Sweatin’’ to the aughties: Girl Talk feeds the animals in NC

by Ryan Snyder

Sometimes you just have shut your brain off and party. (photos by Ryan Snyder)

Even the most hyperliteratereviewer couldn’tcraft a more effectiveprécis of what takes placeat a Girl Talk show thanwhat is conveyed througha single snapshot immediatelyafter the dancemusic maven relinquishescontrol of his crowd. Asthe 2,000-plus crowd atthe sold-out Raleigh showdazedly spilled out of theDisco Rodeo this past Thursday, the bucketsof perspiration generated inside turned tobrumes of steam radiating from every poreof skin exposed to the cold January air. Whathad just taken place inside felt like a hot yogaclass performed at 16x speed over 90 realtimeminutes to a comprehensive tour of pop,hip hop and classic rock 15 seconds at a time;every minute of it sweaty, physically demandingand so, so satisfying.Call Girl Talk, otherwise known as GreggGillis, a DJ and you might get a dirty lookfrom an authentic turntable maestro. Sure, heslays large rooms of people with pulsatingbeats, but it’s unclear if the words “Technics”and “Rane” are even part of his vocabulary.Calling him a producer might expose himlegally since 99 percent of his source materialis the intellectual property of others. Evencalling him a mash-up artist doesn’t seem todo him justice. There are a lot of mash-upfiends who’ve surfaced in his wake who simplydon’t hit the bar established by Girl Talk’slast three albums. Whereas many of his peerspride themselves on sampling obscure indieand underground that no one knows or reallycares about, Gillis is a pure scholar of Top 40,mused by Ludacris and powered by AdobeAudition; a preacher of pop, a guru of ghetto,a master of calamity.Gillis himself reminds of the streetballingwhite guy possessing a skill set primarilyconsisting of scrap and swagger; his headbandand sweatpants suggesting that he came fora workout and, in the process, guaranteeingthat you’ll get one too. He sets the tempo forthe show with one of the most electric, yetastoundingly simple intro sequences of anylive producer/DJ. While the massive LEDbehind him lights up with paroxysmal bursts,a beastly and unintelligible, almost subsonicrumble emanates from the stage speakerswhich, as it gradually speeds up, reveals itselfas the hook from Soulja Boy’s “Bird Walk”warped to resemble Gillis’ nom de guerre.As Gillis makes an entrance a la RichardSimmons on a workout tape, his power-toolbearing hobgoblin and a throng of possessedstage crashers aren’t too far behind, and as thefirst toilet-paper roll flies out into the crowdvia leaf blower, it’s on.Like a hot-pink clad Simmons, you getthe feeling that both the oldies and the ’80sdrives Gillis and his crowd in turn. The mosthard-line freaks come clad in anything fromneon windsuits to tight, white tennis gear,complete with big-haired wigs and tackysunglasses. While they caricaturize Gillis’formative decade, some of his best samplespredate their median age. Others are simplyrescued from yesterday’s pile of discardedand outdated pop and hip hop. Gillis startsthe show standing atop a steel table bearingonly two laptops and monitors, cranking hisarm as his own hype man while the openingriff to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” boomsout to greet a shred Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”and the vocals from Ludacris’ “Move Bitch.”It’s also the opening track “Oh No” from hislatest gem, All Day, and while most of thesamples he uses are found on his albums,many are given new, impromptu pairings toassure the audience that this isn’t just a completelyprerecorded set. Others are tried andtrue, like the looped bass and drum beat fromBon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” that sitsunderneath a down-pitched Big Boi mantrafrom Purple Ribbon All-Stars’ “Kryponite,”until Bon Jovi’s soaring chorus interrupts andsimultaneously grabs everyone in the roomby the vocal cords.Other pairings are downright unimaginablein their conception. The Beatles’ “HappyBirthday” instrumental with GG Allin’s “YouHate Me and I Hate You,” for example, isboth madness in its conception and undeniablybrilliant. Gillis eases it into Kelly Clarkson’s“Since U Been Gone” with Rick Ross’s“Hustlin’,” all driven by the eruptive guitar ofNine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs,” which,at it’s height, cues a downpour that bathes thethrongs in lights, balloons and confetti. Still,some of the best moments are those directfrom the album that have caused the wearingout of more than a few rewind buttons.Mashup music has produced few momentsgreater than the simultaneous twenty-somethingdiscovery of Miley Cyrus’s “Party Inthe USA” and MOP’s gangsta classic “AnteUp,” and the coupling is even more fist-pumpworthy live.The energy is relentless from inception, butwhen Gillis is ready to let up, the audienceknows it. It starts with a crunked-up beat underRed Hot Chili Pepper’s “Under the Bridge”as Gillis shouts for the room to bring it home.Like batteries dying on a tape deck, the instrumentalto Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” andYoungbloodz’ “Damn” grind down to zerospeed, and as if bodies’ kinetic motion areintrinsically linked, the movement of everyoneslowed with it. Some hang there in the air,while others simply slump over exhausted.Cue the steam.