explain that �[Girl Talk] isolates elements of songs in such a clean way- excising only the bass line, drum beat, or vocals- that his albums don’t sound like the train wreck that they could.� His taste is eclectic, sampling everything from rap to classic rock, metal to 80’s pop, and all stops in between. And yes, he played that worn-out, unoriginal, goddamn song �Put A Ring On It�.

The evening concluded with a regal selection of majestic-sounding songs, signifying the close of the musical journey just taken. As if to congratulate to crowd for completing the marathon, balloons and confetti dropped from the ceiling. A five-foot, blow-up palm tree appeared out of nowhere and floated through the crowd. To understate the feeling of knowing the end was near, it was bitter-sweet. The sensation of oneness was prevalent in the crowd. This was expressed by everyone dancing with everyone, to the point that nobody appeared to be dancing with anybody. To be so privileged to be exposed to the magical mashups created by Girl Talk filled me with joy. But the fact remained that I could feel my strength weakening by the minute, my clothes were becoming increasingly soaked with sweat, and my energy was almost entirely spent. Cheering with all the enthusiasm we could muster, the audience expressed appreciation as Girl Talk waved good-bye to Bloomington and exited the stage. �Now,� I thought to myself, �where can I get a glass of water?�